Interior Trusts Other Agencies’ Cloud Security Judgments


Department is among a handful to rely on FedRAMP certification.

The Interior Department is among the few agencies renting computer space in the commercial cloud without testing for security holes, according to Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program officials.

Interior is throwing its trust behind FedRAMP, a cloud evaluation program that offers all agencies documentation showing that a vendor's storage, streaming video or other online service meets basic safeguards, including data backups. The intention is to cut acquisition costs by recycling security paperwork.

The almost-two-year-old program has not built much of a fan base yet. Among the perceived negatives is reliance on another agency's due diligence.

Cloud services earn FedRAMP status through one of two ways: either by facing an interagency review board, comprising security specialists from the Pentagon, Homeland Security Department and other departments, or by undergoing an evaluation conducted by a single agency.

Interior is a rarity. It piggybacked off of the board's approvals, including certifications for Autonomic Resources, AT&T, CGI Federal, HP and Lockheed Martin. The department also reused Health and Human Services Department authorizations of Amazon Web Services, according to federal officials.

"Actually, in a week’s time they issued six [authority to operate] letters after they reviewed all the documentation," FedRAMP Director Maria Roat said Tuesday at an event hosted by Nextgov. "That’s six authorizations after taking a week or so to review all of the package, go through, look at the risk posture -- you know, do the analysis. It’s a huge cost savings." 

Companies have until June 5 to earn FedRAMP certification this year for cloud products sold to the government. 

This story has been updated  with comment.

(Image via Melpomene/