Big name companies in the field of cyber-security are eyeing a £100m-plus contract to protect the Ministry of Justice's IT systems from hackers and computer viruses.
EADS's Cassidian, Lockheed Martin, Fujitsu and even Raytheon, which is currently locked in arbitration with the Home Office after losing the £1.2bn e-Borders immigration database contract, are all thought to be considering bids.
The contract, known as the justice ministry's "security tower", would see a number of companies look to act as system host, monitor and supplier of IT networks. However, an industry source said that there are fears that civil servants are looking to introduce a contract more typically seen in the construction sector, so that if one company fails to protect the aspect it looks after all are penalised.
For example, if the network went down those monitoring the system, which would include more than 100,000 users working in prisons, youth justice centres and the police, would also be liable despite doing nothing wrong. This could end up driving up the cost of the bids, which will be due after the ministry invites expressions of interest in the coming weeks.
Cyber-security is a hot topic in government. MPs on the House of Commons' defence select comittee has warned that the armed forces could be "fatally compromised" should terrorists infiltrate their computer systems.