Securing U.S. Army Data at the Edge

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The U.S. Army is looking to shift from monolithic legacy applications to highly distributed cloud and hybrid cloud environments. The challenge, however, is that it needs to do so securely, which can prove difficult.

"As the edge becomes more distributed—smaller physical locations, on the move—the protection schemes and solutions must evolve to become more distributed, which can create a larger attack surface, said Brendan Kelley, data protection & cybersecurity specialist at Dell Technologies. "The challenge is in having government-approved capabilities that can run in a hardware-agnostic environment and can also be secured while connected to the tactical edge."

To make those connections secure, the Army needs to be looking at a new generation of solutions. “They need software that does data encryption at the local source,” on that distributed edge, Kelley said. “And the encryption must meet certain government security standards.”

A new iteration of the Computer Hardware Systems (CHS) contract can help the Army to meet those goals. The CHS-6 contract will provide the Army and other agencies the ability to rapidly procure emerging Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) hardware and services.

“For 25 years, the Army has used CHS as a way to rapidly and securely field solutions,” said Chris Gordon, area vice president of DOD and intelligence sales at Government Acquisitions Inc., which is facilitating CHS-6 procurements of Dell Technologies products.

“CHS has proven to be a faster way of doing procurement," he said.  “With this new iteration of the contract, Army can get access to a catalog of pre-vetted products, without having to jump through hoops.”

Using CHS-6, Army can leverage a number of Dell Technologies’ capabilities to transition quickly and securely to a Secure But Unclassified (SBU) network.

Paradigm Shift

In the past, solutions have focused on hardware, but that paradigm is shifting, Kelley said.

"You often cannot add physical [pieces of equipment] at the edge because you are limited to a certain size, weight and power capability," he said. "Dell is introducing multiple software capabilities that fit within existing hardware and that encrypt data at rest and in flight."

Within its Data Protection Portfolio, Dell has introduced two related capabilities: Data Domain Virtual Edition and PowerProtect Data Manager. “Those are two hardware-agnostic pieces of software that enable the warfighter at the edge to get the security encryption they need,” Kelley said.

As the Army pivots to distributed systems such as hybrid cloud, it risks adding unnecessary complexity to its IT operations. With software-based solutions, “the goal is to streamline and automate encryption at the edge as much as possible,” Kelley noted.

A modernized approach will enable those on the front lines to devote more attention and energy to higher-impact efforts. “It means that their time at the edge can be spent on actually completing the mission,” Kelley said.

“Whether that mission is supporting a medical evacuation flight or a tactical operation, the Army needs to free people from the administration of backend systems,” he said. “We do not want to spend more time than necessary on systems administration. When you’re at the edge, you want to be able to focus on fulfilling that mission.”

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This content is made possible by our sponsors Carahsoft, Dell Technologies, and Government Acquisitions; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Defense One's editorial staff.

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