A Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) official said today that the next focus area for work on the agency’s Thunderdome zero trust prototype project is user convenience.

Steve Wallace, a systems innovation specialist for the Emerging Technologies Directorate at DISA, explained that the agency has been working to produce a solution that is scalable across the department with a new focus on marrying security and user convenience.

Thunderdome is DISA’s new acquisition activity and prototype effort central to its zero trust security and network architecture. Over the last few months, DISA has been testing how to implement its Zero Trust Reference Architecture by utilizing commercial technologies.

The agency is aiming to move away from its previous siloed security model and toward integrating security from the end-user to the data being accessed, Wallace explained at an FCW virtual event on April 20.

“While we are very much focused on the zero trust aspect of the program, the reality is Thunderdome is also very much focused on that user experience,” Wallace said.

DISA, he added, is currently focused on using available capabilities – whether in-house or commercial – to move away from that siloed security model while still allowing users to easily access data.

“The whole intent there with our Thunderdome program is to move that perimeter outward and give the user more direct access to the data they need,” Wallace said.

Wallace also explained that DISA has begun to explore various identity, credential, and access management (ICAM) elements for the Thunderdome project. A focus in that effort is exploring the diversity of credentials because, according to Wallace, the agency understands that not every person has access to the same credentials.

DISA now has deployed a username/password multi-factor authentication model for access. The agency also has deployed USB-based tokens that users can plug into their devices to gain access to the network.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.