SPAWAR technologist evaluates pros and cons of cloud

Need for more sophisticated search capabilities and closers ties with industry to secure private and public clouds

To boost cyber defense in cloud computing environments, agencies will need more standardized data dictionaries, advanced search capabilities and closer ties with experts in industry, Stephen Jarrett, the chief technologist for Navy's Space & Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR) Center Atlantic’s Cyber Security Department, told attendees at a cloud computing conference Feb. 23.

Cloud computing is a way of computing, via the Internet, that involves the sharing of computer resources instead of having a local personal computer handle specific applications.

However, it is an operating model with benefits and negatives, depending on the situation, Jarrett said. For example, how it is deployed in an operational environment such as on the battlefield will differ from how it is implemented in a commercial environment.

Jarrett, CTO with SPAWAR’s Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance, Information Operations, Information Assurance and Cyber Security Directorate, spoke during a session on securing cloud applications at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement Cloud Computing for DOD and Government Conference held in Alexandria, Va.

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Navy officials are evaluating where and how cloud computing can be best applied. For instance, Navy aircraft carriers and other ships have thousands of computers onboard running on high-speed local area networks that are under-used in many cases, he noted.

Private clouds would work well on ships, improving processing capabilities, lowering costs and reducing energy consumption, he said. The Navy has already turned to virtualization, a key technology for cloud deployment, to achieve some of these benefits, he noted.

However, the validity and control of data are big concerns for Navy personnel, especially in operational environments. Fault tolerance and resiliency are key issues, too, that might outweigh other considerations, even cost on a priority list, he noted.

Some of the advantages of cloud computing being touted might also have drawbacks, depending on the situation, Jarrett said.

Proponents of the cloud note that the computing model provides a common data structure, enables automated security management and the homogeneity of the cloud makes security testing easier.

However, if there is total homogeneity inside the cloud, if someone punches inside that cloud network, they can muck around with everyone’s data, Jarrett said.

“If someone touched our network we have to know they touched it,” he said. “And we have to at least know where our data is,” Jarrett noted.

There is a need for more standardization of data and data dictionaries as well as a “Google-type and Lexis-Nexis” search engine with the capability to look at large amounts of data on the cloud and public cloud to deter and defeat cyber threats, Jarrett said.

For a stronger cybersecurity posture, the Navy must ally with security and technology experts in industry, he said.

Technology is moving well ahead of many agencies ability to implement it, so SPAWAR is continuously evaluating and vetting technology, he said.

“We are an honest broker of technology,” Jarrett said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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