Government Shutdown

Shutdown would not endanger cloud environments

cloud security

A government shutdown won't weaken the security of the data inside the government's various cloud environments, be they private, public or a combination of the two, according to those responsible for cybersecurity and federal IT.

"It'll be business as usual," said Barry West, CIO of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. West spoke Sept. 26 at a conference on big data held in Washington, D.C.

Federal agencies have been given guidelines to decide whom to furlough and what programs to delay if a shutdown occurs, and it appears feds have decided that cybersecurity experts and the IT personnel who defend the country's cloud computing infrastructures and data stores will not be furloughed. IT gurus and network wizards are also unlikely to be told to stay home.

Private clouds – those located on-premises – play vital roles in some federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture and the intelligence community. If a significant number of federal employees in cybersecurity roles were off the job, attackers might have windows of opportunity to wreak havoc in the event of a shutdown.

By law, agencies cannot furlough employees who provide for national security, provide benefit payments and performance of obligations or conduct activities that protect life and property.

 "I don't see any potential issues," said Agriculture Department Deputy CIO Charles McClam. "They are exempted personnel, so they'll be there."

Agencies that make use of vendor-hosted public clouds should expect no security or reliability issues either, according to Naeem Musa, chief information security officer for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Musa said third-party vendors provide security, services and support to their data centers, so a government shutdown would not affect any processes.

FCW contacted several large federal cloud vendors and none reported any cybersecurity concerns regarding the potential shutdown.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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Reader comments

Fri, Sep 27, 2013 OccupyIT

Anyone else notice the irony of "IG sees minimal progress for US-VISIT" from 2005 being considered a "Related Story?"

Fri, Sep 27, 2013 OccupyIT

What the h*ll does the implementation technology have to do with something being essential or not? Geez! Cloud is a magic word for unaccountability and sugary goodness, huh? System Security of all running IT systems is essential, even if it running on a 386 powered by homemade potato batteries. Unless, of course, the system itself is not essential in which case please raise your hand and let OFPP know so they can help you transition to retirement. Guess we made our Cloud coverage quota for the day.

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