National security should be the primary concern of our leaders in Washington, and protecting American citizens is the federal government’s highest duty.
However, our nation’s security is currently being tested on an entirely new front with fraught with challenges—data security.
During the 2016 Presidential Election, Russian hackers supposedly caused mayhem in our elections by compromising Democratic National Convention emails. In other cases, one hacker stole $1.35 million worth of cryptocurrency, while another maliciously gained access to a news website, temporarily shutting it down.
Bad actors in both the criminal underworld and foreign nations routinely utilize hacking methods to access otherwise classified information, gain wealth and influence, and damage adversaries. While conventional warfare still rages across the globe, the often-subtle war on information systems continues to increase in frequency.
Adversaries like Russia and Chinese seem to be the primary state actors waging this new type of warfare, and they have actively gone after the data of American allies. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 5, 2018 that Russian and Chinese hackers have targeted South Korean government entities ahead of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit.
According to FireEye Inc., a U.S. cybersecurity firm, the cyberattacks were carried out by groups with a history of targeting both financial institutions and governments. In the information war, cybersecurity experts in the field have become the last line of defense to foreign nations hacking into American defense and intelligence data.
One defense against the burgeoning threat against information systems is to compartmentalize data, so that a breach in any one system won’t yield the system’s data in full.
On the intelligence front, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2013 contracted with one provider, Amazon Web Services, to handle all the cloud computing for the agency, but soon opted to enact the principle of compartmentalization, adding Microsoft as an additional cloud computing provider.
Discussing the agreement, Microsoft vice-president of the defense agencies business unit Dana Barnes stated, “It’s kind of an awakening as far as the intelligence community is concerned that you can’t be a one-cloud community.”
It looks like the Department of Defense (DoD) may soon be following suit, because they have slowed the expected awarding of a multi-billion ten year cloud computing deal with Amazon to handle all the DoD’s data, but currently, the winner-take-all contract is the only option on the table.
Bloomberg reported on May 31, 2018 that DoD spokesman Dana White “said there’s been no change to the winner-take-all strategy that would cover an initial two-year contract and two options that may add as many as eight years. She said award of the contract in September remains the ‘notional’ target.”
Making America safe is important, and government agencies should ultimately opt to use multiple cloud computing providers to provide a further measure to protect data security from foreign hackers.
As far as the most likely current awardee of the DoD contract, Wells Fargo analyst Eric Luebchow wrote in a recent report, “Amazon Web Services is seen as the clear front-runner given its scale and experience with federal agencies (it won a $600 million contract with the CIA in 2013).”
Additionally, it’s well known that Amazon head Jeff Bezos is close with Defense Secretary James Mattis. Washingtonian magazine notes Bezos is an informal advisor to the defense chief, and hosted him in Seattle last year.
Ultimately, utilizing the principles of compartmentalization for our nation’s most sensitive data, instead of opting to store data with any one single company, only serves to secure our country’s information systems and bolster our national security.