Wednesday, August 24, 2011

E Amazon Unum - Out of Amazon, One

Photo from
Amazon announced a new "region" in the United States last week:  the GovCloud region.  The geographic location of the new region is on the US West Coast, but the logical location is Washington, DC.

Amazon says that ALL of its availability regions offer FISMA Moderate security controls, but this region offers one additional feature and demands one additional requirement so that it "supports the processing and storage of International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) controlled data and the hosting of ITAR controlled applications."  The post goes on to say that:
As you may know, ITAR stipulates that all controlled data must be stored in an environment where logical and physical access is limited to US Persons (US citizens and permanent residents). This Region (and all of the AWS Regions) also provides FISMA Moderate controls. This means that we have completed the implementation of a series of controls and have also passed an independent security test and evaluation. Needless to say, it also supports existing security controls and certifications such as PCI DSS Level 1, ISO 27001, and SAS 70.
This gets interesting for organizations like ICPSR that conduct a lot of business with the US Government.  Earlier this year we spent mounted a significant effort to categorize the security level for content stored in our archive, and then documented the relevant NIST security controls.  It is easy to imagine this this type of effort will repeat itself as we interact with more federal agencies, and as those agencies struggle to become compliant with FISMA.

However, if I can short-circuit the process by using Amazon Web Services as my "machine room," and relying on Amazon's existing certifications and controls, then I may be able to ease the burden of writing and maintaining (and possibly implementing!) our own controls.  I would not expect to eliminate the entire effort of documenting NIST security controls, but I may be able to point to Amazon's existing controls and documentation for, say, those controls related to the physical machine room.  And remote access.

Indeed, instead of an AWS-hosted instance creating a barrier to a project ("oh no, if we build this in the cloud, we'll need to re-do all of the relevant NIST controls!"), it would facilitate the project. 

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