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Tech firm helps probe secrets of North Korea
Source: Chris Kelsey




A Welsh technology company has been helping to uncover the secrets of North Korea’s biological weapons capability.

Artificial intelligence firm Amplyfi, based in Cardiff, is using deep web harvesting and analytics technology to assess North Korea’s broad biological research capacities.

It is part of Harvard University study assessing bioweapons’ capabilities in the secretive country.

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center has published a report called Science and International Affairs, The Known and Unknown: North Korea’s Biological Weapons Program.

It surveys the country’s bioweapons programme which is thought to have started in the 1960s.

There has been little public information available about bioweapons’ activities in North Korea, but the report argues that complacency is a major risk and efforts should be made to combat any potential emerging bioweapons threat.

It has previously been assumed that North Korea has 13 types of biological agents including anthrax and the plague, and that it is possible that it would use them in bioterrorism or in an all-out conflict.

The report points to the pivotal role new technology will play in cultivating breakthroughs in intelligence gathering to identify and monitor the acquisition of biological research capability by North Korea.

As part of the research for the white paper, Amplyfi’s proprietary artificial intelligence platform, DataVoyant, mined 840,000 websites that contained broad biological references.

Of these, 23,000 were revealed to have associations with North Korea; 170 of which pointed to particular organisations and institutions.

While traditional research methodologies focused on how to glean intelligence on related activities within North Korea, DataVoyant revealed indirect external channels through which North Korea might acquire knowledge.

Vernon Gibson, visiting distinguished scholar at the Belfer Center’s Managing the Microbe Project and former Ministry of Defence chief scientific adviser, said advances in artificial intelligence such as DataVoyant are fundamentally changing how organisations can generate intelligence at speeds and accuracy not seen before.

He added: “In working across all open source data in the surface and deep web, it revealed seemingly benign ways in which North Korea is acquiring knowledge and capability that could potentially enhance its biological weapons program - right down to identifying specific individuals.

“Such technology will be game-changing for how intelligence critical for maintaining national security can be acquired faster and more cost effectively.”



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