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New FedRAMP Security Controls Issued

Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com

One day after the deadline for cloud service providers to assess their offerings against the government’s baseline cloud security standards, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, known as FedRAMP, released new security controls and templates for agencies and CSPs to follow as they navigate the initiative’s updated requirements.

Friday’s updates reflect changes to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication (SP) 800-53 security control baseline that went into effect last year and represent the “largest release of information” from the FedRAMP program management office since the initiative’s inception two years ago, according to program manager Matt Goodrich.

“From two years ago when we first launched and questions about whether FedRAMP would even work, I think we’ve made significant progress,” said Goodrich, speaking at the Akamai Government Forum Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Indeed, 16 FedRAMP-compliant offerings now exist as options in government, with at least “25 more in the process,” Goodrich said, and those 16 compliant offerings are now deployed in approximately 160 instances across federal agencies.

FedRAMP isn’t just beefing up cloud security in government, its “do once, use many” approach to cloud security assessments has also directly led to significant savings.

Prior to FedRAMP, each deployment would have required a full assessment, which Goodrich estimated would cost at least $250,000 and possibly more.

“Our estimate for any authorization is $250,000 – that’s over $40 million in cost avoidance for those 16 authorizations,” said Goodrich, noting that his estimates were backed by Federal Information Security Management Act reporting information.

The General Services Administration, responsible for overseeing the FedRAMP initiative, released guidance in April to help agencies and CSPs adhere to FedRAMP’s modified standards. The guidance provides specific direction to CSPs at varying stages of FedRAMP accreditation. The plan differs depending how far along CSPs are in the process, but the end goal is for all CSPs to meet the second generation of FedRAMP standards in 2015.

While the June 5 deadline caused a stir of activity among CSPs that want to either enter the federal market or expand their government footprint, much work remains to be done. FedRAMP-compliant cloud deployments likely comprise only a small percentage of actual cloud deployments across government – one CSP executive suggested the difference might be 40-fold – yet two things are likely to continue driving change.

The first is government oversight with teeth. Whether inspectors general and the Government Accountability Office come down hard publicly on agencies that continue to use noncompliant cloud deployments will certainly play a role in governmentwide adoption of FedRAMP. Agencies that want to use noncompliant cloud deployment must justify that decision to the Office of Management and Budget in PortfolioStat reporting. No tech company wants media headlines that cast its solution in an unfavorable light, either.

The second factor driving change is at the procurement level. Speaking on the panel Thursday, Autonomic Resources CEO and President John Keese said some agencies are stipulating FedRAMP-accredited solutions into request for proposal documentation.

“You’re seeing RFPs requiring FedRAMP compliance,” Keese said.

In those cases, solutions that aren’t at least in the pipeline for FedRAMP can’t even compete for a contract. With federal investment in cloud computing increasing significantly year by year, that kind of financial motivation is perhaps the biggest key to driving companies through FedRAMP.

(Image via Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com)

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