Inside the mind of a Designated Approving Authority

The DAA has a lot on his mind, especially when it comes to information security.

As a former DOD official, I was frequently asked, “What does a DAA think about?” It’s a great question given the current focus on cybersecurity and the perceived difficulty of moving from development and testing to an operational environment. 

As one who served as a DAA, but came from an operational and software development background, my response was often, “A lot.” 

I can sum up what most DAAs think about in three words: context, transparency and risk. DAAs look at the technology context, program transparency and the overall risk to the environment.   

First and foremost, context is fundamental.   

DAAs are in the unique position of having to make hard decisions about their environment. As the final check before production, DAAs have a fascinating and tough job. What they decide has an immediate impact on their organizations. 

While not formally part of the operational security chain, DAAs take operational security and, more importantly, operational needs into account. They acknowledge the increasing cyber threats, changing IT consumption patterns and increasing budgetary pressures. They also recognize there is seldom a way to completely eliminate risk. The only risk-free information technologies are completely isolated ones. 

In an “Internet of Everything” world, most government IT is found within a highly integrated and interconnected grouping of networks, systems and applications.  DAAs obsess about the interrelated conditions in which their systems exist. Within this ecosystem, there’s always the potential for gaps that allow compromise. 

DAAs not only think about information security. They must make authoritative decisions about information security. They and their organizations must live with the results.  

I, like other cybersecurity professionals, understand the ecosystem through a series of “cyber planes,” primarily technology, components and information. The technology plane includes leading-edge research and capabilities that provide the nation with a decisive edge. Attention focuses on protecting secrets. 

Components include mission-critical hardware and software, generally sourced through a commercial supply chain. In this case, the emphasis is on keeping bad things out. 

The third leg of this triad is information. In this instance, the focus is on ensuring that organizations are able to keep critical information from getting out.   

In a hyper-connected world, these three planes are then overlaid by three other concepts: how systems are being constructed and delivered as well as where the systems are being used. Systems providence means that organizations know who built what. Where systems come from has become more complicated in the world of software as a service, data center consolidation and cloud computing. 

Finally, it matters where information is delivered. There are different cybersecurity needs for warriors in a deployed environment than for teams working on a budget submission. 

DAAs also think about the gaps that allow for compromise across these major planes and concepts. They must visualize potential attacks against the enterprise by building models that use the results from vulnerability scanners, asset management, firewall rules and other data sets. The result is a visual understanding environment that maps concept and context.   

One gap I see in contextual understanding is that while numerous tools exist for locating digital information, there are few applications available for making sense of available information. What is lacking are cognitive tools that allow an organization to visualize its digital content and context in nonlinear ways, thereby exposing potential seams within the operational environment.  

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.