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Australian Spy Chief Reveals ‘Top Secret’ Data Cloud Project That’s Interoperable With US, UK

Australia is developing a “top secret” intelligence community cloud to help national security agencies better detect threats through shared data, while also being interoperable with US and UK spy networks.

Director-General of the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), Andrew Shearer, has revealed some details of the project which would facilitate the sharing of “vast amounts of data”, during an address to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in the United States.

“In Australia we are working very hard on a ‘top secret’ cloud initiative, where we’re hoping that we will be in a position to take that initiative forward,” Mr Shearer told a CSIS audience in Washington DC this week.

“What that will do is obviously transform how we do our work as agencies but also it will open up a shared collaborative space that will really reinforce this sense of working together as a genuine community and bringing all those different capabilities to bear on problems.”

Mr Shearer said the “experiences” of the US and UK in building out their respective intelligence clouds has also shaped Australia’s program, helping confront “problems” and avoid “some of the pitfalls”.

A close up of a middle-aged man in a suit and tie, smiling slightly.
Andrew Shearer says the cloud system will highlight what Australia can learn from its strategic partners.(Office of National Intelligence)

“I think that’s a really powerful demonstration of how we can learn from each other … As we move into the world of artificial intelligence, there’s also a massive amount that we can learn and share,” he added.

“The ability to share vast amounts of data and to work on it together will be a massive change for us as a community, but it will also make us interoperable with the US IC (intelligence community), and also with our British colleagues who are moving in that direction as well.”

Precise details of the cloud, including its expected cost and operational launch date, are not known, but ONI has confirmed it began the project ahead of the AUKUS partnership being formed between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States in September 2021.

“ONI led an open Request for an Expression of Interest (REOI) process in 2021 to determine possible partners for a TS Cloud to ensure better connectivity and collaboration across the National Intelligence Community (NIC),” a spokesperson told ABC News.

The spokesperson declined to name which companies were involved or how the new cloud would manage material classified ‘Australian Eyes Only’, saying “for reasons of national security we don’t provide further detail regarding capabilities or technologies”.

A tender document published in late 2020 states “ONI intends to identify potential commercial partners with the capabilities, qualities, interest, and commitment to partner with the NIC to provide value for money TOP SECRET, scalable, private, community cloud services”.

During his CSIS address Mr Shearer confirmed a new Australian National Intelligence Community strategy would include a “set of principles” that will make sharing of new technologies across various agencies mandatory.

Source : News