Canberra gives Microsoft protected-level cloud classification

Redmond now has a spot on the Certified Cloud Services List, allowing the company to store highly classified government information on Azure and Office 365 in Australia.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Microsoft is the latest vendor to receive accreditation from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), allowing it to store highly classified government information up to "protected" level on its Office 365 platform and specific Azure services.

Protected-level certification for cloud services is currently the highest security level approved by the ASD on its Certified Cloud Services List (CCSL).

Microsoft received accreditation from the ASD in June that saw Australia's intelligence agency formally certify 50 services on the ASD CCSL across Azure and Office 365.

At the time, Microsoft Azure engineering lead for Australia James Kavanagh, as the company's Australian national technology officer, told ZDNet there were services "coming downstream" to allow government organisations to "go beyond" just the unclassified data route.

Leading up to Tuesday's announcement, Microsoft then launched two new Australian datacentre regions at Canberra Data Centres (CDC) to offer Australian governments access to Microsoft Azure from early 2018.

CDC built its facilities in advance as top secret, which allows Microsoft to offer services from within CDC, inheriting the characteristics already in place and thus complying with Australian government requirements.

Earlier on Tuesday, Microsoft also revealed Azure Australia Central, two new cloud regions in Canberra targeted towards government, financial services, and critical national infrastructure clients in Australia and New Zealand that are making the move to multi-cloud.

Microsoft is the second foreign vendor extended the CCSL honour, after Dimension Data scored a spot on the CCSL in February.

ASD handed out protected-level classification to Sliced Tech and Vault Systems in March last year, with the local duo the first allowed to store highly classified government information in their respective cloud platforms.

Macquarie Government, part of the Macquarie Telecom Group, also received its protected-level accreditation in September.

Making the announcement alongside Microsoft on Tuesday in Canberra was Australian Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor, who said the use of cloud by the government will allow it to stand up IT projects quicker and more cost effectively.

Read also: Commonwealth pushes public cloud by default

"Cloud certification is one of those areas that's critically important to the government and it's actually something I'm very passionate about, and the reason I'm passionate about it is because it is part of the transformation of government that we need to see and it's a transformation where we know technology can do many of the things that Australians are demanding of government," Taylor said.

"There is no doubt of what can be delivered through the cloud.

"With too many government projects historically we've spent the first several years, not months, standing up servers, well we know doing it this way we can do it much faster, which is why it is so important."

Taylor believes Australia can take a leadership role in delivering government services, not just within the country's borders but to the rest of the world as well.

Read also: Australian government considers approach to cybersecurity 'world-leading'

"I'm a passionate believer that we can develop a government technology sector in this country that is world leading," he continued.

"And as we have more certified cloud services like this one, I'm confident that only can we bring the best of the world to Australia, but we can take the best of Australia to the world and we are as a government determined to do this.

"We shouldn't underestimate the potential for [Canberra] to be more than just a city that delivers government to the rest of Australia, but a city and region that can deliver the best of what Australia has to offer to the world."

Although confident in Australia's ability to deliver this "world-leading tech sector", Taylor said the country first needs services like the one announced by the US giant in order to be able to do that.


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