FIPS policy creates Catch-22

Antivirus vendor McAfee has informed the General Services Administration that it now has an antivirus product that complies with the newest Federal Information Processing Standard for cryptography.

FIPS 140-2 applies to cryptographic modules. Its predecessor, FIPS 140-1, was created in 1994. Compliance with the standard is mandatory, and lawmakers ended the waiver process that allowed agencies to bypass it as part of the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002, said Randall Easter, who leads the Cryptographic Module Validation Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Until recently, no antivirus applications complied with the new cryptographic standard, procurement observers said. Most vendors have only recently begun to redesign their products so that they pass FIPS 140-2 certifications. McAfee is the first to report compliance to GSA. The Office of Management and Budget is now working on guidance, according to an OMB spokeswoman.

Cryptographic modules provide encryption, but they have a broader use in software. They perform services necessary for digital signatures, random number generation, e-authentication and other security functions. A cryptographic module may not offer any encryption services, but it still must receive certification that it meets the standard, Easter said.

He said he doubts that companies have many untested and unapproved products. FIPS 140-2 dates to 2001, according to a NIST Web site. Companies have had time to get their technology certified, he said. FIPS 140-1 is also still acceptable.

Other analysts, however, believe that antivirus vendors in particular, long attuned to consumer and commercial markets, are having difficulty with the newest cryptographic standard. GSA had put out a call for antivirus vendors to enter SmartBuy volume-licensing agreements but found none that could meet the requirements until McAfee did. The news came to GSA earlier this month, GSA spokesman Jon Anderson said.

“This is indeed an issue for us because we’re given the ideal standard we need to purchase to, and industry may be just rolling out products meeting this standard and not many exist,” Anderson said. “Or industry may still be researching or questioning the business viability of such a standard and hasn’t yet provided a product meeting this standard. In other words, we’re directed to provide a product meeting a standard that’s not yet industrywide or may even be beyond industry at the moment.”

McAfee’s news allows GSA to begin the procurement process on behalf of agencies, Anderson said.

The Defense Department signed an enterprise license with Symantec in 2005 under its Enterprise Software Initiative, covering antivirus and other Symantec products. Anderson said he was unsure how DOD was able to do so.

Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions, said the issue is likely to run much deeper than antivirus software. “[If] you start to peel this onion, you’re going to find a lot of products that have” cryptography modules, he said.

Antivirus products probably struggle to meet the standard because of a lack of awareness, not an inability to meet the criteria, Easter said.

“Your first thought is, ‘It’s antivirus, not cryptography,’ but someone dug a little deeper and found that antivirus [software] does use cryptographic modules and so 140-2 does apply,” he said. John Pescatore, security analyst and a vice president at Gartner, also said a lack of awareness is the likely culprit in the failure to comply.

“The people selling pure cryptography software, they were getting certified years ago,” he said. “But for embedded cryptography you run into this.”

Antivirus vendors try to comply

McAfee may have been the first to tell the General Services Administration that its antivirus application now conforms to Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2, but it may not have been the first to achieve the milestone.

In 2004, Fortinet, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., announced that the cryptography module used in its product line, including its antivirus applications, had passed the test.

Other companies have also made some progress. Symantec announced in 2005 that it had gained FIPS 140-2 certification for a module used in its pcAnywhere product.

In 2004, F-Secure announced compliance with the standard for its Cryptographic Library for Windows module, used in its SSH Server for Windows Version 5.30.

— Michael Hardy

NEXT STORY: An 800-pound gorilla no more?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.