FAR Council issues final security configuration rule

If they already haven’t been doing it, now contracting officers must include the requirements to use the Federal Desktop Core Configuration for Microsoft Windows XP and Vista in all applicable procurements.

In the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council final rule issued Feb. 28, contracting officers also must consult with the requiring official to ensure the proper standards are included in their requirements.

“This final rule will assist agency adoption of common security configurations by ensuring affected information technology providers incorporate common security configurations when delivering agencies their products,” the rule states.

Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for e-government and IT, said this new rule is one way agencies will close their performance gaps.

“We will follow through to be successful in spite of ourselves,” she said during a recent hearing on IT security before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

OMB and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued the expected language in June and gave agencies until June 30, 2007, to begin using it. The FAR rule codifies the requirement and ensures contracting officers are familiar with it.

Alan Paller, director of research at the Sans Institute, said this change is one way to help correct one of the biggest flaws in security — the way agencies buy products.

“Contracting officers don’t like this [security] topic,” he said at the House hearing. “So when a person wants to put it in a contract, they are told they are not being specific enough and eventually they just give up.”

Paller added that security must be baked into the acquisition at the beginning not added later.

Evans said the contract must be clear when it asks for security, but the agency must be responsible for its overall security not the vendor.

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