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March 15, 2010
The National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) recent release of Special Publication 800-37, Revision 1 Guide for Applying the Risk Management Framework to Federal Information Systems: A Security Life Cycle Approach is an important change in the direction of how federal agencies achieve information security and manage information system-related security risks. It shifts the focus away from a point in time Certification and Accreditation (C&A) approach to compliance towards continually assessing risk and security authorization. As a result, the federal information security community is sending a message to the broader federal community and creating an important discussion: the cyber threat is real and must be addressed in the context of its potential impact on an organization. Cyber security is not as simple as a "check the box" requirement. The paradigm shift away from point in time security and towards obtaining situational awareness of the organization's risk posture must be as pervasive in the federal government as the cyber threats are against us.
Regarding the impact on agency security procedures, the publication is clear on the focus of its new framework, stating:
The revised process emphasizes: (i) building information security capabilities into federal information systems through the application of state-of-the-practice management, operational, and technical security controls; (ii) maintaining awareness of the security state of information systems on an ongoing basis through enhanced monitoring processes; and (iii) providing essential information to senior leaders to facilitate decisions regarding the acceptance of risk to organizational operations and assets, individuals, other organizations, and the Nation arising from the operation and use of information systems.
This new Risk Management Framework builds much needed flexibility into the overall federal information security lifecycle to address the increasing nature and scope of threats in real-time, providing a number of key advantages that include:
- Continually evaluating the organization's risk posture and maintaining situational awareness of its cyber security posture
- Understanding the state and maturity of an agency's cyber security program
- Evaluating cyber security programs at key vulnerability points: people, processes, and technology
- Maintaining a focus on the security program lifecycle
- Addressing the key functions (governance, risk, management, compliance, operations) of a security program
Perhaps most importantly, agency security programs will be better positioned to evolve and mature - an absolute necessity for staying ahead of the growing and dynamic threat to our Nation's cyber security.
"Apple's iPad announcement has set off a new round of reports of networks unburdened by a data flow they were not built to handle," Phil Bellaria, director of scenario planning for broadband, and John Leibovitz, deputy chief of the FCC's wireless telecom bureau, wrote in a Monday blog post.
In addressing the importance of cyber security as a government priority in testimony before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee last fall, Vivek Kundra, the Federal Chief Information Officer, said:
"Our Nation's security and economic prosperity depend on the stability and integrity of our Federal communications and information infrastructure." Federal News Radio has reportedthat the federal government will spend $8.3 billion on computer security this year - marking a 60% increase in four years. As Federal information security decision-makers allocate dollars and resources to protect our infrastructure, it is important to prioritize the key challenges they face. These include:
- 1. Increased use of mobile devices.Mobile devices are becoming smaller and faster every day. Agencies face even more challenges as mobile applications have now become widely used and they are even looking to build their own mobile applications to increase their productivity in the field.
- 2. Continued movement of data into the cloud. Cloud computing has become a pervasive buzzword but in the end, risk stems from a matter of oversight and control. Agencies must rely on strong governance and compliance oversight of their service providers since they do not own or control the systems where their data resides.
- 3. Changing regulatory environment. NIST has undergone sweeping changes across their Special Publications by introducing a new Risk Management Framework and introducing new nomenclature such as "Security Authorization." OMB continues to press their performance metrics as a part of the FISMA reporting process and could see some changes in the next 9 months.
- 4. Application security. Attackers have now moved their focus from the network and infrastructure level to the application layer. We're seeing more attacks proliferated through applications such as Adobe and web browsers but some high profile data breaches stemmed from custom web applications through SQL injection attacks.
- 5. Developing/maturing offensive capabilities. "Understanding the offensive to build the defensive" has become the mantra for today's cyber security efforts. The ability to understand the mindset of an attacker and their methods becomes critical in building defenses that focus on these attack vectors.
Reigning in the changes can pose a difficult problem for several agencies but it ultimately comes down to understanding the threats to your particular agency and narrowing your defenses on those areas. Focus and prioritization become key in the constant battle.
The Dept. of Commerce has managed to reduce its water usage by 30 percent over the last two years.
The Baldrige Award was envisioned as a standard of excellence that would help U.S. organizations achieve world-class quality.
While vaccine supplies have fallen short of what the government promised, that information came from the companies making the inoculations.
OMB has launched new tool to automate FISMA reporting. This data will help populate a new cybersecurity dashboard, federal CIO Vivek Kundra says. OMB also wants to collect more specific data around how much and where agencies are spending money on IT security.
Tags: technology , cybersecurity , security , Vivek Kundra , John Streufert , Tom Carper , OMB , State , Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs , DHS , CIO Council , metrics , FISMA , dashboard
After introducing the world to tiny robots with soccer skills, NIST is creating the next level of friendly competition designed to advance microrobotics.
New group is developing performance measures that are based on outcomes. OMB has set a November deadline for a draft of the metrics that will be reviewed by government and industry. DHS says the governmentwide focus to improve cybersecurity is on standards, metrics and authentication.