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US cyber chief says cloud computing can manage serious cyber threats

By Michael Cooney
November 7, 2011 02:21 PM ET

Network World - WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The security of cloud computing is often debated but such debates seem to be over for the general tasked with running the United States military's cyber command, who sees the technology not only as way to rein in IT costs but a way to more easily protect IT assets.

Speaking here before 700 security-minded attendees at the DARPA Cyber Colloquium, Gen. Keith Alexander, who is commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, said he needs look at the cloud environment he is testing out at the NSA.

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"We can argue over merits of cloud structure but we have found it is easier to secure the cloud," Alexander said. Thinking about the cyber issues that face us, coming up with a defensible system is important and cloud computing is one way to help make that possible.

Alexander says cloud computing helps bring the notion of a single defensible system together by eliminating the hodgepodge of computing "enclaves," as well as eliminate inefficient IT costs. For example, with its cloud implementation, the NSA has reduced system administration costs by 50% and reduced the number of help desks from 900 to 2.

The reasons IT needs to improve cybersecurity are obvious. "The vulnerabilities we face are extraordinary," Alexander said. The cost of cybercrime to the global economy is estimated at $1 trillion, Alexander stated, and malware is being introduced at a rate of 55,000 pieces per day. Look at what's going on regarding theft of intellectual property -- it is being stolen at the largest rates in history, he said.

"We need defensible architectures and we have to change the way think about defending systems," he said.

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