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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Moving data storage and processing to the cloud ameliorates some cybersecurity vulnerabilities while heightening others, according to a study published last week by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The big picture: More and more segments of both the public and private sectors are shifting their systems to the cloud, primarily relying in the U.S. on a handful of companies, chief among them Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

On the one hand, says the report, the centralization of data storage services provides many public and private entities with more advanced cybersecurity protections than what they possess internally.

  • “[T]he reality [is] that most organizations—governments and companies—cannot effectively protect themselves. Very few organizations can rival the security teams of the major CSPs [cloud service providers] and are therefore better off entrusting their security to these external firms’ security teams.”
  • “This does not mean that the cloud is secure,” says the report, “but it is more secure relative to the security measures most organizations could otherwise achieve.”

On the other hand, the report finds a significant “emerging problem is the systemic risk associated with a centralized approach.”

  • That is, the concentration of power and data among what the authors call the CSP “oligopoly” means that, though they may have advanced security infrastructure, a potential breach of even one of these services could be catastrophic.
  • Worries about over-reliance on a single CSP has led U.S. government agencies to move toward a "multicloud" strategy in order to minimize risks associated with relying on one firm, says the report.
  • That includes the CIA, which entered into a contract with Amazon Web Services to build it a bespoke cloud system in 2013 but is now in the process of soliciting bids for a multicloud solution.

Meanwhile: The major U.S.-based cloud services are also beginning to be challenged by Chinese firms like Alibaba and Tencent for market share across Asia, says the report, a finding that comes as the U.S. and China swap blows over mutual attempts to blunt each other’s technological influence around the world.

Go deeper

Biden promises retaliation for cyberattack on government agencies

Joe Biden speaking in Atlanta on Dec. 15. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Biden on Thursday said that a suspected Russian cyberattack on multiple government agencies and U.S. companies "is a matter of great concern" and promised to impose "substantial costs" to those responsible for the attack.

Driving the news: Biden's statement came just hours after the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency alerted that evidence suggested that additional malware was used in what it described as “a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.”

Biden: DOJ should prosecute those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas

President Biden speaks with reporters at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee.

Why it matters: The president's remarks come one day after Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon failed to show up for a deposition before the committee.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Bill Clinton hospitalized for non-COVID-related infection

Former President Bill Clinton. Photo: Win McNamee/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was admitted to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Tuesday for a non-COVID-related infection, his spokesperson Angel Ureña said Thursday.

The latest: In an update on Friday, Ureña said Clinton's health indicators are "trending in the right direction, including his white blood count which has decreased significantly."