Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lithuania drops largest data centre build EVER amid Russian spies threat

Links to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) spark concerns within Lithuanian government authorities.

The Lithuanian government has scrapped plans to build the nation’s largest privately owned data centre amid fears the facility would be used by Russian hackers to spy on the country.

The facility’s construction, estimated to have had a total cost of $60m, was cancelled after being labelled as a “national security threat” by intelligence services.

The hub was projected to be built around the capital Vilnius by IT company Arcus Novus and Baltic’s Tier III data centre operator AmberCore DC.

Arcus Novus has 51% of its shares under Danish organisation SatGate Group. The remaining 49% are owned by Valeriy Avetisyants, registered in the Russian region of Kaliningrad. Avetisyants is in his turn a founding partner of SatGate Holding.

Latvia geographical location (green) and latency times from Vilnius. Source: AmberCore

Latvia geographical location (green) and latency times from Vilnius. Source: AmberCore

The decision to halt the project was taken by the Lithuania’s State Security Department (SSD).

SSD’s director Darius Jauniskis, told the Baltic Times: “In the SSD assessment, the AmberCore data centre project, developed by Arcus Novus, poses a threat to Lithuania’s national security due to links to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).”

Sources added the data centre could eventually be linked up to a FSB’s radio electronic reconnaissance network via optic fiber lines going into Russia.

Arcus Novus and AmberCore DC have both reportedly appealed against the decision.

Data Economy has reached out to the SSD, Arcus Novus, AmberCore DC, SatGate Group and CBRE, partner of AmberCore.

Arcus Novus CEO Vidmantas Tomkus refused to comment, pointing to his “discussion with Reuters” on the subject.

He told the news service: “It is a bit laughable to claim that a ‘hostile’ data centre would be connected to Russian security services, as Lithuania is already connected to Russia through fiber-optic cables, as is the rest of the world.”

According to AmberCore, the hub’s initial capacity had been projected to be a 3MW 826 rack facility scalable to 1652 racks (with a power consuption of 6MW at that point). The data centre would sit in a 15 ha piece of land, 14Km away from Vilnius city centre.

The data centre had a total expansion limit of 80MW and would use the KyotoCooling system which provides cooling via rotation of a thermal wheel vented both by cool outside air and warm return air from the data hall. This would result in a PUE of 1.25.

In January 2016, the company announced the data centre had received green light for construction from local authorities.

Lithuania’s cyber concerns regarding Russia are not new, but never before the state had cancelled the construction of a data centre based on it.

In late December 2016, the government of Lithuania said it had intelligence that confirmed the Kremlin was behind computer hacks into its systems for two years.

According to Reuters, the government found up top three cases since 2015, with up to 20 attempts to enter its systems in 2016 alone.

Rimtautas Cerniauskas, head of the Lithuanian Cyber Security Centre, told Reuters: “The spyware we found was operating for at least half a year before it was detected – similar to how it was in the USA.”