FedRAMP and the new normal in cybersecurity


Mobile devices, among the most common endpoints of a network's intelligence, are causing shifts that render current security practices obsolete.

During the race to develop the first transatlantic radio system, Nikola Tesla described a new model of instant communication — one that involved gathering stock quotes and telegram messages, encoding them and assigning a new frequency for delivering them to a handheld device.

Simply put, Tesla — the inventor, engineer, futurist and arguably one of the greatest technology visionaries — was outlining the concept of personalized information delivery via a mobile device. It seems Tesla was leading the way to customized information delivery and use.

We have witnessed leaps in innovation since Tesla's vision. Today, we are able to use personalized systems to gather and disseminate information, which consequently brings new challenges for protecting that data. Our thoughts now turn to a "new normal" of security that involves implementing effective and customized cybersecurity practices that also address user convenience and functionality.

Security is no longer about the network boundary or even the spoke-and-wheel communication models. Mobile devices are now among the most common endpoints of a network's intelligence, and they are causing cultural, social and business shifts that render current security practices obsolete. The dynamic inputs to mobile devices continue to challenge agencies' IT systems with security, standardization and data life cycle management issues.

This security transformation presents at least two new changes in secure and trusted computing that experts and practitioners must face: 1) Agencies can no longer assume that all security controls will lie within their corporate boundaries, and 2) collaboration and accountability must be integrated into the business practices of agencies and their solutions providers.

To create order in what might seem to be a hectic information state, business and government are developing new security best practices. The government has taken a proactive role in developing the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program to lead the evolution of changes caused by cloud computing. FedRAMP is an initial disruption to government IT because it liberates previously tested controls to establish a "do once, use many times" approach to security.

Although cloud service providers might not be able to predict emerging trends, their established research and development processes must factor in continual changes sparked by a successful mobile strategy. Many security experts, FedRAMP-approved third-party assessment organizations and agencies see the FedRAMP program as the foundation for a future mobile-first strategy that is grounded in cybersecurity.

Admittedly, the FedRAMP process has its share of challenges, but as the program matures, it will directly reduce the number of security silos across the government. FedRAMP's immediate contributions are its fresh thoughts on security rather than simply relying on "make-work" documentation. FedRAMP also looks at the practical aspects of reusing security control documentation as a way to reduce costs.

Both the public and private sectors stand to gain a great deal from FedRAMP and its ongoing evolution, but only if they work together and have an equal say in shaping the program's future.

Just as Tesla conceived of the customized information delivery model, leaders today must consider how to tackle the security aspects of personalized technology. FedRAMP is the first step in addressing a new world of security innovation by using public/private collaboration.

As long as there are ongoing mutual benefits to both public and private entities, it is likely the impact of security innovation will expand and grow exponentially.

About the Author

Maria Horton is founder and CEO of EmeSec, a FedRAMP-accredited third-party assessment organization.

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