DISA releases cloud access point guidance

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The Defense Information Systems Agency has released guidance to help defense agencies link up with commercial cloud providers via connections known as cloud access points.

The Cloud Connection Process Guide, which DISA circulated internally last year but did not post publicly until last week, incorporates feedback from recent cloud pilots and describes the process of registering defense agencies' cloud usage in a repository known as the System/Network Approval Process.

The cloud access point is the security conduit through which the Department of Defense is connecting to the commercial cloud. The CAP serves as a demarcation between the DOD Information Network and commercial cloud providers; the CAP's sensors allow DISA to monitor traffic passing through it. DISA has sought to bolster the speed and security of CAPs through testing, and defense officials have in the last year prioritized getting the CAPs up and running.

"The idea is to make sure that if a vulnerability exists and is exploited on a commercially hosted site, it cannot be exploited to the point of endangering others on the DODIN," Dave Mihelcic, DISA's CTO, has said.

The new guidance stipulates that cloud access points handling Level 4 of 5 data, the latter of which includes high-sensitivity data on national security systems, must be approved by the DOD CIO's office.

For a defense agency to connect a cloud provider handling Level 4 or 5 data to the DODIN via the access point, the agency must get signed approval from DISA's Connection Approval Office, the document states. The agency must also complete application "whitelisting" requirements established by U.S. Cyber Command.

The guidance does not cover Level 6 classified data, though defense and intelligence officials have been exploring how to put even that level of secure data in the commercial cloud.

DISA said it would update the document as the Pentagon's cloud policies evolve.

The new guidance comes as DISA prepares to ramp up commercial cloud adoption for Level 5 data. A DISA official said in November that the agency would grant four to five provisional authorizations for commercial cloud providers to handle Level 5 data in the next 18 months.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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