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Government Tech Leaders Carefully Embracing the Cloud

Posted December 9, 2011    Peter McCalister

What organizations have the biggest data security needs of all? Financial institutions? Technology companies with highly-sensitive proprietary code? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a variety of answers. One type of insititution, however, seems to trump them all: Government.

A recent blog post titled Cloud Security: Better Than We Think? on Information Week takes a look at the opinions of a few of the top government technology leaders in the United States:

“The list of execs touting the security advantages of the cloud has grown to include federal CIO Steven VanRoekel; Gen. Keith Alexander, head of both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command; CIA CTO Gus Hunt; NIST security researchers Peter Mell and Dr. Ronald Ross; and former NSA director Adm. Mike McConnell.”

According to the blog post, these executives have been embracing the cloud and actually recommending that folks move to the cloud for enhanced security. But, the move to the cloud comes with a stern warning. Only do it “if you do it right.” As noted by InfoWeek, “cloud security only happens through a combination of vigilance, best practices, and technology, including encryption, patching, and monitoring.”

Government agencies are extremely susceptible to insider threats. The Wikileaks incident was a prime example of how a trusted employee, or “good person” as we like to call them at BeyondTrust, can do very bad things. All the vigilence in the world and the industry’s best firewalls might keep foreign government agents or hackers from getting into highly-sensitive government servers, but what will keep privileged users from accessing newly-created cloud servers without fine-grained control over privileged user access?

At BeyondTrust we have a set of best practices for setting up privileged user access in a cloud environment. So when you hear a government tech exec touting the security benefits of the cloud, but adding the caveat, “if you do it right,” make sure that you’re mitigating insider threats alongside external threats. Insider threats truly are a matter of national cloud security.

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