What is FedRAMP Compliance?

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a U.S. government regulation that dictates a standardized approach for security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring of cloud products and services offered by cloud service providers (CSPs).

FedRAMP was introduced in 2011 as a memorandum to government agencies CIOs to improve the state of their information technology systems within the federal government. It encourages agencies to explore cloud computing options before they allocate financial resources to new infrastructure.

Prior to FedRAMP, every federal agency managed its own security assessments based on guidance provided by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). That resulted in a scattershot, indisciplined approach to assessing the security of CSPS.

FedRAMP affects both federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); as well as CSPs. FedRAMP authorization seeks to determine whether CSPs meet the appropriate federal cloud security guidelines.

To qualify, CSPs must be audited by a third-party assessment organization (3PAO) to confirm whether they are FedRAMP-compliant.

image
image
Complete Guide to FedRAMP
Compliance
read the guide

Why Is FedRAMP Compliance Important?

FedRAMP is important to U.S. government agencies because it simplifies the task of finding reliable, trustworthy cloud service providers.

For example, consider a local municipality that wants to upgrade its computer information systems to store consumers’ utility bills in the cloud. Since those bills contain personally identifiable information (PII) and government data, the city will need to find a software-as-a-service program (SaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that meets FedRAMP security standards.

FedRAMP is also important for CSPs because without a proper compliance program that meets FedRAMP standards, those CSPs run the risk of losing valuable business relationships with government agencies. They could also lose the trust of customers concerned about the protection of their personal information.

FedRAMP Requirements at a Glance

The foundation for FedRAMP guidelines is based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-53, which sets forth guidelines for information security controls regarding cloud computing environments.

There are three security baseline levels of FedRAMP authorization:

Low impact

1

Moderate impact

2

HIGH IMPACT

3

These levels vary based on the different types of data that CSPs manage and the methods used to secure that data. The degree of severity (low, moderate, and high) refers to the potential impact that can occur should an information system be compromised.

FedRAMP Compliance Checklist

To help you get started with FedRAMP certification, we’ve also compiled this checklist from our guide to FedRAMP compliance:

1

Create your System Security Plan (SSP) for all information security controls.

2

Implement continuous monitoring to pinpoint and remediate vulnerabilities as they occur.

3

Re-evaluate your security controls regularly to assure they are still effective at mitigating all cybersecurity risks.

4

Align employees, security officers, and government liaisons on your FedRAMP information system security program.

5

When submitting a Readiness Assessment Report (RAR), or an update, notify info@fedramp.gov to ensure review.

6

Use a 3PAO assessor to conduct your Security Assessment Plan (SAP) and/or Security Assessment Report (SAR).

Get familiar with FedRAMP requirements with out audit prep guide

GET THE GUIDE

Reciprocity Has Your Solution for FedRAMP Compliance

Achieving FedRAMP compliance requires a considerable investment in time and resources, particularly for an organization still using legacy tools and spreadsheets to achieve and maintain compliance workflows.

Also remember: initial compliance certification is only half the battle. After certification is achieved, your organization must maintain compliance management to assure that the new systems, processes and controls don’t degrade over time.

At Reciprocity, our compliance experts can help you to prepare your FedRAMP compliance and certification program, expedite the process and minimize the burden on your team.

The ZenGRC SaaS platform is an efficient solution to achieving continuous compliance with government regulations.

Businesses don’t have to worry about their compliance stance because ZenGRC monitors it over the entire lifecycle and keeps up with the latest data protection regulations and requirements.

image

ZenGRC FedRAMP Capabilities

  • User-friendly dashboard with real-time metrics on prioritized risks
  • Pre-built templates that can help you to make compliance audits as cost-effective as possible
  • A central repository for all audit-ready documentation
  • Universal Control Mapping to streamline multiple requirements with a single control
  • Insight into team member progress at fulfilling FedRAMP requirements
  • Automation to track outstanding requirements for cloud service offerings
image

Frequently Asked Questions

To contract with government agencies under the umbrella of the FedRAMP marketplace, all cloud-based managed service providers must obtain FedRAMP certification.

FedRAMP grants cloud service providers (CSPs) and cloud service offerings (CSOs) to work with government agencies at three impact levels: low, moderate, and high. These levels refer to the sensitivity of the data the cloud provider is equipped to process, store, and transmit.

The main difference between FedRAMP and ISO 27001 is that FedRAMP focuses on cloud service providers that seek to provide services to the U.S. government.

In contrast, ISO 27001 can apply to any business, in any industry, that has some obligation to obtain an independent assessment of its IT security management system.

Furthermore, ISO 27001 certification is issued for three years, whereas FedRAMP is based on assessing an organization’s security controls during a period in time.

Several factors go into FedRAMP certification cost. These include:

  • The complexity of your cloud services.
  • Whether you are seeking authorization from one agency or from the Joint Authorization Board (JAB), which serves multiple government agencies at once.
  • Whether your risk severity is deemed low, moderate, or high.
  • The size of the gap between your existing controls and documentation and what’s required for FedRAMP authorization.
  • The resources you have available to prepare for the FedRAMP authorization process.

With all these factors, it is safe to assume that FedRAMP authorization costs can range from $75,000 to $3.5 million.

Yes, Microsoft Office 365 has been given FedRAMP security authorization.

Yes, Amazon has announced that AWS GovCloud (US) has received a Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) from the JAB under FedRAMP with a “high” baseline.