April Fool An earlier version of this article was published in error carrying a sub-editing note which, if taken out of context, could have implied that we had offered line by line copy approval to an individual named "Sir Iain". We'd like to clarify that this is actually a friendly nickname for one of our editorial staff and that we did not in any way offer copy approval to the head of GCHQ or any other intelligence agency on this piece. -Ed.
The United States' National Security Agency - whose image has suffered recently following revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden - has hatched a bold plan to win back public support by offering a range of powerful cloud-based data services which will be free to use, the Register can exclusively reveal.
The plans, which remain closely held pending Presidential approval, were leaked to el Reg by a source who declined to be named but whose credentials as a person familiar with the matter were nonetheless impeccable (details below).
In essence, the NSA plans involve leveraging the colossal amounts of data that the secret spy agency and its overseas partner organisations hoover up, and the vast amounts of analytical computing power at their disposal.
One of the most popular services for ordinary citizens and small businesses is expected to be the spook-backed bulletproof backup and data recovery service.
"We sit there every day monitoring everyone," says our source. "Often we see people have a hard disk failure or whatever, and they haven't backed up, or there's a fire or a power spike or a flood or something and they haven't backed up off-site - or their backup cloud service lets them down.
"And it's a completely needless tragedy, because of course the data isn't gone. We've still got it! Or definitely our overseas pals in the Five Eyes have, if there's been some kind of legal problem for us.
"So our line is going to be: Data disaster? Thought you'd lost those vital files, or that treasured video? Don't worry! NSA Catcher-in-the-Spy™ Secure Backup still has a copy! And the best of it is, you don't even need to have signed up with us! We back all your stuff up anyway, all the time! It's your right as a citizen! Of any country!"
Our source said the NSA and its allied spooks also see themselves as strongly positioned across all the traditional enterprise cloud environments.
"The fact is, even people who don't think they've moved to the Cloud, actually have already moved to the Cloud - our Cloud. We put all their stuff into it years ago; and talk about a seamless transition! They didn't even realise we'd done it.
"You'd have to be crazy to keep on using your legacy systems - just chuck them out now, and start using the Cloud that we've already built for you. You'd have to be even crazier to give money to Azure or AWS or someone to build another new cloud which you don't need," our source explained.
"We don't say 'Come to the Cloud', or 'Welcome to the Cloud', or anything like that. We say: Look around at the world you live in. That's our Cloud and you've always been inside it!"
Our source revealed to us that in fact one of the major widely used corporate Clouds is nothing more than a branded front-end linked to NSA resources, as part of a trial conducted in partnership with a major tech firm.
"We began it as an efficiency exercise," he told us. "We thought, why go to all the time and trouble of getting a secret National Security warrant and going round to their data centres and installing dark-fibre taps in the middle of the night and piping all the data down to Fort Meade or Cheltenham and putting it into another whole data centre? Why not just arrange for the customers to upload all their stuff straight to us?"
It appears that the "data centres" in which this Cloud service is nominally hosted are actually empty buildings containing nothing more than an unmapped network connection to NSA facilities located elsewhere. Our source declined to specify which Cloud was involved, though he did offer a hint.
"Yeah, sure there's a whole massive data centre there running entirely on solar power," he chuckled, adding that the generic term in the agency for such initiatives was "NSA as a Service", or NSAaaS™.
"We were going to give them voice recognition that actually works, too," our source disclosed. "We developed that years ago, for Echelon. But the chief decided it would give them an unfair advantage over their competitors."