NIST tool analyzes security

"Self-Assessment Guide for Information Technology Systems"

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released draft guidance last week for agencies that are attempting to perform self-assessments of their information security programs.

The draft Self-Assessment Guide for Information Technology Systems is a questionnaire that builds upon the Federal IT Security Assessment Framework, which was developed by NIST and issued by the Chief Information Officers Council in November 2000.

To comply with the new Government Information Security Reform Act, the Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to use the framework as one of many tools to use when managing security policies. The framework helps agencies measure their security programs' status against five levels.

The draft guidance provides specifics on how to go about performing those measurements and is intended to give agencies specific steps to improve their programs.

The questionnaire itself, which covers 17 control areas within a complete, security program, is designed to provide results that will enable agencies to determine where a system's security program needs improvement. Agency officials would scan marked columns in the questionnaire to analyze the specific controls that need to be documented, implemented, tested and integrated into the life cycle of a system.

Questions are in areas of management controls, operational controls and technical controls, and delve deeper with more than 200 specific questions. Once agency officials complete the questionnaire, it provides guidance on how to analyze and use the results.

Comments on the draft are due back to Marianne Swanson at NIST by April 9 at marianne.swanson@nist.gov.

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