NSA CIO Pursues Intelligence-Sharing Architecture

In an exclusive interview, Lonny Anderson discusses plans for a shared development environment for U.S. intelligence agencies, cloud computing, and tech modernization.
Mobility is a big thrust, too. Laptops, seldom used in the past, will become commonplace, and NSA's information assurance directorate is developing technology to secure top secret information on smartphones and tablets. The agency has launched a project, called Ozone and being tested internally and by the Army and the Navy, to create a "marketplace" where users can find and download apps. Outside developers will be able to write and publish apps to the marketplace using an Ozone software development kit.

At the same time, the agency seeks to accommodate employees who want to use consumer technologies at work. "We can't keep pace with the Googles, and we're not going to out-Apple Apple," says Anderson. "But we need to take advantage of what they're doing, and make sure our workforce is exposed to the same technologies."

The agency's data centers are getting a fresh look as part of the infrastructure upgrade tied to the new cryptologic centers. "It gives you a chance to look at all of your data centers and servers, identify those that are at end of life, replace or get rid of them, and virtualize them if you can," says Anderson.

NSA operates three private clouds: a utility cloud, a storage cloud, and a data cloud. The utility and storage clouds are pooled resources, while the data cloud uses security-cloaked versions of the Hadoop and MapReduce open source programs to manage and sift through massive data volumes.

Like all federal agencies, NSA is also working to bolster its cybersecurity posture. Chief information security officer Martha Mahan oversees 24x7 network monitoring and risk management efforts such as software testing. "There's a belief that if you discover information via [signals intelligence], it's going to be accurate because people believe they're talking securely," says Anderson. "We now understand that may not be the case, so we've got to make sure that our networks are secure and that someone's not trying to steal our information, deceive us, or lead us down a wrong path."

NSA's IT team works closely with the agency's Information Assurance Directorate, with DoD's Cyber Command unit (led by Gen. Alexander), and with Homeland Security, as well as with academia and the private sector to secure DoD systems and critical U.S. infrastructure.

"We get a unique insight through our foreign intelligence mission that takes place across the globe," says Anderson. "Attacks include state and non-state actors, and some of those groups, people, organizations or countries have very developed technical capabilities and organizational functionality. To counter that, you've got to have active defense. We can't do it alone."

NSA is building a $1.5 billion data center at Camp Williams in Utah to help protect Uncle Sam’s computer systems, including those of civilian agencies. NSA's technology directorate will manage the data center’s IT infrastructure.