DOD must fix product security evaluation process, officials say

The Defense Department’s process for evaluating products to ensure they meet the agency’s information technology security requirements is broken. But senior DOD leaders say a fix is on the way.

Richard Hale, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s chief of information assurance, said the services too often analyze products after they have been certified by the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP), which is run by the National Security Agency.

“We tried to come up with a single evaluation process for everyone, but NIAP hasn’t done what we wanted it to do,” Hale said today during a lunch discussion sponsored by AFCEA’s Washington chapter in Arlington, Va. “We would want a single entity to approve for all of DOD and maybe the intelligence community.”

Hale said that even after NIAP certifies a product, services retest it based on their specific criteria.

He said he would like to see services analyze products based on their mission risk but accept basic security evaluations done by NIAP.

“Speed is what we are after,” he said. “If you can’t deploy until you finish an internal evaluation and certification and accreditation that takes too long.”

Hale said the work being done by Dale Meyerrose, chief information officer at the Office of the Director for National Intelligence, should lead to a single entity and a single set of standards for certification and accreditation in addition to testing.

He said a draft set of information assurance controls is making its way around agencies for comment. A working group consisting of members from ODNI, DOD, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed the standard.

“These standards may not completely take care of the NIAP problem, but it will help,” Hale said.

The Army is leading an effort to test and evaluate and certify and accredit software Defense-wide, and that experience may also help this problem, Hale said.

Hank Beebe, technical director for command and control programs, said once the Army’s operational testing authority approves software, the rest of the services’ testing authorities don’t need to re-evaluate it.

“We aren’t there yet for C&A, but we are working hard toward it,” Beebe said.

The Federated Development and Certification Environment (FDCE) started in 2004 but really got going in the past year or so, Hale said.

The process brings all stakeholders—developers, users, testers, security and others—together as software is developed so it can be brought to use more quickly.

“We are starting to use uniform security controls and develop specifics of the certification process as a part of the FDCE,” Hale said.

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