Big Data

NOAA hopes to find data security in the cloud

Distributing publicly available data to commercial cloud service providers could help federal agencies mitigate cyberthreats, said a top data manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

David McClure, data asset portfolio analyst at NOAA, said the agency is working on making its massive amounts of weather data available to the public. That effort includes hooking up with commercial cloud providers to build paths into NOAA's data troves.

Commercial providers can offer a more efficient way for NOAA's data customers to access the agency's terabytes of information by freeing up access points at the agency, McClure said.

Officials are also considering how to provide that data securely, he added during a Nov. 13 AFCEA Bethesda breakfast panel discussion on using enterprise data.

When asked about the recent cyberattack on four of NOAA's National Weather Service websites, McClure said he could not comment on the incidents. But he did say that providing public data through commercial cloud providers could help alleviate some security and technical pressure on the agency's IT infrastructure.

"Pushing a copy to the cloud gets [the data] out of our defense perimeter," he said.

To further increase security, officials are exploring electronic verification methods that would stamp cloud-based information as an official copy of NOAA data, McClure said.

In February, NOAA generated buzz with a request for information seeking ideas on how to make the agency's 20 terabytes of daily data readily available online. At the time, NOAA was sharing only about 10 percent of that information, and officials wanted to hear about ways to get more information into the hands of users -- and maybe make a little money on the side.

The RFI drew 70 responses from individuals, academia and industry organizations before closing March 31. McClure said NOAA's market research is ongoing, and the agency is soliciting ideas from commercial service providers that already use the data.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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