Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Friday, November 26, 2021

U.S. Datacenter Upgrades Plagued by Security Concerns 

As the federal bureaucracy stumbles toward datacenter modernization primarily via consolidation and a shift to the cloud, more than two-thirds of U.S. IT operators said in a survey they are most concerned about securing their cloud infrastructure.

Moreover, the study underwritten by vendor Palo Alto Networks found that nearly half of respondents consider data security to be their biggest challenge as government datacenters are consolidated and federal agencies begin what looks to be a lengthy transition to the cloud.

Over the least five years, government networks have become magnets for breaches and attacks ranging from malware loaded onto host servers to network viruses. While 72 percent of federal IT officials gave their own agency a passing grade for security as part of datacenter modernization efforts, more then half said key security measures were missing. Those include datacenter automation tools along with mobile device and endpoint security management.

Nowhere is the security problem more acute than the Defense Department, where IT managers are struggling with the transition to the cloud. While commercial cloud vendors are expected to be able to meet DoD's security requirements for "non-sensitive data," developing an overall security architecture for the sprawling agency presents a major challenge.

Terry Halversen, DoD's acting CIO, told a recent gathering of cloud vendors and agency heads overseeing its cloud transition that he wants to avoid a situation in which vendors come up with solutions and "we have to tell them…that we've found security threats and [the proposal] is not going to work."

"Government agencies need a platform approach to protect the heart of their network—the datacenter—while safely enabling business applications," argued Steve Hoffman, a vice president at Palo Alto Networks. "They need to be able to correlate known and new threats and take preventative action, not just detect and remediate."

As federal agencies work to meet the goals of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative and complete the modernization process, 41 percent of survey respondents said integration would prove to be the top security challenge. When considering improvement areas, 70 percent have doubts about their datacenters security, the survey found.

As federal datacenters are consolidated, malware threats were identified as the biggest security threat while denial-of-service attacks were seen as posing the greatest security threat during the virtualization phase. "Unauthorized device access" was identified as the biggest security threat in the cloud migration phase, the survey found.

Halverson, the Pentagon CIO, predicted recently that cloud vendors would step up to the security challenge faced by U.S. agencies because "we're such a big market that they'll be willing to adapt their security to meet us."

Markets watchers estimate that the U.S. government cloud computing market could surpass $10 billion by 2020, with compound annual growth rates of more than 16 percent through the end of the decade.

The datacenter security report, which was compiled by government IT specialist MeriTalk, is based on an online survey of 300 U.S, IT managers in November 2014. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.62 percent.

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