Achieving FedRAMP certification demonstrates that a cloud service provider adheres to stringent security requirements and meets federal government standards. It utilizes a “do once, use many times” framework cloud services are assessed against a standardized set of security controls, so they carry over across government agencies. Cloud service providers must determine the appropriate security baseline to target based on the type of federal data their system will store and process.
Completing a security assessment framework (SAP)
Once a baseline is selected, the next requirement is completing a documented Security Assessment Plan (SAP) that describes the security controls in place and how they satisfy FedRAMP requirements. The SAP must contain details on the security assessment approach, assigned roles, and testing schedules. This document is essentially a road map for executing FedRAMP assessments.
It is common for vulnerability findings to emerge from the 3PAO assessment. Cloud service providers must remediate any gaps identified by implementing corrective actions for security weaknesses found. The 3PAO will then re-test affected areas to validate that the risks have been appropriately addressed. This process may require multiple iterations before the system achieves the “pass” result necessary for FedRAMP.
Receiving FedRAMP authorization
Once the security assessment and remediation of findings have been completed successfully, the next requirement is to achieve formal FedRAMP authorization. It involves review and approval from the Joint Authorization Board (JAB) or an agency’s Authorizing Official (AO). The JAB is the primary authorization body for cloud services with broad government applicability. For systems with usage scoped to a single agency, that agency’s AO grant authorization.
Establishing continuous monitoring
Maintaining FedRAMP compliance does not end once authorization is achieved. Cloud services must adhere to strong continuous monitoring practices on an ongoing basis. Continuously collecting and analyzing security data, reporting on risk posture, addressing new vulnerabilities, and maintaining rigorous system maintenance are all part of this process. Robust continuous monitoring is mandatory for retaining FedRAMP approval and preventing any lapses in security controls that could jeopardize the authorization status.
The most efficient and cost-effective way for cloud service providers to approach FedRAMP is to embed compliance requirements directly into system design and development. Trying to retrofit an existing system to meet FedRAMP controls after deployment is far less efficient and costly. The “FedRAMP-first” approach to system architecture and software development is key.
Leveraging automation to streamline compliance
Due to the extensive documentation and rigorous, multi-faceted testing involved, achieving FedRAMP authorization has historically been a lengthy and labor-intensive process often taking 9 months or longer. Cloud providers significantly accelerate certification timelines by utilizing automation tools to streamline security processes. Automation enables cloud platforms to scale continuously while maintaining compliance. Organizations pursuing FedRAMP must retain qualified personnel who deeply understand FedRAMP requirements and how to navigate the authorization process. Experienced advisors and assessors are indispensable resources to guide companies through the intricacies of becoming FedRAMP compliant.
Earning fedramp certifications requires significant effort, but also delivers immense benefits. It opens lucrative federal market opportunities and demonstrates to all customers that a service satisfies “gold standard” security controls. When providing cloud services to federal agencies, FedRAMP certification is required.