FedRAMP: It’s Here but Not Yet Here

Posted December 12th, 2011 by

Contrary to what you might hear this week in the trade press, FedRAMP is not fully unveiled although there was some much-awaited progress. There was a memo that came out from the administration (PDF caveat).  Basically what it does is lay down the authority and responsibility for the Program Management Office and set some timelines.  This is good, and we needed it a year and a half ago.

However, people need to stop talking about how FedRAMP has solved all their problems because the entire program isn’t here yet.  Until you have a process document and a catalog of controls to evaluate, you don’t know how the program is going to help or hinder you, so all the press about it is speculation.

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Posted in DISA, FISMA, NIST, Outsourcing, Risk Management | No Comments »

Senate Homeland Security Hearings and the Lieberman-Carper-Collins Bill

Posted June 16th, 2010 by

Fun things happened yesterday.  In case you hid under a rock, the Intertubes were rocking yesterday with the thudding of fingera on keyboard as I live-tweeted the Senate Homeland Committee’s hearing on “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset: Comprehensive Legislation for the 21st Century”.  And oh yeah, there’s a revised version of S.3474 that includes some of the concepts in S.773.  Short version is that the cybersecurity bills are going through the sausage factory known as Capitol Hill and the results are starting to look plausible.

You can go watch the video and read the written testimonies here.  This is mandatory if you’re working with FISMA, critical infrastructure, or large-scale incident response.  I do have to warn you, there are some antics afoot:

  • Senator Collins goes all FUD on us.
  • Senator McCain grills Phil Reitinger if DHS can actually execute a cybersecurity mission.
  • Alan Paller gets all animated and opens up boxes of paperwork.  I am not amused.

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Posted in FISMA, Public Policy, Risk Management | 2 Comments »

NIST Cloud Conference Recap

Posted June 2nd, 2010 by

A couple of weeks ago I went to the NIST Cloud Conference for the afternoon security sessions.  You can go grab the slides off the conference site.  Good stuff all around.

Come to think of it, I haven’t blogged about FedRAMP, maybe it’s time to.

FedRAMP is a way to do security authorization (formerly certification and accreditation, get with the times, man) on a cloud then let tenant projects use that authorization.  Hmmm, sounds like…. a General Support System with common controls and Major Applications that inherit those controls.  This isn’t really anything new, just the “bread and butter” security management concepts scoped to a cloud.  Basically what will happen with FedRAMP is that they have 3 standards: DoD, DHS, and GSA (most stringent first) and cloud providers get authorized against that standard.  Then when a project wants to build on that cloud, they can use that authorization for their own authorization package.

All things considered, FedRAMP is an awesome idea.  Now if we can get the holdout agencies to actually acknowledge their internal common controls, I’ll be happy–the background story being that some number of months ago I was told by my certifier that “we don’t recognize common controls so even though you’re just a simple web application you have to justify every control even if it’s provided to you as infrastructure.”  No, still not bitter at all here, but I digress….

And then there are the pieces that I haven’t seen worked out yet:

  • Mechanism of Sharing: As a service provider, it’s hard enough to keep one agency happy.  Add in 5 of them and it gets nearly impossible.  This hasn’t really been figured out, but in Rybolov’s small, myopic world, a panel of agencies owning an authorization for a cloud provider means that the cloud never gets authorized.  The way this has been “happening in the wild” is that one agency owns the authorization and all the other agencies get the authorization package from that agency.
  • Using FedRAMP is Optional: An agency or project can require their own risk assessment and authorization even though a FedRAMP one is available.  This means that if the agency’s auditors don’t understand the process or the “risk monkeys” (phrase courtesy of My Favorite Govie) decree it, you lose any kind of cost savings and time savings that you would get by participating in FEDRAMP.
  • Cloud Providers Rule the Roost: Let’s face it, as much as the Government wants to pretend that the cloud providers are satisfying the Government’s security requirements, we all know that due to the nature of catalogs of controls and solution engineering, the vendor here has the advantage.  Nothing new, it’s been happening that way with outsourcing, only now it’s immediately evident.  Instead of trying to play ostrich and stick our heads in the sand, why don’t we look at the incentives for the cloud providers and see what makes sense for their role in all this.
  • Inspector General Involvement: I don’t see this happening, and to be honest, this scares the hell out of me.  Let me just invoke Rybolov’s Law: “My solution is only as good as my auditor’s ability to understand it.”  IE, if the IGs and other auditors don’t understand FedRAMP, you don’t really have a viable solution.

The Big Ramp photo by George E. Norkus.  FedRAMP has much opportunity for cool photos.

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Posted in FISMA, NIST, Outsourcing, Risk Management, What Doesn't Work, What Works | 2 Comments »

A Layered Model for Massively-Scaled Security Management

Posted August 24th, 2009 by

So we all know the OSI model by heart, right?   Well, I’m offering up my model of technology management. Really at this stage I’m looking for feedback

  • Layer 7: Global Layer. This layer is regulated by treaties with other nation-states or international standards.  I fit cybercrime treaties in here along with the RFCs that make the Internet work.  Problem is that security hasn’t really reached much to this level unless you want to consider multinational vendors and top-level cert coordination centers like CERT-CC.
  • Layer 6: National-Level Layer. This layer is an aggregation of Federations and industries and primarily consists of Federal law and everything lumped into a “critical infrastructure” bucket.  Most US Federal laws fit into this layer.
  • Layer 5: Federation/Community Layer. What I’m talking here with this layer is an industry federated or formed in some sort of community.  Think major verticals such as energy supply.  It’s not a coincidence that this layer lines up with DHS’s critical infrastructure and key resources breakdown but it can also refer to self-regulated industries such as the function of PCI-DSS or NERC.
  • Layer 4: Enterprise Layer. Most security thought, products, and tools are focused on this layer and the layers below.  This is the realm of the CSO and CISO and roughly equates to a large corporation.
  • Layer 3: Project Layer. Collecting disparate technologies and data into a similar piece such as the LAN/WAN, a web application project, etc.  In the Government world, this is the location for the Information System Security Officer (ISSO) or the System Security Engineer (SSE).
  • Layer 2: Integration Layer. Hardware, software, and firmware combine to become products and solutions and is focused primarily on engineering.
  • Layer 1: Code Layer. Down into the code that makes everything work.  This is where the application security people live.

There are tons of way to use the model.I’m thinking each layer has a set of characteristics like the following:

  • Scope
  • Level of centralization
  • Responsiveness
  • Domain expertise
  • Authority
  • Timeliness
  • Stakeholders
  • Regulatory bodies
  • Many more that I haven’t thought about yet

Chocolate Layer Cake photo by foooooey.

My whole point for this model is that I’m going to try to use it to describe the levels at which a particular problem resides at and to stimulate discussion on what is the appropriate level at which to solve it.  For instance, take a technology and you can trace it up and down the stack. Say Security Event and Incident Monitoring:

  • Layer 7: Global Layer. Coordination between national-level CERTs in stopping malware and hacking attacks.
  • Layer 6: National-Level Layer. Attack data from Layer 5 is aggregated and correlated to respond to large incidents on the scale of Cyberwar.
  • Layer 5: Federation/Community Layer. Events are filtered from Layer 4 and only the confirmed events or interest are correlated to determine trends.
  • Layer 4: Enterprise Layer. Events are aggregated by a SIEM with events of interest flagged for response.
  • Layer 3: Project Layer. Logs are analyzed in some manner.  This is most likely the highest in the model that we
  • Layer 2: Integration Layer. Event logs have to be written to disk and stored for a period of time.
  • Layer 1: Code Layer. Code has to be programmed to create event logs.

I do have an ulterior motive.  I created this model because most of our security thought, doctrine, tools, products, and solutions work at Layer 4 and below.  What we need is discussion on Layers 5 and above because when we try to create massively-scaled security solutions, we start to run into a drought of information at what to do above the Enterprise.  There are other bits of doctrine that I want to bring up, like trying to solve any problem at the lowest level for which it makes sense.  So in other words, we can use the model to propose changes to the way we manage security… say we have a problem like the lack of data on data breaches.  What we’re saying when we say that we need a Federal data breach law is that because of the scope and the amount of responsibility and competing interests at Layer 5, that we need a solution at Layer 6, but in any case we should start at the bottom and work our way up the model until we find an adequate scope and scale.

So, this is my question to you, Internet: have I just reinvented enterprise public policy, IT architecture (Federal Enterprise Architecture) and business blueprinting, or did I create some kind of derivative view of technology, security, and public policy that I can now use?

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Posted in Public Policy | 6 Comments »

Blow-By-Blow on S.773–The Cybersecurity Act of 2009–Part 5

Posted May 4th, 2009 by

Rybolov Note: this is part 4 in a series about S.773.  Go read the bill hereGo read part one hereGo read part two hereGo read part three here. Go read part four here.

Themes: I’ve read this thing back and forth, and one theme emerges overall: We’ve talked for the better part of a decade about what it’s going to take to “solve” this problem that is IT security, from an internal Federal Government standpoint, from a military-industrial complex standpoint, from a state and local government standpoint, from a private-sector standpoint, and from an end-user standpoint.  This bill takes some of the best though on the issue, wraps it all up, and presents it as a “if you want to get the job done, this is the way to do it”.

Missing: The role of DHS.  Commerce is highly represented, over-represented to my mindset.  Looking at the pieces of who owns what:

Commerce security organizations:

NTIA–Technically not a security organization, but they manage the DNS root and set telecom policy.

NIST–They write the standards for security.

FTC–They regulate trade and have oversight over business fraud.

DHS Security organizations:

NPPD–They are responsible for critical infrastructure and national risk management.

NCSD–They do the security operations side of our national cybersecurity strategy and run US-CERT. (BTW, hi guys!)

Secret Service–They have the primary responsibility of protecting the US Currency which also includes computer crimes against financial infrastructure.

Science and Technology Directorate–They are responsible for research and development, including IT security.

DOJ Security Organizations:

FBI–Surprise, they do investigations.

So you see, some of the things that are tasked to Commerce are done by DHS and DOJ.  This is probably the nature of the bill, it was introduced in the Commerce committee so it’s understandable that it would be Commerce-centric.

Cost: One thing kept nagging me in the back of my head while going through this bill is the cost to do everything  We’re asking to do a lot in this bill, now what’s the total cost?  Typically what happens when a bill makes it out of committee is that the Congressional Budget Office attached a price to the legislation as far as the total cost and then what’s the breakdown for the average American household.  That data isn’t published yet on the bill’s page, so we’ll see in the next iteration.

In-Your-Face Politics: Really, this bill is showing us how to do the full security piece.  It includes everything.  It’s challenging people to come up with alternatives.  It’s challenging people to delete the sections that don’t make sense.  It’s challenging people to fix the scope issues.  Like it or hate it, it definitely stirs up debate.

Final Thoughts: S.773 is a pretty decent bill.  It has some warts that need to be fixed, but overall it’s a pretty positive step.

Capitol photo by bigmikesndtech.

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Blow-By-Blow on S.773–The Cybersecurity Act of 2009–Part 4

Posted May 1st, 2009 by

Rybolov Note: this is part 4 in a series about S.773.  Go read the bill hereGo read part one hereGo read part two hereGo read part three hereGo read part 5 here. =)

SEC. 18. CYBERSECURITY RESPONSIBILITIES AND AUTHORITY. This section needs to be reviewed line-by-line because it’s dense:

“The President–

(1) within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, shall develop and implement a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy, which shall include–

(A) a long-term vision of the Nation’s cybersecurity future; and

(B) a plan that encompasses all aspects of national security, including the participation of the private sector, including critical infrastructure operators and managers;”

OK, fair enough, this calls for a cybersecurity strategy that includes the agencies and critical infrastructure.  Most of that is in-play already and has overlap with some other sections.

(2) may declare a cybersecurity emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from any compromised Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network;

Declaring an emergency is already a President function for natural disasters, this makes sense, except where you militarized cybersecurity and indirectly give the President the authority here to declare a cyberwar, depending on how you interpret this paragraph.

The cutoff authority has been given much talk.  This part pertains only to Government systems and critical infrastructure.  Note that the criteria here is that the part being cutoff has to have been compromised, which makes more sense.  The part that I’m worried about is when we preemptively cut off the network in anticipation of pwnage.

(3) shall designate an agency to be responsible for coordinating the response and restoration of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information system or network affected by a cybersecurity emergency declaration under paragraph (2);

This is interesting to me because it leaves the designation up to the President.  Remember, we have all this debate as to who should “own” cybersecurity: DHS, DoD, NSA, FBI, and even Commerce have been proposed here.  I don’t think Congress should leave this designation to the President–it needs to be decided before an incident so that we don’t fight over jurisdiction issues during the incident.  Ref: Cyber-Katrina.

(4) shall, through the appropriate department or agency, review equipment that would be needed after a cybersecurity attack and develop a strategy for the acquisition, storage, and periodic replacement of such equipment;

This is good.  What it means is stockpiling or contracting for equipment in advance of an attack… think DDoS response teams and you have a pretty good idea.  And hey, this also works in disaster recovery, which I’ve never understood why we don’t manage some DR at the national level.  GSA, are you paying attention here?

(5) shall direct the periodic mapping of Federal Government and United States critical infrastructure information systems or networks, and shall develop metrics to measure the effectiveness of the mapping process;

Enumeration is good, depending on what we’re using the information for.  If you use it to beat up on the agency CISOs and the critical infrastructure owners/operators, then we have better things to spend our time doing.  If you do this and then use the information to help people Ref: security metrics, architecture support, Federal Enterprise Architecture.  I also have a problem with this because you can map vulnerabilities but how do you get the information to the right people who can fix them?

(6) may order the disconnection of any Federal Government or United States critical infrastructure information systems or networks in the interest of national security;

OK, this gives the President authority over private networks.  And fo-shizzle, I thought the President already had disconnect authority over Government networks.  If I was an owner of critical infrastructure I would be sh*tting bricks here because this means that the President has disconnect authority for my gear and doesn’t have to give me an answer on why or a remediation plan to get it turned back on–Ref: National Security Letter.  I think we need the disconnect authority, but there has to be some way for people to get turned back on.

(7) shall, through the Office of Science and Technology Policy, direct an annual review of all Federal cyber technology research and development investments;

Good stuff, I would be surprised if this isn’t happening already, what with Congress providing the budget for cyber technology research.

(8) may delegate original classification authority to the appropriate Federal official for the purposes of improving the Nation’s cybersecurity posture;

This paragraph is interesting, mostly because it could go anyway.  If we get a Cybersecurity Advisor, this will most likely be dedicated to them, meaning that they get the authority to determine what’s national security information.  This also works in conjunction with quite a few sections of the bill, including all the information-sharing initiatives and paragraph 6 above.

(9) shall, through the appropriate department or agency, promulgate rules for Federal professional responsibilities regarding cybersecurity, and shall provide to the Congress an annual report on Federal agency compliance with those rules;

I had to read this paragraph a couple of times.  Really what I think we’re doing is establishing a case for agency executives to be found negligent in their duty if they do not ensure security inside their agency–think CEO liability for negligence.

(10) shall withhold additional compensation, direct corrective action for Federal personnel, or terminate a Federal contract in violation of Federal rules, and shall report any such action to the Congress in an unclassified format within 48 hours after taking any such action; and

There are 2 parts of this paragraph: Federal personnel and contractors.  This is a sanctions part of the legislation.  Note that there is not a penalty and/or authority for anybody outside of Government.  The problem with this is that proving negligence is very hard in the security world.  Combined with Paragraph 9, this is a good combination provided that the professional responsibilities are written correctly.  I still think this has room for abuse because of scoping problems–we already have rules for sanctions of people (personnel law) and contracts (cure notices, Federal Acquisition Regulations), only they don’t have much teeth up to this point because it’s hard to prove negligence.

(11) shall notify the Congress within 48 hours after providing a cyber-related certification of legality to a United States person.

I had to search around for a description here.  I found some people who said this paragraph pertained to the certification of professionals as in section 7.  This is wrong.  Basically, what happens is that the Department of Justice issues a “certification of legality” when somebody (usually inside the Government) asks them if a certain act is legal to perform.  Think legal review for building a wiretap program: the President has to go to DoJ and ask them if the program is legal under existing laws.

What this paragraph really does is it institutes Congressional oversight on a “FYI-basis” over Executive Branch decisions on policy to keep them from overstepping their legal bounds.

Verdict: This section is all over the map.  Like most things in S.773, it has some scope issues but overall this section establishes tasks that you can expect the Cybersecurity Advisor or DHS under the Cybersecurity Advisor’s auspices to perform.

Capitol Rotunda photo by OakleyOriginals.

SEC. 19. QUADRENNIAL CYBER REVIEW. This section mandates a review of the cyberstrategy every 4 years.

Verdict: We’ve been doing this so far on an ad-hoc basis, might as well make it official.

SEC. 20. JOINT INTELLIGENCE THREAT ASSESSMENT. This section mandates an annual report on the bad guys and what they’re doing.  This is similar to the Congressional testimony we’ve seen so far on the subject.  If we’re going to expect Congress to make good public policy decisions, they need the information.

Verdict: OK, I don’t see much wrong with this as long as it’s done right and not abused by politics.

SEC. 21. INTERNATIONAL NORMS AND CYBERSECURITY DETERRANCE MEASURES. This section authorizes/mandates the President to cooperate with other countries about “cybersecurity stuff”.

Verdict: Not specific enough to mean anything.  If we keep this section, we need to enumerate specifically what we want the Executive Branch to do.

SEC. 22. FEDERAL SECURE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES ACQUISITIONS BOARD. This section creates a board to review large IT purchases.  Yes, that slows down the purchasing process horribly, as if it isn’t bad enough by itself.  Um, I thought we were supposed to do this with the Federal Enterprise Architecture.

Verdict: This is a macro-scale solution for a micro-scale problem.  Sorry, it doesn’t work for me.  Make FEA responsible for the macro-scale and push good, solid guidance down to the agencies for the micro-scale.  Replace this section with the NIST checklists program and a true security architecture model.

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