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GCN : February 2013
The core of the Defense Department's plans to reduce its 1,500 data centers to "a number far below that" is implementing a secure, coherent and consistent com- puter cloud network architecture, said DOD principal deputy CIO Robert Carey at a recent cloud computing panel. While saving money is one reason for these changes, securing data is the most important factor. "If it isn't secure enough, it will not serve us well," Carey said, according to a DOD report. Today the cloud is secure for only cer- tain types of data, Carey said. The DOD also faces dif culties transitioning from its legacy systems in a cost-effective way. And how to measure cloud security is in its infancy. "At the end of the day, the metrics of cloud security are, at best, nebulous," he said. Then there is the structure of the cloud itself. Centralizing data, while cost effec- tive and a boon to data sharing, can also create a single point of failure. Shared code means a virus can spread rapidly through the system. DOD is addressing cloud security on several fronts, including its Mission-ori- ented Resilient Clouds (MRC) initiative, announced in 2011. Spearheaded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, MRC aims to develop resilient cloud services that would continue to operate and support military objectives even after a cyberattack. DARPA has issued grants to develop solutions, one to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a second to Johns Hopkins University, Purdue University and the University of Virginia. MRC system design and development will run through 2014, with integration and testing ending by 2015. The MRC program is a shift in the DOD's approach to cloud security. DARPA aims to explore several ways to develop MRC, including providing redun- dant hosts, correlating attack information from all sources, and providing for diver- sity across the network. In essence, it's taking the cloud's networking capabilities and turning them into a security tool. Each node would monitor its own applications and others, MRC program manager Howard Shrobe said in an AOL Defense report. One method is to have multiple nodes compute an answer. Any node deviating from the consensus would be considered suspect. Shrobe described the model as similar to a public health immunization pro- gram, with reports of possible outbreaks collected and analyzed for trends and patterns. At that point MRC's diagnostic and self-repair capabilities would kick in, isolating the problem to prevent multi- stage attacks and automatically patching the vulnerability. A second security method being studied is resource allocation to en- sure maximum mission effectiveness. By developing a trust model, DOD can measure the probability of a corruption to those resources causing the mission to fail, Shrobe said. MRC is intended to be a companion program to the Clean-slate design of Re- silient, Adaptive, Secure Hosts (CRASH) effort that focuses on limiting the vulner- abilities within each host. A third approach is taking it slow. "We're moving at a very deliberate pace," Carey said. "We have lots going on to evaluate these kinds of things," he said, to understand "the pros, cons and risks of moving into the cloud space." One R&D initiative in the DOD budget request for scal 2013 is a cloud solution to support information sharing and to bridge performance capability gaps in the Paci c Command. • NEWS ANALYSIS BY KATHLEEN HICKEY DARPA takes multipronged approach to securing military cloud [BrieFing] 6 GCN FEBRUARY 2013 • GCN.COM To downsize the Defense Department s 1,500 data centers into a secure and coherent and cloud network architecture, DARPA is looking at three approaches: The Mission-oriented Resilient Clouds (MRC) initiative seeks to develop resilient cloud services that would continue to operate and support military objectives even after a cyberattack; several universities have received grants to develop solutions. Improve resource allocations to ensure maximum e ectiveness. By developing a trust model, DOD can measure the probability of a corruption of those resources causing the mission to fail. Take it one step at a time via the DOD fiscal 2013 budget request, which includes a proposed research and development project to support information sharing and to bridge performance gaps in the Pacific Command. 1 2 3 DARPA'S 3 STEPS TO SECURE DOD CLOUD NETWORKS