How safe is the Cloud? Should Military consider it as a secure solution?

22 02 2012

When I think of the Department of Defense and its Military units first thing that comes to mine is hush-hush and top secret!  The US military operates in an area where confidentiality and secrecy is of the utmost importance.  Sharing documents, information, systems, and projects with any unintended party would be a breach in security that may result in war.   Lots of data is collected, processed, and analyzed on a daily basis and then shared internally, across government departments and military teams in the field.   It is imperative for the military to have an IT environment that accommodates their needs and maintains confidentiality and integrity of all its data.  The Department of Defense (DOD) in 2011 spent over $38 billion dollars in IT hardware, software, applications, programs, and resources (1).  Unfortunately, The DOD cannot continue to spend in the billions without adding to the government deficit.  The Military is no different than any other industry in their desire to reduce cost.  The Defense of Defense must find a way to run their business smarter, cheaper, and faster.   “The DOD CIO, Ms.Takai, has developed a plan to reduce U.S. military spending over the next 10 years to $487 billion dollars (1).   DOD must be creative, innovative, and invest in new technology that will help them achieve their cost saving goals such as using Cloud Technology.

Cloud Technology is using shared resources of a mega computer center for storage, computing application to provide more flexibility. Over the past ten years, corporations have reduced IT cost through outsourcing and off shoring.  Cloud technology has become the next wave of cost saving measures that allows corporations to reduce cost in architecture hardware and support costs. The use of this new technology has sprung and appears to be a secure successful solution for small and large corporations.   Should the military; reduce costs by engaging in cloud technology? Most people would say, yes! DOD would no longer maintain physical space and purchase super computers, mega storage units, and hire large computer support teams.  But the real question is whether Cloud Technology is safe enough for military information?

Security within the Cloud

Companies like Google, Intel, Yahoo and Oracle Enterprise are a few companies that support cloud technology.  It’s an open market where lots of companies are either in or trying to get into the game of offering cloud technology.  Since not all companies are the same, the consumer should not expect each company’s methods of managing data and maintaining security would be the same.  The Military must be concerned with physical access, Identity crisis, encryption, audit tracks, and denial of services attacks.  Cloud technology limits physical access to the hardware.  User access the system through the web limits intruder access to physical attaching to the hardware.  Hosting your own hardware requires a company to be concerned with unauthorized connection or contact with operating equipment.  Secondly, identity crisis’s to data is critical within cloud technology, where companies share the computing capacity and application of the same systems.  Cloud companies have provisions for access and authorization security policies, and strong password policies that limit users to their perspective information.   To increase one’s protection of data, it is recommended data is encrypted before sending it to cloud storage.  Cloud technology that performs computation cannot receive encrypted data.  However, companies will provide encryption within the cloud.   A good cloud company will perform and maintain audit trails on data access, log in attempts, administer changes, and any breach of access attempts.   The cloud offers the same forms of security that an on-premise computer system would have at any company.  The technology and requirements are the same.  Lastly, attacks on denial service cannot be prevented as long as hackers exist.  The ability to host several companies’ data increases the interest of a hacker to want to gain access.  Cloud vendors will offer service level agreements that will provide provisions for remediation and disaster recovery plans.  (2)

Conclusion 

In conclusion, there are many advances for the military to hire an outside vendor to host their data and computing capability. There is significant cost savings in reduction of hardware, support resources, and applications in using the cloud.  Cloud technology companies offer the same level of security protection that would be used at the Military on-site computing centers.  With nothing to lose, it would be a win-win situation for the military to advance and embrace Cloud Technology.

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(1) Under Pressure, author John Foley by Information Week  released November 28, 2011

(2) How Secure is that Cloud Vendor? 7 Basics, author By David Taber
by CIO, released January 26, 2011

Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing, author by Karen Klein, release by Bloomberg Business Week, http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/oct2009/sb20091026_937390.htm

US military scrambles to catch up with the cloud, author by Stuart Fox, release by Innovation , Aug 4, 2011http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44026507/ns/technology_and_science-innovation/t/us-military-scrambles-catch-cloud/