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Top Firms Retreat into Bunker to Ward off Anarchists

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  • Clore Daniel C
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Top firms retreat into bunker to ward off anarchists By Steve Boggan 11 June 2001 Some of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 2001
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Top firms retreat into bunker to ward off anarchists

      By Steve Boggan
      11 June 2001

      Some of Britain's biggest companies are running their
      internet operations on systems installed in a 300ft-deep
      nuclear blast-proof bunker to protect customers from violent
      anti-capitalist campaigners.

      They are renting space in hermetically sealed rooms capable
      of withstanding a one Kiloton explosion, electro-magnetic
      "pulse bombs", electronic eavesdropping and chemical and
      biological warfare.

      Hundreds of companies have already installed systems in The
      Bunker ­ formerly known as RAF Ash, outside Sandwich in Kent
      ­ and dozens more are understood to be queuing up for space.
      They have been driven underground by the IRA bombings of
      Canary Wharf and Bishopsgate in London and, increasingly, by
      concerns over the operations of anarchists behind
      sophisticated protests such as the May Day anti-capitalist

      At stake is billions of pounds worth of business conducted
      over the internet. Companies are concerned that while
      electronic security ­ using increasingly sophisticated
      encryption codes ­ is gradually making customers feel more
      confident about conducting credit-card transactions over the
      internet, the physical side of e-business is still
      vulnerable. The fear is that servers, the small electronic
      boxes through which customer traffic and business
      transactions on the web are channelled, could be physically
      vulnerable to theft, damage or sabotage.

      For companies conducting business solely over the internet,
      the loss of a server could be catastrophic; while offline
      there can be no sales and no income, and customers will go
      elsewhere. Records, too, are vulnerable to attack, hacking
      or simple damage, resulting in shut-downs that could cost
      even traditional companies millions of pounds.

      Now organisations such as Scottish Widows, BTCellnet, Richer
      Sounds and the Bank Automated Clearance System ­ which deals
      with inter-bank transactions ­ have acted, putting their
      e-business and confidential dealings out of harm's way
      behind guards, barbed wire, dogs, electronic detection
      systems, millions of tons of earth, 4m of concrete,
      pressurised air locks and rows of steel doors up to 18in

      "This isn't paranoia or fantasy, this is the future," said
      Dr Ian Angell, professor of information systems at the
      London School of Economics and author of The New Barbarian
      Manifesto. "There are sophisticated anti-capitalists out
      there who feel a great deal of resentment against the
      business world. These are the new Luddites and, given half a
      chance, they would smash the machine to pieces."

      Behind The Bunker is a company called AL Digital
      Communications, established by the brothers Adam and Ben
      Laurie and Dominic Hawken. Ben Laurie is already revered in
      the computing world as the man who co-wrote Apache-SSL,
      perhaps the best-known encryption technology available over
      the internet ­ a tool used by some anti-capitalists when
      arranging demonstrations.

      Three years ago, AL Digital heard that an RAF facility with
      state-of-the art electronics and communications systems was
      to be auctioned off. RAF Ash was one of four underground
      command and control centres at the heart of Britain's
      national air defence system. As part of a cost-cutting
      exercise, it was to be mothballed only seven years after
      undergoing a complete overhaul and upgrade.

      The AL Digital team made a sealed bid ­ still secret,
      according to the Ministry of Defence ­ and the 60,000sq ft
      bunker with 18 acres of land was theirs. "The facility was
      designed to withstand a nuclear attack without disrupting
      RAF computer systems," Dominic Hawken said. "Their computers
      were about radar, but there is little difference between
      that and hosting a website. Some people have argued that our
      defences are a little over the top, but they're here now ­
      what can we do, shave a little off the walls?"

      To enter, visitors must pass through security checks before
      being allowed through layer after layer of restricted
      access; of the 49 employees on site, only a handful are
      allowed into the bowels of the structure. Here, one finds
      doors that take two people to open and concrete grottoes
      called Faraday cages that act as electric buffers between
      the hostile outside and the environmentally pure,
      air-filtered inside.

      There are three back-up power systems big enough to fire up
      a small town ­ when busy, the National Grid buys energy from
      The Bunker's four turbines. There are dedicated
      telecommunications lines installed for the RAF but now
      available to customers at between £250 a month for a single
      server on a shelf, to "several millions" of pounds a year
      for the kind of huge space being rented by a large ­ and
      unnamed ­ international computer company already inside The

      There is also a fire station, vast underground fuel and
      water tanks and an array of cameras on corridors and servers
      ­ you can even have a camera pointed permanently at your
      little box to make sure no one tampers with it.

      Mr Hawken added: "Co-location is now the buzzword; if your
      records are destroyed, you want at least one back-up in
      another place so your business can keep operating. There are
      many reasons why companies are choosing the safety of a
      nuclear bunker, but I think the anti-capitalist threat is
      the most compelling.

      "That whole thing is about bringing down large companies and
      the weakest link is to get to where their information is
      stored and destroy it. Because of encryption, they can no
      longer interfere with data, so they may try to damage the
      hardware that physically contains or controls it. For
      companies operating over the internet, that means targeting
      their servers."

      None of The Bunker's customers contacted by The Independent
      would comment for security reasons. However, one, a large
      multinational computer corporation, said: "The Bunker
      provides us with a level of physical security and
      reliability unobtainable in the US. Experience taught us
      that digital security unaccompanied by physical security is
      worthless. The Bunker provides us with the highest levels of

      Other companies said they simply felt they could relax
      knowing their internet operations were physically safe from

      Professor Angell said: "You have to understand. Future wars
      will be fought by capitalists and anti-capitalists as
      society polarises. When that happens, control of information
      will be as important as control of territory used to be in
      conventional conflicts. If you can stop your enemy from
      destroying your information, then you have a good chance of
      winning the war."


      Dan Clore

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