Increased cloud service adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to speed agency migration to new Continuous Diagnostic and Mitigation (CDM) Program dashboards.

At MeriTalk’s CDM Central: the Age of Cyber Defenders virtual conference on May 12, Paul Loeffler, CDM portfolio management section chief, joined Matt Campbell, regional vice president of sales at Elastic, to discuss how CISA is helping agencies deploy the second iteration of its CDM dashboard.

Agency Progress Update

They kicked off their conversation with Loeffler providing an update on CISA’s latest progress.

“Over the last six months or so we’ve been focused on decommissioning the legacy system we had in place,” Loeffler said. “Right now, we have dashboards in place on the Elastic platform across 14 CFO Act agencies, we have about five that are in progress, with another four or so agencies in the technical planning/onboarding phase.”

While CISA has made strong progress on moving agencies to Elastic’s platform, Loeffler did offer a caveat. “Although we have dashboards in place there are different levels of implementation,” he explained. For many of the 14 agencies he mentioned, the focus is on getting applications into place. That said, Loeffler did note that CISA does have “a couple agencies” that have started to ingest large test data sets so CISA can “start to measure the performance we seek to gain from the Elastic platform.” CISA has also had some agencies start to ingest some production data, which Loeffler called “really good news.”

Loeffler highlighted a very recent success, saying that in the last three weeks the Department of Agriculture ran a “smoke test” between the agency and CISA. He described the test as being a very simple “Hello, world” style test. In the last week, the agency also saw NASA run a similar test. He said that the tests were undertaken to demonstrate that the communication between the agency and CISA was effective and operating. He said the agencies still need to actually transfer data, but “the pipes and channels are open.”

Looking Towards the Future

With CISA’s recent successes in mind, Campbell asked Loeffler about the agency’s plans for CDM moving forward.

“Our immediate focus is going to be really working with the agencies to get all the security approvals to start getting production data into their local installations,” Loeffler said.

Loeffler explained that the CDM program has encouraged agencies to embrace the cloud. “Of the agencies that are deployed [on the dashboard] right now, they’ve all – except for maybe one or two – adopted cloud technologies, so that’s been really great as well,” he said.  After getting production data in place, Loeffler said CISA will start focusing on completing information exchanges between agencies and the Federal dashboard, which Loeffler said is up and operating, and is just waiting for data to be received.

Further addressing cloud adoption, Loeffler said CISA did see one positive as a result of the shift to remote work – a “pivot to cloud services.” Loeffler said that being able to remove the need to “have to work with an agency to procure infrastructure, deliver infrastructure, sign for infrastructure, stand up infrastructure, and go on site to do an install” has lightened CISA’s schedule. Shifting to the cloud has allowed the CDM team to “provision [virtual machines] virtually, and remotely connect to those boxes and do our installation. And then we just need to bring the players to the table – like the network teams – to make sure those firewall and port changes are happening and working out.”

Pivoting to a post-COVID world, Loeffler is hopeful that moving to a hybrid work model – with more people in the office – will accelerate agencies moving to the Elastic dashboard because there will be more people to “have hands on keyboards and do some of those tweaks that need to be done.”

Overall, Loeffler believes his team will “come out of [COVID] pretty smoothly.”

Wrapping up their conversation, Campbell commented that “we’re all eager to see CDM capabilities expand to other agencies and watch as those continue to help secure our Federal government.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.