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DISA Thunderdome Prisma Access
Francesca El Attrash-UkaejiofoJanuary 22 20243 min read

How DISA's Thunderdome Is Advancing Modern Security with the Help of Prisma Access

In today's ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, military departments and agencies are constantly seeking innovative solutions to protect their networks and data from an array of threats. One such initiative that has gained significant attention in recent years is the Defense Information Systems Agency's (DISA) Thunderdome program. This cutting-edge program aims to enhance the security posture of the Department of Defense (DoD) through a comprehensive suite of IT and cyber-based technologies including Identity Credentials and Access Management (ICAM), commercial Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), and software-defined networking and security tools.

Among the key players in this suite of solutions is Palo Alto Networks with its SASE product, Prisma Access. In this TechSource blog, we'll explore the DISA Thunderdome program and delve into how Palo Alto's Prisma Access plays a role in its security component.

How Thunderdome is Transforming Security and Performance

The DISA Thunderdome program is a strategic initiative by the Defense Information Systems Agency, responsible for providing secure communications and IT support to the U.S. military. Thunderdome's primary goal is to modernize and secure the DoD's network infrastructure. To achieve this, the program employs a combination of next-generation technologies, including SD-WAN, SASE, and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) principles.

Key Elements of Thunderdome

  • Zero Trust Redefined: Conditional access policies for users leveraging resources both remotely and on premise.
  • Application Security Stack (APPSS): Security stack that implements segmentation and protects legacy and modern applications.
  • Visibility and Analytics: Seamless continued visibility across all ZTNA systems.

The key design principals include:

  • Open Architecture: Embracing modularity to prevent vendor lock in and optimize current investments.
  • Policy, Enforcement Points (PEP): Ensuring user, device, and system access validation for critical data sets, both on-premises and through remote ZTNA services.
  • Segmentation and data protection: Implementing segmentation to minimize potential impact areas and fine-tuning granular controls for safeguarding sensitive data.
  • Integrated insights: Maintaining ongoing visibility by seamlessly integrating sensor data.

Elevating SASE Through Thunderdome

With employees connecting from various locations be it home, office, hotel, airports, etc. Thunderdome elevates SASE (a network security approach that combines cloud computing and network security) to control network traffic and avoid breaches.

Palo Alto Networks' Prisma Access is a leading SASE solution that plays a role in Thunderdome’s SASE solution, particularly in providing routing efficiency and security for remote users. Prisma is purpose built in the cloud to help secure today’s hybrid workforce and specifically helps with:

  • Zero Trust with Zero Exceptions: Prisma Access embodies the principles of zero trust, ensuring that network access is granted based on user identity, device security posture, and the context of the request.
  • Secure Remote Access: As part of the Thunderdome initiative, many DoD personnel work remotely. Prisma Access provides secure remote access capabilities, allowing authorized users to connect securely to DoD resources from anywhere, enhancing operational flexibility.
  • Cloud-Native Security: Prisma Access operates in the cloud, providing protection for both on-premises and cloud-based applications. This is crucial as Thunderdome transitions to a more cloud-friendly network architecture.
  • Automated IT operations: With the industry’s first AI Operations (AIOps) solution natively integrated into SASE, IT teams can leverage AI-based problem detection and predictive analytics to automate complex, manual IT operations.
  • SD-WAN Integration: Prisma Access seamlessly integrates with SD-WAN technology, optimizing network performance and ensuring reliable connectivity.

The DISA Thunderdome program represents a forward-thinking approach to modernizing and securing the DoD’s network infrastructure. Palo Alto Networks' Prisma Access is part of a comprehensive suite of cutting-edge security solutions helping to advance Thunderdome's security strategy. Specifically, Prisma Access offers a SASE solution that aligns with the program's goals of enhanced security, improved performance, and simplified network architecture. As cyber threats continue to evolve, Thunderdome is well-positioned to adapt and protect sensitive military information in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.


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Francesca El Attrash-Ukaejiofo

Francesca El Attrash-Ukaejiofo is an accomplished professional in marketing and corporate communications, specializing in communications, content development, and strategy, while also overseeing brand and design. With a strong foundation in SEO-led content creation and a passion for storytelling, Francesca brings a wealth of experience across various domains, having written for marketing agencies, government, B2B, and B2G organizations. Francesca excels in strategic thought leadership, crafting compelling short-form and long-form copy, including executive bylines, blogs, white papers, eBooks, ad copy, web, and video content. Her expertise spans diverse topics such as tech policy, marketing, cybersecurity, government, health IT, defense, and foreign policy. Notably, Francesca's ghostwritten work has earned placement in respected publications like the Hill, FedTech, DefenseNews, and NextGov. Holding a Master’s in Public Policy and fluent in four languages, Francesca leverages these skills to excel in storytelling, connecting with audiences, and fostering professional networks for the organizations she serves. Recognized for strengths in empathy and positivity, Francesca brings infectious enthusiasm to teams, contributing to a collaborative and talent-cultivating work environment.