The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP®) is a U.S. government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. FedRAMP aims to accelerate the adoption of secure cloud solutions across federal agencies.
For federal agencies seeking technology, particularly cloud services and products, FedRAMP plays a crucial role in ensuring that these offerings meet stringent security standards and are suitable for handling sensitive government data.
FedRAMP is a U.S. government-wide program that was designed to ensure all federal information systems, aside from national security systems, meet the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
For government agencies and the defense industrial base, FedRAMP Authorized status is important because it ensures the cloud services they use meet stringent security requirements, which is vital when handling sensitive government data. By using a FedRAMP Authorized service, agencies are also in compliance with federal regulations for cloud services.
Cloud services customers, especially those who are government agencies or businesses that handle government data, should care about FedRAMP Authorization for a few reasons:
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Risk Management Framework (RMF) is a set of guidelines that provide a process that integrates security, privacy, and risk management activities into the system development life cycle.
The RMF, as detailed in NIST Special Publication 800-37, is used by federal agencies in the United States to assess and manage risks, and to certify and accredit IT systems to ensure they meet a sufficient level of cybersecurity readiness before they go live.
The RMF consists of six steps:
An Interconnection Security Agreement (ISA) is a document that specifies the technical and security requirements for planning, establishing, maintaining, and discontinuing the connection(s) between two or more systems or networks under different operational authorities. It's essentially an agreement between organizations that operate interconnected IT systems about how to secure the data that's being exchanged.
ISAs typically include details such as:
An ISA is part of the risk management approach outlined in the NIST Special Publication 800-47, "Security Guide for Interconnecting Information Technology Systems". It's used in conjunction with a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement (MOU/A), which is a high-level document that specifies the terms and responsibilities of all parties involved in the interconnection.
The FedRAMP process, including the designations and the FIPS data risk categorizations, as well as the Department of Defense (DoD) Impact Levels.
FedRAMP Authorization Process:
The Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) Publication 199 categorizes information systems based on the risk to organizational operations, organizational assets, and individuals should there be a loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability.
FedRAMP authorizes systems at the Low, Moderate, and High impact levels as defined by FIPS 199.
For Department of Defense systems, the Impact Level Authorization goes from IL2 to IL6:
These levels reflect the sensitivity of the data that the system will be handling, and higher levels require more stringent security controls. The processes for achieving these authorizations are similar to FedRAMP, but with additional requirements specific to the Department of Defense.
The goal of FedRAMP is to ensure that all cloud services used by federal agencies meet specific security requirements, making it a valuable tool for agencies to validate data security.
Standardized Security Assessments: FedRAMP streamlines the security assessment process by providing a set of standardized security requirements and assessment procedures that all cloud service providers (CSPs) must follow. This makes it easier for agencies to compare different CSPs and ensure that they all meet the same security standards.
Customers can find a list of cloud service providers (CSPs) that have achieved FedRAMP Authorization on the FedRAMP Marketplace, which is available on the official FedRAMP website.
While FedRAMP was designed for federal agencies, it's also increasingly being used by state and local governments as a way to vet the security of cloud services. In addition to leveraging the benefits described above, state agencies can use tools like StateRAMP, which is based on the FedRAMP program and designed to meet the specific needs of state and local governments.
Ultimately, the use of FedRAMP helps agencies to ensure that they're using cloud services that meet a high standard of security, and it provides a clear and consistent way to validate the security of these services. This can lead to increased confidence in the security of the agency's data and systems, and it can help to ensure compliance with various data protection regulations.