back to article Renta-spook: GCHQ commercialisation 'is a live issue'

GCHQ could be turned into a technology incubator under plans being discussed by the government, it's been revealed. The security minister Baroness Neville-Jones told MPs that commercialisation of the Cheltenham spy agency's technology and services is a "live issue". She appeared yesterday before the Science and Technology …


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  1. bobbles31

    Typical Politicians

    "for instance, Cheltenham were to supply a service to the private sector how that might be funded and what the finaincial relationship might be,"

    erm....supplier customer relationship where it is funded by the customer for a profit.

    oh sorry, you work on the "We pay for everything using tax payer money that the poor taxpayer thought they were handing over to pay for schools and stuff."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Turning public money into private profit. I think it's in the ConDem/Lab manifestos, written in invisible ink.

  2. The Cube

    So, another bloody Qinetiq then?

    Where all the smart stuff gets given away to the guy who used to bugger the politician in charge at Eton then? Yes, of course the Conservatives should stuff their own and their mates pockets with more cash at the taxpayers expense, can anyone say AEA?

    Hasn't taken the tories long to scrounge about for taxpayer built value that they can flog off to their crooked mates has it? Sorry, I meant to say "commercialise", must remember to use the right euphemism for the current smash and grab.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a cunning plan says Baldrick.

    This is as cunning as a particularly cunning cryptologist, who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University.

    It is this m'Lord. What we should do is take all our GCHQ people, and create a market for them outside GCHQ, where they can see they're doing the same work, but for 70K instead of 30K.

    Then, we should ensure they leave GCHQ by sending them out to interact in this market on a daily basis.

    This was no doubt dreamed up by Iran.

  4. Asgard
    Big Brother

    Commercialisation of Big Brother. Oh joy.

    "GCHQ could be turned into a technology incubator"

    That sounds like a UK version of DARPA, but their focus seems to be narrower, so more spying and data gathering technology.

    "The security minister Baroness Neville-Jones told MPs that commercialisation of the Cheltenham spy agency's technology" ... can go fuck themselves? ... no, shame. :(

    So how much money will this "commercialisation" plan earn Phorm? ... Will GCHQ simply stream their data (i.e. our data formerly known as our privacy) into Phorm to legalise what Phorm wanted to do all along, which was violate our privacy for their profit?

    Plus then the government can give out more of our tax payers money to research more ways to automate keyword detection on all of us to find out who of us use anti-government keywords and read anti-government news articles (like reading what these two faced bastards have been doing in wikileaks related news). Meanwhile the GCHQ / Phorm spying can help these two faced bastards in power to continue to violate our privacy to make them richer and more powerful.

    So much for our privacy.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "If RSL had been created in the UK you'd have a bit more money to spend"

    Yes, minister.

    How does that work then?

    Create nationalized companies that can be taxed and/or resold (presumably before being run into the ground through immobilism)?

    Have governement open source top-secret stuff and private companies that can be taxed grow like mushrooms around that?

    Ah bureaucracies. They always want more money to spend.

    1. despairing citizen

      think we are missing the point

      GCHQ created a method of deploying secure comunications that (we think) nobody else had for 20 years or so, giving the UK inteligence agencies an advantage others did not have.

      So to sumarise my understanding of this, Politician prat thinks it's a good idea for UK tax payers to pay to develop an edge for our inteligence services, and then sell it to mr Terrorist, mr Hostile government, mr Org Crime, et al. for what will be a fraction of the development capability and costs.

      I really worry every time HMG comes up with stuff that would have been rejected by the script writters of Yes, Minister, as too absurd and far fetched to be used in the show.

  6. Pen-y-gors


    Some interesting schemes, but all too complicated - the simplest way to make loadsmoney for GCHQ is to offer a commercial wiretapping service. "You want to listen in to your husband's phone calls? No problem madam, that will be £500. How do you want to pay?" Or of course, start selling diplomatic telegrams - why let Wikileaks do it for free?

  7. Bluenose

    There is a more important question here

    If as the Committee said, public key encyrption was invented by GCHQ (or its predecessor) back in 1973 the what is the impact of that on the patents held by RSA and others? As we all know patents are only valid if there is no prior art and in this instant it sounds like there might be a substantial volume of prior art available to negate the patents.

    I doubt that RSA and others "invented" all this independently without ever knowing about the work done by GCHQ as such things always leak out into the ether.

    1. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: There is a more important question here

      To qualify under patent law, prior art has to be in the public domain before a patent is granted (or applied for - I'm not sure which). GCHQ's PKE work was classified until 1997, so I think RSA are ok.

      There's limited info here:

      1. Sillyfellow

        patent rules.

        my understanding (and i've looked) is:

        if the 'invention/article' is public knowledge prior to patent application. it cannot be patented.

        when a patent application is made, the 'article' is then published (and becomes public knowledge at that time). investigations are undertaken, then application is either granted or denied.

  8. JohnG

    GCHQ encryption services for industry

    Your secrets are safe with our cryptography. You have one key, we have another! What could possibly go wrong?


    Service to the Private Sector

    "Cheltenham were to supply a service to the private sector how that might be funded"

    I thought GCHQ were already well funded by taxpayers, to provide a service protecting the UK private/public sector against organised criminals and espionage?

    Or have I got that complete arse about face?

    GCHQ now propose to sell spyware technology and communications intelligence to the highest bidder?

    There is something profoundly wrong with UK Security Services at present. They seem to have lost the plot completely.

    1. David 164

      May be they are just planning an plotting something else

      Or this is just cover for our secret services to move into cooperate systems undetected as there security is under GCHQ control anyway an can be turn off at there pleasure.

      It be a good move if this is the case as it is the ultimate corporate espiage an the best hack are those that go undetected.

  10. Mike Shepherd


    Civil servants forging bureaucratic swords into commercial ploughshares?

    The problem is that they have little or no notion of the commercial world.

    Recall, for example, the Met Office's foray into "weather forecast futures" ( One guess who picked up the tab for that fiasco.

    As Mr Lennox-Brown often said, "Don't worry, Lamb. It's only public money!"

  11. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I thought I heard

    that after we cracked World War 2 secret codes like Enigma, and then won the war, we shared the codes with other friendly countries, without mentioning that we could break the codes. GCHQ's subsequent successes are based on this. If this is all so, then I oon't know when they found out they'd been had but I suspect they would not have wanted to buy the next new brilliant made-in-Britain encryption system thatcould have been on the market.

    1. smudge
      Black Helicopters

      Other countries...

      Other countries, including some which we were "friendly" with, had also bought Enigma machines - they were commercially available from the 1920s onwards.

      We didn't "share codes" with these countries. They continued to use their machines - or in some cases we sold them machines that had been captured - and the real reason for all the secrecy around the Bletchley Park work is that we continued to decode Enigma messages for a long time after WW2.

      Which is why I've never believed the story about everything from BP being destroyed at the end of the war....

  12. John Savard

    The Magic Screw

    I don't think that it was unreasonable for the cryptographic brass to worry that a mathematical discovery of a way to crack public-key cryptography could have come along and put the nation's secret messages at risk - if they had switched to using public-key cryptography from the regular kind.

    PKC is great for credit-card purchases. It wasn't really until Rivest et al came along that the prospect of people having big enough computers at home to do PKC in a reasonable time came close - so, if GCHQ had patented PKC, the patents would probably have run out before the invention was any use!

    But they still did miss a bet. Yes, diplomats and armed forces can distribute keys securely. But as the Walker family proved, secret keys can be betrayed to the enemy. So, if one used one's existing secret key distribution network to distribute 'public' keys instead, or secret keys encrypted using the public keys, that would be a second line of defence. That would avoid making everything depend on a "magic screw" - but it would have shored up a weak link in the chain. I hope that's the way they're doing it now, and I'm fairly confident that they would be doing the now-obvious.

  13. Cliff

    Shhh!! Don't blow it!

    This is a clever plan to get the Russians and Chinese to outsource their cryptanalysis etc to GCHQ. GCHQ sign a 'we won't peek, honest' document of some sort.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Commercialise GCHQ...Phorm/Adwords/Privacy?

    Google's Cheltenham Head Quarters?

    That's it, Google are buying them, or already own them?

  15. JaitcH

    "she was uncomfortable disclosing the details"

    This, lady, is the idea behind committee hearings - to make you, and the government - 'feel uncomfortable' and come up with the answers.

    Such soft questioning!

    As for the 'commercialisation' aspects: the UK has always missed opportunities for major inventions with, usually, Americans, making the money. The Americans make use of government facilities for commercial purposes.

    The new idea for 'commercialisation' has to be monitored by people external to GCHQ to make sure no unhealthy relationships develop between it and their new clients.

    This is a very slippery slope and a hand of restraint should be provided along with a very clear, and public, set of guidelines.

  16. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    a UK version of DARPA, narrowly focussed* on Colossal AI Fields with Untold Opportunities? ....

    ..... You're 'avin' a larf, mate. That's not narrow focussing, that's specific targetting.

    "The security minister Baroness Neville-Jones told MPs that commercialisation of the Cheltenham spy agency's technology and services is a "live issue".

    She appeared yesterday before the Science and Technology Select Committee to answer questions on the government's approach to national emergencies, including cyber attacks.

    "You are taking me on to ground, chairman, that we are thinking about," she told the Committee."

    Does the security minister Baroness Neville-Jones and GCHQ realise that an additional current "live issue" is Pirating of Spy Agencies for Stealthy Invincible Security Cloud Cover in Virtual Systems of Operation .... and Rogue Command and Control Campaigns. ...... which SMART Use of Present Technologies in the CyberSpace Theatre deliver in Easily Shared Ubiquitous Special Applications of Programming.

    And is that/this, CESG penetrations testing the UK Security System for CyberIntelAIgent Strengths and Program Weaknesses to Exploit/Export/Commercialise, or some other Body/Assured Arm.

    It is odd to imagine that every country has an Intelligence Chief who thinks that they have a handle on events, whenever all that they really have and may do, is to react to situations elsewhere, rather than lead them from home, with a world wide web following.

    Does anyone else offer that SMARTer Servicing of Client and Customer Bases? And Intelligence makes Money. It is therefore most likely not something you sell nearly as profitably as buying into, for then does one always have Prime Current Views from All Sources for the Bigger Pictures in ITs Great Game World Series.

    What do you think now of the show you are watching, BB?

    * .... Asgard Posted Thursday 2nd December 2010 14:14 GMT

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Softly Softly ...... Slippery Conditions Ahead with Innovative Solutions/Temporal Answers

      Which incidentally, [Posted Friday 3rd December 2010 09:50 GMT] is not at all dissimilar to the thinking, "May be they are just planning an plotting something else " ...David 164 Posted Friday 3rd December 2010 00:33 GMT

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