FISMA Cybersecurity Compliance
The acronym “FISMA” stands for the Federal Information Security Management Act, which is a piece of U.S. legislation that was created to establish an all-encompassing framework to protect government data, its operations and other assets against compromise. These compromises include both man-made and natural threats. It’s important that agencies have proper FISMA cybersecurity compliance, or they can find their systems compromised.
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Signed into law as part of the Electronic Government Act of 2002, FISMA requires certain agencies to make sure that data electronically held by the federal government is secure.
The head of each agency, along with certain program officials, are tasked under provisions of the law to ensure information is safeguarded by conducting annual reviews of security programs. Their objective is minimizing risks at or below proscribed levels — regarding timeliness, cost-effectiveness and efficiency.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has identified and outlined nine compliance steps regarding FISMA:
- Information to be protected must be categorized
- Choose minimum baseline controls
- Use of a risk assessment procedure in order to refine said controls
- Controls must be documented in system security planning
- Security controls must be implemented for appropriate information systems
- After implementation, the effectiveness of security controls must be assessed and measured
- A determination of the agency-level risk to mission or business case must be made
- Processing of information systems must be authorized
- Security protocols and controls must be continually monitored
FISMA is one of the most important mechanisms for setting federal standards of information and data security. At a time of increased cyber threats, FISMA was designed to limit security risks to federal data and information systems while simultaneously managing federal expenditures pertaining to information security.
Since the law was initially passed, the scope of FISMA has increased to include state agencies that administer federal programs such as Medicare. In addition, FISMA requirements also apply to all private businesses involved in any contractual agreement or relationship with the federal government.
The Office of Management and Budget released guidelines in 2010 requiring agencies to provide real-time system information to FISMA auditors, which has enabled continuous monitoring of information systems that fall under the purview of FISMA.
Are you currently practicing proper FISMA cybersecurity compliance?