Coffee & Conversation with Gary Buchanan

September 28, 2023 9:00 AM to 9:45 AM

Gary Buchanan, CISO, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), joined INSA Executive Vice President John Doyon on Thursday, Sept. 28, for a discussion about NGA's cybersecurity priorities.

Recording courtesy of host sponsor, Microsoft!

The conversation kicked off with a discussion on NGA's implementation of  Zero Trust. He noted that NGA initiated its journey by conducting a thorough review of its systems. referred to as the "As Is Assessment." This assessment served as the foundation for identifying the agency's current capabilities and gaps in security.

When discussing the cloud, Mr. Buchanan described how NGA operates across multiple cloud service providers, each with its own unique characteristics. the strategy NGA has devised involves consolidating data from these diverse cloud services into a unified environment. This approach shifts the focus from individual applications or services to the ability to manage and secure the data itself.

Mr. Buchanan highlighted that ensuring the resilience of NGA's systems is paramount. The agency adheres to constant monitoring requirements as outlined in NIST 800-137 and DoD directives. NGA has introduced an Information Security Continuous Monitoring Strategy to automate monitoring and visualization, facilitating real-time awareness. This approach empowers stakeholders to make informed decisions about resource allocation and threat mitigation.

NGA processes an astonishing volume of cyber data, characterized by the four V's" Variety, Veracity, Velocity, and Volume. The agency deals with 126 data sources from our separate networks, containing 745 custom fields. This results in around 70,000 events per second and 10-20 terabytes of data daily. NGA is on track to reach a petabyte of data, equivalent to 500 billion pages of printed text. Recognizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help sift through this data effectively. Partnerships with national labs to leverage generative AI capabilities are in the works, with expectations that this capability will be available in the next 2-3 years.

Additionally, NGA is working closely with industry partners on the "Next NGA West" project. This new campus in St. Louis strengthens NGA's relationship with the region and opens opportunities to engage with small businesses more creatively. NGA's involvement in initiatives like Tearline, a collaborative effort with expert non-profit groups for open-source intelligence production, underscores the importance of partnerships with industry for developing and implementing effective cyber solutions.

In conclusion, Gary Buchanan's insights shed light on NGA's multifaceted approach to cybersecurity, highlighting their commitment to Zero Trust, constant monitoring, data management, and collaborative efforts with industry as key pillars of their strategy. These efforts reflect NGA's dedication to safeguarding critical geospatial intelligence in the face of evolving cyber threats.