The Hewlett Packard Enterprise has secured a 10-year, $2 billion contract with the National Security Agency (NSA). According to the company, the systems will be mainly used for developing high-performance computing power to support the agency’s forecasting and analysis needs.
The intelligence agency plans to use HPE’s high-performance computing technology via the HPE GreenLake platform. GreenLake is HPE’s pay-per-use cloud platform that promises to deliver significantly reduced complexity and costs compared to traditional HPC deployments.
The NSA is one of the top spy agencies in the US, which has a domestic cyber security arm critical of seeking arrangements for unencrypted data with technology businesses. The agency has frequently urged telecommunications companies and internet servers to have private information access, leading to a major improvement in ordinary people surveillance.
Under the contract, HPE will build and manage the system. The NSA will pay the company in the deal for its computing system, which will also develop a new platform to combine the ProLiant servers of the company with the Apollo data storage system. The agency will start using the service in 2022.
The new system will “ingest and process high volumes of data, and support deep learning and artificial intelligence capabilities,” read the company press release. The objective is to provide NSA with a safe and yet adaptable platform for “their growing data management needs.”
“Bringing machine learning, analytics capabilities, and artificial intelligence to such a task requires High-Performance Computing (HPC) systems,” said General Manager and Senior Vice President at HPC and Mission Critical Solutions (MCS) for HPE, in a Defense News report. “Customers are demanding HPC capabilities on their most data-intensive projects combined with easy, simple, and agile management.”
However, the aim of these high-performance computing and data analysis is to enhance the already significant NSA surveillance capabilities. According to The Guardian, NSA authorised Verizon Business Network Services to provide exceptionally sensitive information on every national and international telephone calls made in the U.S. for three months. This directive was issued before a secret court in which Verizon revealed call duration, caller identity as well as the locations of either party. And for at least seven years, as far back as 2006, the metadata directions have appeared at the proverbial doorsteps of portals of many telecoms corporations, according to a report from The New York Times.
In addition, the NSA acquired direct access to key Internet servers to gain information about international surveillance targets. This allowed the intelligence agency to start with a journalist in the UK and then view her private stuff like emails, images, and social media posts. Later on, NSA got hold of all the other journalists’ contacts in her list.
The problem here is less about the government tampering with large telecommunication companies, than it is with the ambitious nature of the NSA. Now, after eight years, the way we perceive and participate in society has evolved, guided by data analytic software and artificial intelligence algorithms. Yet, as much as intriguing it is to observe artificial intelligence and data storage evolve with time, we must also think about what an agency, known to be one of the most relentless surveillance institutions, can do to us.