Cyber Command, NSA tout benefits of cloud computing

Tuesday - 3/29/2011, 7:09pm EDT

The head of U.S. Cyber Command says cloud computing is part of his plan for staying ahead of the cyber threats that face the Defense Department.

“A year from now we should be well on our way to having a hardened architecture proven and in place, which provides a new level of cybersecurity,” said General Keith Alexander.

“The idea is to reduce vulnerabilities inherent in the current architecture and to exploit the advantages of ‘cloud’ computing and thin-client networks, moving the programs and the data that users need away from the thousands of desktops we now use – each of which has to be individually secured for just one of our three major architectures (NIPRNet, SIPRNet, and JWICS) – up to a centralized configuration that will give us wider availability of applications and data combined with tighter control over accesses and vulnerabilities and more timely mitigation of the latter.”

Alexander testified about the use of cloud computing at a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing last week.

He told the Committee use of the cloud will help reduce DoD’s IT costs. Alexander also addressed the issue of cloud security.

“This architecture would seem at first glance to be vulnerable to insider threats – indeed, no system that human beings use can be made immune to abuse – but we are convinced the controls and tools that will be built into the cloud will ensure that people cannot see any data beyond what they need for their jobs and will be swiftly identified if they make unauthorized attempts to access data.”

Debora Plunkett, director of the National Security Agency’s Information Assurance Directorate, agrees with Alexander’s statements. She tells NextGov cloud computing is “the IT architecture of the future.”

Both believe the use of the cloud will help streamline the way their agencies operate.

“The idea is to transform the Department of Defense’s information systems from something to be passively guarded into a suite of capabilities that offer our commanders and senior leaders opportunities to adjust our defenses,” Alexander said during the hearing. “If people who seek to harm us in cyberspace learn that doing so is costly and difficult, we believe we will see their patterns of behavior change.”