Security Content Automation Protocol backgrounder

What it does: The Security Content Automation Protocol provides a standardized way of managing security. Uses include verifying installation of software patches and checking a machine’s security configuration settings.

Benefits: Automated tools that use SCAP specifications make it easier to continuously verify the security compliance status of desktop PC configurations. Agencies often use the tools with the Federal Desktop Core Configuration.

Limitations: SCAP doesn’t address the full scope of compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act, particularly operational controls.

Supported platforms: Although FDCC is geared toward Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, SCAP has enabled standardization across a number of platforms, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Sun Microsystems’ Solaris, HP-UX and IBM AIX. More details on platform support are available at

Validated tools: Twenty-one vendors offer SCAP products that the National Institute of Standards and Technology has validated. The list is available at

Additional reading:

NIST’s SCAP Web site:

NIST’s draft guide to adopting and using SCAP:

About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.


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