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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.”

Updated 17 mins ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker