NIST Solicits Comments on Draft Cloud Computing Security Document

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A draft cloud computing security document released June 11 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology aims to help federal government agencies address security risks as they move their applications and services to the cloud.

“The document's objective is to demystify the process of selecting cloud-based services that best address an agency's requirements in the most secure and efficient manner,” NIST Cloud Computing Security Working Group Chair Michaela Iorga said in NIST's June 11 statement announcing the release of the draft.

The development of the guidance is part of NIST's role in accelerating the federal government's adoption of cloud computing, a task assigned to NIST by the federal chief information officer in 2010, the agency explained.

As part of that initiative, NIST has developed the U.S. Government Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap (SP 500-293) (10 PVLR 1601, 11/7/11), the NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture (SP 500-292) (10 PVLR 1415, 10/3/11), and other guidance documents.

The latest draft supplements SP 500-292 by providing a “comprehensive security model,” NIST said.

The draft document provides a “Risk Management Framework” that has been adapted for cloud computing from the SP 500-292 model and the Cloud Security Alliance's Trusted Cloud Initiative “Reference Architecture,” the agency said.

The “Risk Management Framework” will help a federal agency develop a computer security plan that is tailored to its unique security risks and provides guidance for responding to security risks and incidents, according to NIST. In addition, the document provides a case study of an agency's use of the framework, NIST said.

The draft document “is not a comprehensive guide to security requirements for all possible instances of cloud type, data, and service model,” NIST cautioned. “Rather, the NIST document aims to identify only a core set of Security Components that should be implemented by each Cloud Actor defined in the NIST RA [Reference Architecture] specification.”

NIST is accepting comments on the draft cloud document through July 12.

The draft document, “NIST Cloud Computing Security Reference Architecture” (SP 500-299), is available at