Cloud integration offers improved cybersecurity for federal agencies

Cloud integration offers improved cybersecurity for federal agencies

Cloud integration is picking up speed across the entirety of the federal government. Whereas in the past this technology was largely viewed skeptically, decision-makers in every agency are now increasingly giving these solutions a serious look.  

Perhaps the single biggest factor driving this trend is the increasing acceptance of the fact that cloud computing does not pose a cybersecurity risk. In fact, Tony Scott, the U.S. CIO, recently went so far as to argue that cloud solutions represent the most secure means of storing data. Rather than posing a risk, cloud integration is actually an excellent method of improving cybersecurity for federal agencies.

"Cloud integration improves cybersecurity for federal agencies."

Trust in the clouds
Speaking at a Google for Work webcast, Scott asserted that he sees large cloud services providers much like he sees banks, in terms of their security offerings.

"[Cloud providers] have the incentive, they have skills and abilities, and they have the motivation to do a much better job of security than any one company or any one organization can probably do," said Scott. 

"I think today the better bet is get to the cloud as quick as you can because you're guaranteed almost to have better security there than you will in any private thing you can do," he added.

Scott also went on to explain that while the government is continuing to develop cloud cybersecurity standards, such as the Federal Information Security Management Act and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, the fact of the matter is that many cloud services providers have already easily surpassed these requirements. 

Cloud advantages
As Scott was intent on emphasizing, this cloud's security is significant primarily because the technology offers such tremendous benefits to organizations of all kinds. 

Notably, Scott pointed to the potential value provided by the Internet of Things. 

"The ability to instrument and to have data coming from all kinds of different places, I think is probably the single thing that's going to impact our lives in the next 10 or 15 years," he stated, according to CIO.

While Scott framed his comments in the context of the U.S. economy, the IoT has major implications for federal agencies and state governments, as well. By collecting a huge range of data, public sector decision-makers will have the ability to develop more analytics-driven policies and strategies across the board.

Ensuring security
Yet while Scott was emphatic in his insistence that cloud computing solutions are, for the most part, inherently very secure, it is important to note that the same is not necessarily the case for cloud integration itself. Government agencies need to make sure that data migrations are handled carefully to ensure that all of the IT infrastructure, and especially the sensitive information, remains fully protected while moving between environments. 

In a blog published by Forbes, Bob Violino of CenturyLink highlighted several key components that federal agencies need to account for if they are to achieve and maintain security during data migrations to the cloud. For one thing, he emphasized the need for layers of security, which helps to provide protection for a broad range of data types.

"Security layers help to provide protection for a broad range of data types."

Such efforts will be bolstered if agencies go through the process of identifying and defining different tiers, based on data classification, according to Violino. Such definitions will then enable the creation of more specific cloud-control requirements, making sure that sensitive assets receive the highest degree of protection. Thorough policy proscriptions will further improve the dependability and cybersecurity of these cloud integration efforts.

However, perhaps the most significant recommendation Violino had to offer was that federal agencies look to partner with third-party firms that can offer high-level expertise for their cloud migration efforts. 

"Outsourcing to an expert vendor can ensure that additional measures add security without hindering functionality for IT staff or users," Violino wrote.

This is particularly important because agencies must ensure compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act and other stringent regulations. Any failures in this area will not only open the organization up to the potential of a data breach or other cyberattack, but can also result in serious legal consequences. 

Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that the federal government now faces a serious shortcoming in its ranks when it comes to both cloud computing and, even more importantly, cybersecurity experts. Agencies typically will not have many, or perhaps any, IT professionals with these backgrounds on staff. This makes choosing and migrating to a cloud solution a perilous and inefficient process.

By working with a well-regarded third-party IT consulting firm, though, federal and state government bodies can move quickly to take advantage of the cloud's benefits without putting their sensitive data at risk when it is most vulnerable – that is, during the migration and integration process. Considering the benefits to be gained, government decision-makers should pursue these strategies as soon as possible.