In a speech in Baltimore before security professionals and a subsequent interview with InformationWeek and other media, Alexander touted the cloud as a key part of the intelligence community's IT strategy.
He said that cloud computing--his remarks indicated that he was largely speaking about private cloud computing--will help deliver better information to soldiers and intelligence professionals where and when they needed it, cut costs, and at the same time provide the NSA and Department of Defense with better insights into its networks, since consolidation is one prerequisite of a robust cloud strategy.
"When you think about the cloud, look at what Google, Amazon are doing with the technology," he said. "It's absolutely superb. We need to go from our legacy databases to the cloud."
Security, Alexander acknowledged, is a key concern in the cloud, but he said that the cloud also brings advantages in terms of what he termed "collapsing the enclave." Today, he said, the military and Cyber Command often have too little insight into what is going on in isolated and segmented military and intelligence networks to understand if they are in fact secure. A broader cloud infrastructure, he added, would both enable his organizations to get a better end-to-end view of their networks and be able to put security measures and virtual segments in place to maintain security.
Alexander also championed cloud computing as an example of a technology that will help the DOD fulfill its IT efficiencies requirements, part of major wider push to make the DOD more efficient in order to reinvest money elsewhere in the military. Other initiatives there include thin clients.
In addition to his remarks on cloud computing, Alexander also gave an update on Cyber Command and the latest cybersecurity threats, noting that the DOD would soon have new strategic guidance and rules of engagement for the cyber world that include an offensive cyber strategy for "reasonable, proportional responses" to cyberattacks and threats.
The DOD has already put out its initial operational guidelines, but that will soon be followed additional doctrine from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then Cyber Command, Alexander said. "We are working on a set of rules for cyber," he said. "The laws of armed warfare do apply."
An offensive strategy that would inform decisions like when and how to go after botnets will likely be part of the broader doctrine, Alexander said. "The advantage is on the offense," he said, adding that part of the question is who will play that role. "Is it the FBI? Is it the NSA? Is it the military or is it the Internet service providers? Somebody can turn that off."
Alexander also said that he is continuing to push for better information sharing between the government and private sector, particularly of sensitive cyber information, and said that information sharing processes are being examined as part of a pilot with defense contractors.
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