CBP: ‘Always proactive and staying ahead of advanced persistent threats’

We all have an idea of what the men and women of Customs and Border Protection look like, defending America in uniform. Then, of course, there’s the protection that’s not so visible, in the cloud.

If you wanted a person in charge of protecting the data that protects the nation, you might turn to someone with more than 35 years of experience and success.

“We have a large mission within the Department of Homeland Security,” CBP Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia said on Federal Monthly Insights — Cloud. “In terms of enhancing our nation’s security through innovation, intelligence, collaboration and trust, there are a lot of things that we have to do in technology, which enables our five enduring mission priorities: Counter terrorism, combat transnational crime, secure the border, facilitate lawful trade and protect revenue.”

CBP’s 60,000 employees were not waylaid by the pandemic. Bhagowalia said the objective was and remains to “keep the operation up 24/7.”

“Obviously, we have always been ready. And I think we’ve used technology to sort of not miss a beat,” Bhagowalia on Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “Even through this remote work and everything else that we’ve been doing, most of our folks are still on the front lines. Cloud has become a very important capability that we use to deliver things.”

Bhagowalia said CBP has a strong infrastructure, which includes using cloud capabilities in “a very resilient way.”

“Our architecture obviously leverages some of the big vendors, which we don’t talk about for security reasons,” Bhagowalia said. “In addition to that, we’ve overlaid a lot of security and other capabilities to make sure we always protect privacy, ensure that records management is complied with and security is always paramount.”

Ultimately though, it is all about data. And Bhagowalia has turned to cloud for features such as security, speed and reliability.

“At the end of the day, CIOs are here to serve the mission. And the mission has a lot of needs, especially now with the advent of new emerging technologies and data of all kinds — multimedia data, sensor data — cloud offers some of those advantages,” he said.

CBP leverages what the cloud offers, but has added a few things of its own to comply with mandates and, in a proactive way, “stay ahead of advanced persistent threats.” Bhagowalia said.

“We also want to make sure that data in the cloud is always protected throughout the lifecycle,” he said. “So with all that in mind, cybersecurity is built in throughout the process. But at certain sensitive classification levels, obviously, you want to make sure the data is protected. So to do that, we leverage everything that’s intrinsic to the cloud, to be better prepared. And I think we’ve done pretty well in this area.”

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