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Can you use commercial cloud services with government devices?

New cloud services and solutions are coming to market at a rapid pace – accelerating collaboration and productivity like never before – but that has left some Federal employees wondering: Can you use commercial cloud services with government devices? After all, the end user is typically the most vulnerable factor in securing IT infrastructure. Will commercial cloud access from a smartphone enable a wider data breach or cyberattack?

Many employees in the Federal sphere are assigned a government-issued phone, tablet, or computer to execute their business functions and advance the mission of their organization. In these instances, employees sign an agreement that details explicitly what can and cannot be done with the device. If in doubt, refer to this document when deciding whether to access commercial cloud services.

Not every Federal employee receives a government-issued device. Some departments operate on a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, allowing work from anywhere at any time with remote access. While the device is an employee’s personal property (and not an official government device), it is nonetheless used for government work, so a separate agreement is typically signed, albeit with looser overall restrictions.

In both instances, in general, a device can be used to access commercial cloud services. But there is nuance here. There can be great inconsistency in the security controls configured on private and public clouds (that is, cloud environments used for a single tenant vs. multiple tenants, respectively). In short, some applications are safer than others.

To protect against security risks, many IT leaders are deploying remote protocols on devices, with rules and data security parameters configured to each individual employee. These enhanced measures prevent data loss, data transfer, or access from unauthorized users, and can even be used to remotely wipe clean a device that has been lost or stolen.

Government IT infrastructure architects are embracing the migration to the cloud, so it makes sense that commercial cloud services are available from government devices. If there is a question on whether a specific cloud service keeps data secure, adheres to compliance standards, or is safe and approved to use from your government device, always ask before accessing.

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