Quick Guide on FedRAMP Fundamentals
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
The federal government enacted the FedRAMP regulation in December 2011 to enable executive agencies and departments to use a method based on risk and cost-effectiveness when adopting cloud technologies. A FedRAMP readiness assessment is mandatory for cloud products and solutions providers seeking to receive an Authorization to Operate (ATO). With ATO, a provider's hosted information and systems meet FedRAMP requirements.
What is FedRAMP? Why is it Important?
FedRAMP is a shortened abbreviation meaning Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. It is a standardization method designed for federal agencies to facilitate the assessment of a Cloud Service Provider's (CSP's) continuous monitoring, authorization, and security. FedRAMP features a risk management framework based on the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002 and NIST 500-83 that allows stakeholders to assess and authorize cloud service offerings.
The goal of FedRAMP assessment is to increase confidence in the security of cloud solutions through continuous monitoring and the use of reliable security practices and procedures. The official FedRAMP website states:
"FedRAMP facilitates the shift from insecure, tethered, tedious IT to secure, mobile, nimble, and quick IT."
The FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO) is responsible for maintaining standardized procedures to risk assessments and security to assist federal government organs in adopting secure cloud offerings and services. The government created FedRAMP to support its cloud computing plan of choosing third-party cloud-based products and services among federal agencies.
Benefits of FedRAMP
Instead of conducting multiple assessments for your cloud services, FedRAMP offers an integrative unified and comprehensive audit for CSPs. Even though the FedRAMP assessment and certification process is tedious and intensive, it gives qualified CSPs a competitive advantage since they are eligible to works with federal agencies. Besides, investing in the certification creates confidence in CSPs' security capabilities among non-government customers.
For federal and state government agencies, FedRAMP reduces the time and money needed to assess a CSPs security posture.
FedRAMP Covered Entities
FedRAMP assessment and certification is a requirement for any Cloud Service Provider (CSP) seeking to become a third-party vendor for federal agencies. In certain instances, state government agencies may require third-party CSPs to acquire FedRAMP certifications. The state offices leverage FedRAMP's rigorous cloud security program for cloud-based information systems.
Who Performs FedRAMP Assessments?
Only Third-Party Assessment Organizations (3PAO) can perform FedRAMP assessments. A 3PAO is an organization that PMO certifies to help CSPs and government agencies to meet FedRAMP compliance regulations.
During the FedRAMP certification journey, the 3PAO evaluates a CSP's cloud computing systems to ensure transparency between the third-party and government, and to establish that the provider maintains consistency in data security strategies.
In most cases, 3PAO deploys FedRAMP templates to perform security assessments and authorization.
FedRAMP Key Processes
The critical processes of FedRAMP assessment and certification include:
Security Assessment: This process involves a set of NIST 800-53 Rev. requirements.
Leveraging and Authorization: Federal agencies refer and leverage security authorization packages in FedRAMP repository to grant authorization
Ongoing Assessment and Authorization: Continuous assessment ensures that CSPs uphold authorization
The government requires FedRAMP Authorized CSPs to perform Continuous Monitoring to maintain an adequate security posture. Federal Agencies should review a CSP's Continuous Monitoring artifacts to determine if an ATO is appropriate over the life of the cloud-based system or service.
FedRAMP Agency Partner
CSPs require an Authorization to Operate from an agency using their cloud-based product or service. As mentioned, an ATO is the official management decision that a senior Federal official gives to authorize the operation of an information system. Besides, the decision explicitly accepts the risk of CSP's offering to agency operations.
CSPs should identify an appropriate Agency Partner to work with for their FedRAMP authorization. Naturally, that agency should be using or is committing to acquire a CSP's cloud service. The FedRAMP PMO also assists in communicating the requirements, roles, and responsibilities for CSPs looking for an Agency partner or customer.
Through close collaboration with NIST and other industry leaders, FedRAMP develops and maintains the Open Security Controls Assessment Language (OSCAL). OSCAL is a standard that guides stakeholders when they publish, implement, or assess cloud security controls.
OSCAL helps streamline and automate components of the authorization process. For instance, CSPs can leverage the standard to enable the rapid and accurate creation of System Security Plans (SSPs). Besides, they can validate their content before submitting it to the government for review. OSCAL, on the other hand, assists 3PAO to speed up cloud assessment activities by enabling the automation of processes such as reporting, planning, and execution. Agencies use the OSCAL standard to accelerate the processes of reviewing the FedRAMP-required security authorization packages. At the same time, the PMO uses OSCAL to develop tools needed to reduce the cost and enhance the quality of service reviews.
Ways Ignyte Assurance Platform Helps
Ignyte Assurance Platform™ assists you in automating the full process followed when acquiring a FedRAMP Approval and ID, thus enhancing your cloud security posture. When using the platform, you disregard the need for superfluous emails and tracking beyond the already implemented legacy systems. Companies can realize rapid automation of the complete ATO lifecycle, starting when they register systems to when the systems become decommissioned. Besides, the Ignyte Assurance Platform automates continuous monitoring requirements with a 21st-century certification analyst friendly interface.
Organizations exploring federal audit options can partner with Ignyte Assurance experienced assessors to conduct necessary assessments towards FedRAMP certification. Ignyte professionals provide guided pre-assessment and assessment expertise, eliminating the need for external resources until the FedRAMP accreditation is required.