In today’s complex regulatory environment, organizations need to maintain compliance with numerous regulations. Two important cybersecurity-related compliance standards in the United States are the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
Although these two regulations do have similarities, they have several notable differences as well. This post will explore where FedRAMP and FISMA do, and don’t, overlap.
What Is FedRAMP?
FedRAMP is a cybersecurity risk management program that standardizes security assessment, continuous monitoring, and authorization processes for cloud service providers (CSP) used by U.S. federal agencies. Any cloud solutions provider that stores federal data should be FedRAMP-authorized. Providers that want to bid on federal contracts should become FedRAMP-compliant.
FedRAMP has two main types of authorizations: the Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) from the Joint Authorization Board (JAB); and the Agency Authority to Operate (ATO) that comes from an individual government agency.
The chief overseers of FedRAMP are the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
FedRAMP’s requirements are based on the NIST Special Publication 800 series, which spells out various cybersecurity standards. To achieve FedRAMP compliance, CSPs must go through an independent security assessment carried out by a third-party assessment organization (3PAO) to assure that authorizations are in line with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
FedRAMP compliance is vital because it allows government agencies to migrate from insecure legacy IT systems to more secure and cost-effective cloud-based IT.
Why Is FedRAMP Important?
All CSPs working with federal agencies or holding federal data require FedRAMP authorization, which means those CSPs must comply with FedRAMP’s standards. CSPs won’t be able to do business with the federal government without being FedRAMP-compliant.
Many businesses and local governments also look for the FedRAMP “seal of approval” when choosing their own CSPs.
What’s the Difference Between FISMA and FedRAMP?
FedRAMP is a regulatory requirement that spells out the cybersecurity standards that CSPs should achieve if they want to do business with the U.S. government. FISMA is a law that spells out what federal agencies themselves should do to protect confidential data in their possession.
Both FISMA and FedRAMP have the same basic objectives for keeping government data secure, and both rely on the NIST 800-53 security framework for specific controls that should be implemented. But FISMA and FedRAMP address different groups, and have somewhat different requirements (especially around third-party assessment of your cybersecurity program).
What Is the Difference Between FISMA and NIST?
FISMA is a law that dictates certain cybersecurity standards for U.S. government agencies. NIST is a government agency itself, which publishes security standards— including those that organizations should use to achieve FedRAMP or FISMA compliance.
Is FedRAMP the Same as NIST?
No. NIST is a government agency that provides guidance for organizations to achieve compliance with FedRAMP. Several NIST standards (in the “800 series” of NIST standards) are crucial to achieving FedRAMP compliance, but they are not the same as FedRAMP’s compliance demands; they are elements within FedRAMP’s demands.
How ZenGRC Can Help With FISMA and FedRAMP
Implementing NIST 800-series security controls is essential for both FISMA and FedRAMP compliance. Achieving compliance, however, is only half of the journey. Your organization will still need to maintain compliance to confirm that the new processes and controls don’t degenerate over time (and to remain eligible to bid on government contracts).
Reciprocity has the solution for FISMA and FedRAMP compliance: ZenGRC. Schedule a demo and learn more about how Reciprocity can help you implement NIST 800-series security controls.