The Cloud and Physical Security

April 6, 2011

We’ve talked at length about cloud computing and cybersecurity, but cloud computing can also have an effect on physical security through its application to intelligence.

The U.S. Army has recently launched its first tactical cloud in Afghanistan, the Distributed Common Ground System-Army. DCGS-A pools years of intelligence from various systems and databases into one cloud to allow seamless access and analysis. The data is bundled with advanced analytics built into the infrastructure, allowing users to draw from wider sources much faster than before. While initially DCGS-A will only contain text and will be available to several hundred users at the regional command headquarters and International Security Assistance Forces headquarters, the plan is to soon include video and imagery and to make it accessible to brigades and battalions. The latest version, DCGS-A Version 3, can predict likely IED sites based on logistic routes and past attacks.

Cloud computing is also being used to analyze the Big Data associated with intelligence. At the end of last month, Cloudera and Digital Reasoning partnered to use Hadoop for complex government intelligence analytics. Cloudera’s Hadoop Distribution and HBase support have been incorporated into Digital Reasoning’s upcoming release of the next version of Synthesys, a data analystics and decision-making platform. The new additions allow analysis of data the scale and complexity described above, with multiple types and sources.

These advances are crucial as American forces now have too much data but not enough intelligence. Intelligence is still the most critical element in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency and yet much more information is coming in than our analysts can handle. For example, in 2009 alone, drones captured 24 years of video, and they are predicted to produce 30 times as much in 2011. By combining different forms of intelligence, such as attack coordinates and videos from drone flights, that data can be consolidated and made more valuable. Analytics that can deal with massive, unstructured data will allow for quick searches, filters, pattern recognition, and detection of valuable information so that analysts do not have to sift through years of video and reams of reports for intelligence.