Intelligence

Making the cloud safe for intel

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The intelligence community’s research organization is seeking ideas on how to make virtual computing environments more secure.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is planning a broad agency announcement for September for a project that could enhance data protection in the intelligence community's private cloud and have larger ramifications for unclassified government data stored on public clouds.

The project, dubbed Virtuous User Environment (VirtUE), was inspired by the long-running shift from desktop boxes to virtual computing, IARPA Program Manager Kerry Long said.

Speaking at FCW's Cloud Summit on Aug. 10, Long said one of the flaws of virtualization is that it is almost too exact. It "copied all the problems" found in traditional desktops, he said, and security measures designed to segregate data on a virtual machine are potentially vulnerable.

IARPA is seeking a computing environment that can run on a cloud or other virtualized infrastructure without interfering with internal operations, collect log data on users and act as a sensor for threat detection. A "virtue" could also surround individual applications or computing roles to, for example, segregate email from the wider internet with the goal of making phishing attacks less threatening or to govern the activities of a router or peripheral device.

Additionally, it must run on an Amazon Web Services hypervisor -- as Amazon is the cloud platform of choice for the intelligence community.

Long said he hopes the ideas from researchers and academics will yield a new approach that will reduce the amount of log data generated and collected in the intelligence community. For instance, improved sensor capabilities would mean that a "virtue" could collect log data only in response to certain suspicious activity rather than collecting data on every event. That approach could enhance the use of analytics to process insider threat data.

Officials envision having a three-phase program. A formal announcement for the first phase is expected next month. 

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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