DISA Completes Thunderdome Cybersecurity Prototype for US DoD

The US Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has completed its Thunderdome enterprise-level cybersecurity prototype to protect US Department of Defense systems against evolving cyberspace threats.

The recent milestone concludes a six-month project extension in collaboration with consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton.

The initial contract for the Thunderdome is valued at $6.8 million and was signed in 2022.

In total, DISA and partner industries spent two years accomplishing the testing and implementation phase for the prototype.

‘Zero-Trust’ System

Thunderdome is a “zero-trust” access architecture that assumes a consistent risk to the US defense cyberspace.

The platform requires strict access controls and continuous validation for each data utility.

It incorporates commercial technologies that enhance the network and security performance of an existing enterprise environment.

Staff members sit at their work stations at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia on January 13, 2015
Staff members at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP

Furthermore, Thunderdome automates network administration to simplify and increase efficiency across related processes.

“Thunderdome has confirmed its potential by laying a zero-trust technology foundation, but the work doesn’t end there,” DISA Deputy Director Christopher Barnhurst stated.

“To truly accomplish the department’s zero-trust goals, DISA’s next steps include changing the culture to implement policies and procedures to make use of zero-trust technologies and approaches in every program.”

Securing Right Data Access

During the development, DISA tapped 1,500 users in three different locations to assess Thunderdome’s physical and remote capabilities.

The trials yielded increased network performance and security.

“DISA met the success criteria for the prototype… to enable conditional access to applications and resources based on user and device attributes as well as the user’s geolocation and time of use,” DISA Cyber Security and Analytics Director Brian Hermann explained.

“Thunderdome can ensure that the right person is accessing the right data, on a managed device, from a trusted location at the appropriate time.”

DISA is now deploying the Thunderdome system for classified networks.

For the next steps, DISA will seek approval from the US Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment to fully introduce the zero-trust technology across the US Department of Defense.

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