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Firm uses technology to trace bioweapons threat.

Byline: Chris Kelsey Assistant head of business

AWELSH technology company has been helping to uncover the secrets of North Korea's biological weapons capability.

Artificial intelligence firm Amplyfi, based in Cardiff, contributed its proprietary surface and deep web harvesting and analytics technology to assess North Korea's broad biological research capacities as part of a Harvard study assessing bioweapons' capabilities in the secretive country.

The report from Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, The Known and Unknown: North Korea's Biological Weapons Program, 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, Data-Voyant, 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 are fundamentally changing how organisations can generate intelligence at speeds and accuracy not seen before. A prime example is Amplyfi whose software, DataVoyant, assisted a recent Harvard University study.

"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."

Amplyfi was created to deliver business insights into possible technology or market disruptions by commercialising military grade artificial intelligence techniques initially developed for cyber surveillance.

The company's flagship product, DataVoyant, is capable of scanning all open surface and deep web sources across every modern language, automatically interrogating, distilling and presenting underlying trends within hours using its proprietary and innovative technology.

Chris Ganje, CEO, of Amplyfi, said: "With the massive growth of open source data, there is an unfathomable quantity of insight online that is largely untapped. However, a standard internet search engine only scrapes the surface of what is available.

"New breakthroughs in data mining, particularly of the deep web which is at least 500 times larger than the surface web, has the potential to unlock a rich vein of information previously not directly accessible.

"Cutting-edge artificial intelligence tools like DataVoyant can simultaneously harvest, curate and make sense of unstructured big data; in this case identifying North Korean activities for potentially acquiring bioweapons knowledge.

"This serves to demonstrate the significant scope that technologies such as DataVoyant have to play in transforming global research and intelligence gathering."


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a farm in North Korea
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 7, 2017
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