Final security guide arrives

"Security Self-Assessment Guide for Information Technology Systems"

The National Institute of Standards and Technology on Sept. 10 released the final version of a step-by-step guide for agencies to measure the effectiveness of their information security programs and plans.

The special publication, "Security Self-Assessment Guide for Information Technology Systems," is a how-to guide that complements the CIO Council's Federal IT Security Assessment Framework. The council developed the framework to help agencies determine where, within six levels of effectiveness, their security programs fall and what areas can be improved.

The NIST guide provides a questionnaire on security in three areas: management controls, operational controls and technical controls.

Within those areas, subquestions on 17 topics help agencies get down to the details. One topic focuses on all of the steps necessary to ensure that an agency is providing adequate review of its security controls, including asking whether independent reviews are performed whenever significant changes are made.

Each of the questions is backed up with the appropriate regulations, mandates or guidance. Such documents include the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-130 Appendix III, the Federal Information Systems Control Audit Manual developed by the General Accounting Office and NIST special publications.

In January, OMB recommended that "to promote consistent reviews across government" agencies and their inspectors general should use the CIO Council's framework and the NIST guide as the basis for the annual program review required under the Government Information Security Reform Act.

GISRA, which President Clinton signed in October 2000 as part of the fiscal 2001 Defense Authorization Act, requires agencies to submit annual security reports to OMB, which will then summarize the reports for Congress.

Agencies had to turn in the first set of GISRA reports with their budget requests to OMB by Sept. 10. NIST pushed agencies to use the draft guide, which has been available since March.

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