Securing Cloud Sites
The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) provides a way to standardize security assessments of cloud services to boost government trust and use.
Like many organizations, the federal government is embracing cloud services. Security of these services is vital to their adoption by government agencies.
The security of cloud sites is also becoming a major issue when considering migrating enterprise functions to the cloud. The recent hacking of some major retailers, in which customer information was obtained, threatens to discourage enterprises' progress to cloud services. If retailers with their own data sites have security problems, what about cloud services?
If you read the cloud service agreements, you may have second thoughts about what liabilities the cloud service providers will accept. But in any event, liabilities are of little value when the cloud service is hacked. Loss of business, diminished reputation, and possible lawsuits are not mitigated by blaming the cloud provider. You don't want any security problems, period.
This is where FedRAMP comes in. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services (details below).
If you are considering cloud series of any kind, then the cloud provider should be queried about their support and compliance with FedRAMP. Several cloud providers have complied, with dozens more in the approval process. Most are based on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) models, some PaaS (platform as a service), and only one SaaS (software as a service). None of those in compliance appear to be in the UCaaS business. It may be that your cloud provider is operating on one of the compliant sites. Look into this to determine if that site meets FedRAMP requirements.
Details on FedRAMP
FedRAMP is a U.S. federal government program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. This approach uses a "do once, use many times" framework designed to reduce cost, time, and staff that is required to conduct agency security assessments.
The idea is to assess a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) once so that multiple agencies do not have to duplicate their security assessment efforts, and resources can be conserved. One assessment is good for deployment throughout the entire federal government.
According to the initiative's website, FedRAMP satisfies three objectives:
* Ensure that information systems/services used government-wide have adequate information security;
* Eliminate duplication of effort and reduce risk management costs; and
* Enable rapid and cost-effective procurement of information systems/services for federal agencies.
There is a FedRAMP logo that can be used by complying organizations.
Look for it.
The goals of the FedRAMP initiative are to:
* Accelerate the adoption of secure cloud solutions through the reuse of assessments and authorizations
* Increase confidence in the security of cloud solutions that can be adopted by federal agencies
* Achieve consistent security authorizations by setting a baseline of agreed upon standards for cloud solution approval in or outside of FedRAMP
* Ensure consistent application of existing security practices
* Boost agency confidence in security assessments
* Increase the use of automation and near-real-time data for continuous monitoring of security conditions
The major benefits of FedRAMP include:
* Increases the re-use of existing security assessments across multiple government agencies
* Saves significant costs, time, and resources by following the theme of, "Do once, use many times."
* Improves real-time security visibility to mitigate security problems ASAP
* Provides a uniform approach to risk-based security management
* Enhances transparency of security issues and their resolution between the government and service providers
* Improves the trustworthiness, reliability, consistency, and quality of the federal security authorization process
There is a document that describes a general Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for FedRAMP that is worth reviewing.
These goals and benefits are valuable to both cloud service providers and government agencies. They also apply to the enterprise using cloud services. There is now a benchmark--an accreditation process that enterprises can evaluate their CSPs against.