The Home Office has inched closer to creating a unified crime data lake hosted in the public cloud – with the launch of a £3 million cybersecurity tender for the project and other programmes run by the Police and Public Protection Technology directorate.
The long-awaited Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS) will go live in a phased approach starting this year, a Home Office spokesperson confirmed to Computer Business Review – with the over-budget project “on track” for completion in 2023.
The project will bring together data from the Police National Computer and Police National Database into a data lake. A 2018 Home Office report says “the intention is to enable searching of the entire data pool via a single free form enquiry (‘Google-type’)”.
The two existing police systems were respectively launched in 1974 and 2009.
The PNC hosts arrest, vehicle and property data. The PND hosts policing intelligence data that is updated daily, including CCTV footage, and information on individuals, organisations, weapons. It also includes a visual search facility.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is vital that the police have access to fast and accurate data and intelligence that can be shared between forces. The Police National Computer and Police National Database will be replaced by the new Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS), saving £216 million over ten years when it is rolled out nationally.”
What’s the Latest Tender?
The new public tender reveals more about the controversial project as the Home Office seeks three security experts to provide a “security wrap-around”, to include oversight of its frontline Splunk SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) software.
The tender, which has a deadline of 17 March 2020, shows the Home Office is seeking a dedicated operational security team (manager, deputy manager, practitioner) accredited to SFIA Level 5, 4/5 and 4, respectively), with experience investigating cyber security incidents and operating proactive security incident management.
They need to have knowledge of security managing AWS native Services Eg S3, EC2, DMS Databases, Cloudtrail, Cloudwatch etc., security managing Windows, Red Hat and Centos operating Systems, and be familiar with Splunk and Nessus.
(There is no incumbent supplier, said the Home Office. “We have a set of resources provided by IBM… [but] this is a new service to replace ad hoc resourcing.”)
As the Home Office explains: “[Our work includes several] delivery programmes two of which are the National Law Enforcement Data Programme and Law Enforcement Cloud Platform which are hosted on public commodity cloud. In line with Industry Good Practice and HMG Policies there needs to be a Cyber Security wrap around applications and services hosted within our commodity cloud environments.”
Officials said LED) will now be delivered through a phased approach starting this year and is on track for completion in 2023, but the “Law Enforcement Cloud Platform Programme” (shift of this to the cloud) is still in the design and planning phase.
A 2018 Privacy Impact Assessment [pdf] by the Home Office emphasised some of the challenges in integrating the two databases described the project as a “a single point of access for law enforcement agencies and trusted partners to joined up person/object centric data sets with the intention that more organisations will have direct access to information where it is appropriate for them to do so…”
The data lake will provide “enhanced search and data matching capabilities” and make data available “closer to real time”, the PIA noted. It is part of a larger programme of work including the Home Office Biometrics Programme (HOB).
Among the challenges for the its creators are the risks of users being able to access “a greater than-appropriate level of data for their individual role or organisation”.
Mitigations for this suggested in 2018 included proposals to partition specified data pools, rather than fully merging them, on LEDS. The PIA noted: “Consideration is being given to the relationship of the data on the platform i.e. whether the data pools for PNC and PND should be merged on the system or whether separation should be maintained whilst still enabling a single search to bring back data from both systems”.
Users will include the 43 police forces in England and Wales, Police Scotland,
British Transport Police, Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, the Disclosure and Barring Service, the Service Police Crime Bureau, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (ACRO).
Among the areas that may prove deeply useful for police forces, but controversial with the third sector, are that the Police National Database already has a facial search facility, which enables users to “upload an image from an external source such as a still image from CCTV footage into the PND and search across all person images attached to person records or custody records to see if there are any suggested matched images.”
As the 2018 PIA notes, when the two data sets are merged migrated to the cloud, “Facial images may be acquired from CCTV or other sources for comparison with existing images on PND. Many of these images may be acquired without the consent of the subject and in circumstances where they may not be aware that their image has been captured so there may be a fair & lawful processing issue. This might be addressed by the S29 exemption depending on the circumstances but not in every case.”
Contracts awarded as part of the project over the past 12 months include £14 million to BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Ltd, £4.4 million to QA Consulting Services Ltd., and more recently £485k on July 3, 2019 to Perago-Wales for a two-year contract for an External Systems Integration Delivery Manager, £417k for a sustainable governance lead on November 27 2019, and £469k for a Data Standards Product Manager.