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2/4/2011
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NIST Issues Cloud Security Guidelines

The government standards body has launched a wiki to get feedback on its draft policies for securely deploying cloud computing.

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Organizations implementing cloud computing should think about security first before deploying a production environment, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The advice is one of several guidelines NIST has issued in one of two draft documents on cloud computing, which offer the first set of guidelines for how the federal government manages security and privacy in the cloud.

Government agencies look to NIST for guidance in deploying technologies, and the standards body sets security requirements for technology the government uses under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

At the behest of U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra, NIST hastened its publishing of cloud computing security guidelines to promote a "cloud-first" mandate he handed down in December. The policy asks agencies to first consider the cloud when considering new IT projects.

Security has always been a worry, especially for the federal government, when it comes to cloud computing, and the NIST guidelines should give the government the advice it's been waiting for to move full steam ahead.

One of the new documents, NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-145, defines cloud computing, while the other, SP 800-144, sets guidelines for security and privacy.

NIST's Cloud To-Do List
Evaluate the security and privacy aspects of cloud services before using them
Understand the vendor's public cloud computing environment
Ensure the client computing systems meet security and privacy requirements
Establish accountability for the security and privacy of data and applications
Obtain legal and technical advice around service-level agreements

In addition to thinking of security first, organizations also should ensure, if using a public cloud from a service provider, that it meets designated security and privacy requirements. They also should see to it that their client-side computing environment can meet the same standards as well, according to NIST.

NIST also recommends agencies take accountability for the privacy and security of data and applications implemented and deployed in public cloud computing environments rather than merely depend on cloud providers to do it for them.

NIST is accepting comments on the documents until Feb. 28 so people can suggest changes or improvements.

In addition to the guidelines, NIST has also deployed a new Web site to promote industry collaboration for the secure deployment of cloud computing within the federal government. The NIST Cloud Computing Collaboration Site provides general information about NIST's cloud computing program and a calendar of events related to the topic. NIST-sponsored cloud computing working groups also use a set of pages on the site, and are open to participation by anyone who wants to join.

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