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12 8 2023

The NCI Agency's new data science and AI tool receives security accreditation


Scientists, artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber security experts from the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) celebrated a new milestone at the NCI Agency's campus in The Hague, Netherlands, after the security accreditation of a high performance computing environment for data science and AI.


The Data Science and AI Sandbox, also known as SANDI, provides a secure space to develop and test AI tools. SANDI allows data scientists to work with the huge datasets needed to develop AI models, and provides the computing power to train these models at speed. This is the first example of NATO having access to such computing hardware.

The NCI Agency's new data science and AI tool receives security accreditation

The accreditation by the NATO Office of Security is the result of intense collaboration between the Chief Technology Office's Exploiting Data and Artificial Intelligence Team, the NATO Infrastructure Services Centre and the NATO Cyber Security Centre. "The aim of SANDI was to build a classified environment where big data can be processed and AI models can be trained, optimized and validated. To do this at speed requires specialised computer hardware and software," explained Dr Michael Street, Chief of the Data Science and AI Team. "SANDI offers a flexible environment where we can work with classified data sources, advanced software and high performance storage," he added.

The functionalities of SANDI enable a variety of classified data exploitation and AI activities, to operate with a wide variety of data types, enabling advanced data analytics and the training of machine learning models. The combination of high performance processors; large-scale, fast data storage and a powerful software suite create a platform for NATO data scientists to collaborate and allow data science projects to be explored and advanced in an efficient and secure environment.

The SANDI environment is already being used to deliver a range of classified AI and data science projects at NATO. SANDI was also used to host NATO's first ever classified data hackathon, where data scientists from across the Alliance came to explore a large classified data set.

SANDI is an important disruptive capability. Security accreditation extends the potential for it to be used across the entire NATO Enterprise and it is an important step to harness the potential for AI to transform and improve the work of the Alliance.