Critical Read

Navigating NSA's Commercial Solutions for Classified program

What: A new report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology on how to navigate the National Security Agency's Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program.

Why: The CSfC program is an attempt to reconcile tough security standards for deploying products on national security systems with the rapid rate of change of commercial technologies. NSA says it has accelerated product evaluations from as long as 18 months to 90 days.

Although the CSfC program is meant to streamline the certification process, primers like the one produced by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology further simplify it.

The program "presents a significant cultural shift for agencies and integrators, who need to adjust to the idea that commercial technology can be rapidly adopted for use within tightly controlled national security environments," the report states.

The biggest impediment to the use of commercial solutions in government systems has been a reluctance to cede control over the solutions, according to the report. The CSfC program tries to overcome that stigma by demonstrating the art of the possible.

The report outlines three "pillars" of CSfC: National Information Assurance Partnership certification, which tests products against NSA standards; a "layered defense" in which each component of a system is independently secure; and the assurance of components' interoperability and confidentiality through the use of commercial algorithms.

Vendors that want their products to be part of the CSfC program must submit to a federal standards validation process and interoperability testing, and enter into a memorandum of agreement with NSA, the report states. That agreement requires the company to work with NSA to "mitigate any discovered vulnerabilities that would impact the risk management posture of the CSfC solution."

Verbatim: "CSfC solutions set an achievable standardized method of meeting regulatory security requirements that would otherwise be unachievable in their environments."

Click here to read the full report.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is a former FCW staff writer.

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