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DOD gives Microsoft cloud top security rating

Microsoft's federal cloud offerings, Azure Government and a Defense Department-specific iteration of Office 365, have been granted the highest security rating for unclassified data -- Level 5 provisional authority to operate certification.

The rating makes Microsoft the first and only cloud provider that can offer a complete DOD cloud solution approved at that security level for controlled unclassified information (CUI), the company said.

Microsoft offerings achieved the security level because of "dedicated infrastructure that ensures physical separation of DOD customers from non-DOD customers," Tom Keane, general manager for Microsoft Azure, wrote in a blog post.

The company said it has built multiple data centers to provide DOD with exclusive services for Azure and Office 365 U.S. Government Defense services.

Microsoft already has FedRAMP High, FedRAMP Moderate and FedRAMP Accelerated approvals under the General Services Administration's Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.

The addition of DOD Level 5, the company said in a statement, that it will give its customers the capability to build applications that maintain CUI data requiring over Level 4 protection when necessary. Microsoft  said its government-only infrastructure offers more protection because its data centers are hardened, geographically dispersed and operated by screened personnel.

Categories of information in Level 4 include, but are not limited to, export-controlled information such as technical specifications, law enforcement sensitive information, protected health information and some personally identifiable information. Level 5, according to DOD, "accommodates CUI  that requires a higher level of protection" and also includes unclassified National Security Systems.

In a cloud security guide issued by the Defense Information Systems Agency in March 2016, officials said they were taking a "cautious approach with regard to Level 5 information," because of risks associated with shared cloud environments and legal concerns.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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