13 Mar 2017

There was an American soldier fighting in WWII. He busted the heel of one of his boots so he took them to the Army shoe repair and dropped them off. But soldiers tend to be busy people, so he forgot to pick them up. 4 years later, he was cleaning out his closet and found his old army jacket. He looked through the pockets and found the slip the guy repairing his shoes gave him when he dropped them off. Out of curiosity, the soldier went back the Army shoe repair and handed over his slip. The guy behind the counter looked it over and said, “Come back next Tuesday.”

We all know that the United States’ government isn’t the perfect model of efficiency. In fact, it’s a study in inefficiency. Millions of moving parts, bureaucracy, and changing political agendas all make the government move so slow you want to pull your hair out. It’s not hard to imagine that doing something as complicated and important as adopting a cloud service provider being an impossibly long and complicated process, and it is.

But that’s why FedRamp exists.

FedRAMP is the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program. Basically, instead of each agency having its own way of reviewing cloud products for government use and assessing general security, FedRAMP is a standardized security system designed to cut down the costs and time the previous systems required. When an agency is evaluating a cloud product for use, the first step under FedRAMP is to conduct a security assessment of the product combining tenets of FISMA and NIST 800-53.

The government uses independent 3PAOs (third party assessment organizations) to test a product. An organization qualified to be a 3PAO is one that is independent of the government, has security standards that comply with ISO 17020, and have experience with FISMA testing. If a product passes the initial security assessment, the agencies looking to adopt the product leverage security authorization packages to give a security authorization to their own agency. After that, the product undergoes further security evaluations.

After reading that paragraph, you’re probably wondering if FedRAMP really does speed up the government. According to their numbers, FedRAMP save the government 30 – 40% in costs. But even with those numbers, you might be wondering why you need to understand FedRAMP. Other than being an informed citizen, if you’re a cloud service provider who hopes to get some of your tax dollars back by selling your product to the government you’re on a collision with FedRAMP. And if you’re product is not ready to stand up to 3PAO tests then FedRAMP will be the iceberg to your Titanic.

The good news is that you get to study the test questions before you take the test. We’ve already spelled out what will be expected of a product under FedRAMP, and with a little more research you could find out even more. The bad news is that to make your product ready for FedRAMP you’ll have to understand and implement all the security standards mentioned earlier. FISMA. NIST 800 – 53. ISO 17020. If these are not already a part of your everyday vocabulary they will be before you get a product through FedRAMP. That’s why you must take the time to inform yourself on the ins and outs of not just cybersecurity standards but all the happenings in the cybersecurity world.

Creating secure cyber products without knowing current cybersecurity trends is like building a fence to keep birds from pooping on your car. It’s a waste of time that only leads to frustration and a bunch of shit to deal with. Stay up to date on everything cyber and save yourself a massive headache.

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