What You Ought To Know About FedRAMP And Your Business
Island hopping has become a prevalent strategy in data breach cases, with 50% of successful data breaches involving it at some stage of the breach process, according to Carbon Black’s Quarterly Incident Threat Report. Ideally, Island Hopping is when cyber-criminals undermine the security structure of a business by using a more vulnerable partner network.
Case in point, while the Target data breach was iconic and disastrous, it started from one of its vendors’ systems. Fazio Mechanical Services, a firm that used to offer Target heating and refrigeration services, had been attacked by the hackers shortly before Target was breached.
This attack is a prime example that your security posture is only as strong as your weakest point, which is why working with secure vendors is essential. Since the federal government understands this, they set up the FedRAMP security guidelines to make it safe to work with cloud vendors. Ideally, every CSP (Cloud Service Provider) that wants to work with federal agencies should be compliant with these regulations.
Here is what the regulations are and how they can help your business:
What Is FedRAMP?
With the recent rise in cloud computing technology and its adoption, federal agencies had to take it up too. The cloud provided benefits that conventional workload and infrastructure management systems didn’t. It made it easy to access information from anywhere, it is cheaper to run workloads on the cloud than on on-site servers, launching new applications is also easy, and the security and risks involved with the cloud are way less. However, the federal government had to ensure that these security risks are minimized and that any business that works with them is secure.
Ideally, the Federal Risk and Management Program (FedRAMP) is a set of regulations aimed at protecting federal agencies from the cyber-security threats that come with the adoption of cloud-based infrastructure and applications, such as SaaS products. The regulations determine the products that are safe enough for use by federal agencies on the basis of security compliance levels, operational procedures, and documentation.
Why Your Business Should Care About FedRAMP Compliance
1. Improve Your Business’s Security Posture
Cyber-security breaches have become a menace in today’s world. Even worse, hackers are always looking for new ways to circumvent common security measures put in place by businesses. When they do, these cybercriminals can wreak havoc on your business, from losing customer data and customers to having to settle costly lawsuits and fines.
As a result, businesses need all the help you can get to keep your data safe. FedRAMP provides a blueprint of the security measures your business should put in place. It also outlines the policies and procedures that eliminate common attack vectors from your IT systems. When combined with other security controls, your business can be confident in the face of security threats.
2. It Gives You A Competitive Advantage
First of all, being FedRAMP certified makes it easy to work with federal organizations. Certification proves that you have all the internal controls in place to ensure the security of these agencies’ data. However, these security measures also make it easier to work with other businesses. For instance, if you want to work as a subcontractor to contractors to government agencies, certification ensures that you aren’t a security loophole for these organizations.
Also, other non-government agencies can benefit from working with certified businesses. FedRAMP certification is widely regarded as the gold cyber-security standard, making it easy to earn the trust of other businesses and customers. The fact that the anger consumers have towards data breaches is at an all-time high also makes prioritizing security a necessity rather than a luxury.
3. It Makes Compliance With Other Regulations Easier
Businesses have to try and balance out multiple compliance requirements to ensure that they can maintain their competitive advantage as well as avoid common non-compliance fines. For instance, a health organization might have to comply with PCI DSS for secure payments, HIPAA to secure health data, and FedRAMP to work with government agencies.
Luckily, most of these regulatory standards are based on the NIST 800-53. Concurrently, FedRAMP controls are also based on the same. As a result, being compliant makes compliance with these regulations easy.
What Does It Take To Be Compliant?
Ideally, there are three faces to FedRAMP compliance. The first phase involves preauthorization, which requires you (the CSP), the FedRAMP program management office, and a federal agency coming together. This meeting is meant to come up with the details of responsibilities, executions, requirements, and compliance timelines.
The next phase is the authorization process, which requires thoroughly vetting more than 170 controls to ensure there is enough alignment with the federal requirements. This process requires a lot of commitment from your business both in time and internal and external resources.
After the FedRAMP program management office is satisfied with the review and the level of security of your business, it will submit your business to an official from the agency you want to work with whose role is to either send the package back for remediation or approve it. Upon approval, the agency should issue an Agency Authority to Operate (ATO). The FedRAMP program office then reviews the ATO and ensures that all remediation measures have been met before issuing a FedRAMP authorization to your business.
Third-party vendors will always be risky to federal agencies. As long as you can prove that you aren’t a threat, you can enjoy the perks of working with these agencies. Focus on getting FedRAMP certified to enjoy the above and more benefits.
Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT. Learn more at ReciprocityLabs.com.