CIA moves to the 'internal' cloud


The secretive Central Intelligence Agency has embraced cloud computing, using an internal system because of security needs, and shunning the big commercial providers like Google or Amazon.

Jill Tummler Singer, the CIA's deputy CIO, told that the agency realized the enormous benefits of cloud computing about a year ago, and believes that its internal system can improve security, reduce complexity and allow for faster deployment of patches.

"By keeping the cloud inside your firewalls, you can focus your strongest intrusion-detection and -prevention sensors on your perimeter, thus gaining significant advantage over the most common attack vector, the Internet," said Singer.

She said the CIA cloud environment is built on common approaches to assure the identity, the access and the audit of individuals and systems. She said the data is kept in private enclaves protected by encryption, security and audits.

The deputy CIO also said the CIA uses mostly Web-based applications and thin clients. This reduces the need to administer and secure individual workstations. It also has virtualized storage, which Singer said helps protect "against a physical intruder that might be intent on taking your server or your equipment out of the data center." 

While making progress, Singer said the CIA has "seen a significant amount of pushback, slow-rolling [and] big-process engineering efforts to try to build another human-intensive process on top of enterprise cloud computing."

"It will take us a good long while to break that," she said.

For more on the CIA:
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