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Federal Cloud Security Is Now Partially Privatized

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The government has partially privatized the certification of agency cloud services by tapping the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation to vet inspectors of commercial data centers, federal officials announced on Tuesday.

Since the 2011 inception of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program -- the process for authorizing cloud providers -- the government has planned to hand off auditor accreditation to an independent body. This is because the government is cash-strapped and short on time. FedRAMP is intended to expedite the governmentwide shift to cloud computing.

All contractors that want to sell Web services to the government must undergo evaluation by an accredited inspector by June 2014. Typically security consulting firms, such as KPMG, have applied for these auditor spots.

On Tuesday, federal officials said in a statement that privatization "will allow for more in-depth analysis of an applicant’s conformance to inspection and information security standards, making the process more rigorous." Auditing firms are responsible for examining cloud companies' physical and virtual security. 

Any agency can read an auditor's assessment to decide whether a cloud service is safe enough for adoption.  

The nonprofit American Association for Laboratory Accreditation is known for accrediting laboratories, inspection bodies, proficiency testing providers, and product certifiers.

To date, 22 inspection bodies, half of which are small businesses, are sanctioned to examine cloud providers, according to the General Services Administration, which had been responsible for coordinating auditor accreditation. 

Using the association’s reviews, GSA will decide whether to give auditor candidates a final nod, agency officials said. If the private arrangement does not work out, the government can reinstate the federal review board, officials added.

GSA stopped accepting applications from prospective inspectors March 25, while searching for a private accreditor. The government continued to accredit auditors who had applied before the cutoff date and agency officials on Tuesday said FedRAMP will resume accepting applications in the fall.

The selection of a private accreditor "is a significant milestone as we grow FedRAMP in partnership with industry and government cloud stakeholders," Dave McClure, GSA associate administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, said in a statement. The association’s “involvement, with continued government oversight, improves the resources and rigor of our review process, further strengthening FedRAMP.”  

The roughly 100 cloud companies and agency-run server hubs attempting to earn a FedRAMP seal of approval have met road bumps. Only six providers have been approved since the process began June 2012. 

The roster includes Autonomic Resources, CGI Federal, HP, Lockheed Martin, Amazon Web Services, the Agriculture Department, which offers agencies space in a shared data center, and  -- as of yesterday -- AT&T. 

(Image via brainpencil/Shutterstock.com)

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