The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) was launched by a group of federal agencies that realized the efficiency of having a single risk-based standard for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) rather than each federal agency developing its security assessment program from scratch when forging a business relationship with an industry partner.

As all organizations (including government agencies) grow more interconnected and rely more heavily on the cloud environment, cloud security and risk assessment should rise to everyone’s mind. So, let’s examine what FedRAMP is and how public-sector cybersecurity solutions can help you achieve FedRAMP compliance.

Consider the example of the city hall upgrading its computer information systems. One desired goal is to store consumers’ utility bills in the cloud. Since those bills contain protected personal data such as names, addresses, and phone numbers, city hall must find a Software-as-a-Service program (SAAS) that meets high-security standards.

FedRAMP simplifies the task of finding a reliable, trustworthy cloud service provider. City Hall can search for FedRAMP-approved vendors rather than embark on a tedious, exhaustive review.

What is FedRAMP, and how was it created?

FedRAMP was created in 2011 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and today is used across the entire U.S. federal government. FedRAMP itself is overseen by a group of government agencies, including the General Service Administration (GSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Founding agencies are all represented on the Joint Authorization Board (JAB).

It’s the JAB that selects and authorizes the cloud technologies that become FedRAMP-authorized, and it’s also the JAB that provides continuous monitoring of these products to ensure they meet cybersecurity and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards.

As an added layer of scrutiny, JAB employs a network of Third-Party Assessment Organizations (3PAOs) to verify that an individual cloud solution is safe. 3PAOs also provide an overall risk assessment of the personal cloud services provider and report back to the JAB.

What is the Goal of the FedRAMP Program?

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is the hallmark of security compliance in cloud computing across the U.S. government. Its primary goal is establishing a standardized, secure baseline for cloud service offerings, ensuring that federal information is protected at varying impact levels.

FedRAMP operates as the gateway, streamlining the authorization process for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) seeking to offer their solutions to federal agencies. A meticulous assessment of security controls and adherence to rigorous security requirements enables CSPs to achieve authorization at different impact levels—low, moderate, and high—ensuring federal data protection.

Reasons State & Local Agencies Need FedRAMP Certification

State and local agencies find immense value in seeking FedRAMP certification due to several compelling reasons:

  1. Enhanced Security Controls: FedRAMP-compliant cloud products offer an array of security controls that safeguard sensitive government data, ensuring adherence to federal security standards.
  2. Cost Efficiency: By leveraging FedRAMP-authorized cloud solutions, state and local agencies streamline their security assessment processes, reducing redundant evaluations and associated costs.
  3. Interoperability & Collaboration: Certification ensures that cloud solutions meet standardized security requirements, fostering seamless collaboration and interoperability among government levels.

What is the FedRAMP Process?

The FedRAMP process embodies a standardized approach to security authorization for cloud service providers, incorporating a series of phases:

  1. Initiation and Readiness Assessment: CSPs express interest in achieving FedRAMP compliance, beginning with a readiness assessment report to gauge their preparedness.
  2. Security Assessment and Authorization: An accredited assessor evaluates the system’s security controls against FedRAMP’s stringent standards, creating a System Security Plan (SSP) and an authorization package. This leads to issuing a Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) for CSPs.
  3. Continuous Monitoring and Compliance: Post-authorization, CSPs undergo continuous monitoring to ensure ongoing compliance with FedRAMP requirements. Milestones, such as Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M), are crucial for addressing and mitigating vulnerabilities.
  4. FedRAMP Marketplace and Government Adoption: Upon successful compliance, CSPs are listed in the FedRAMP Marketplace, facilitating their adoption by federal agencies seeking secure cloud solutions.

The FedRAMP program, overseen by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Joint Authorization Board (JAB), serves as a cornerstone for ensuring cybersecurity and promoting the adoption of cloud technologies across the U.S. government.

Achieve FedRAMP Certification with ZenGRC

ZenGRC’s compliance, risk, and workflow management software is an intuitive, easy-to-understand platform that keeps track of your workflow and lets you find areas of high risk before that risk becomes a real threat.

Worry-free compliance management is the Zen way. For more information on how ZenGRC can enable your CMS, contact us for a demo.