FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program), the government’s cloud security assessment plan, announced late last week that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the first agency-approved cloud service provider. The accreditation covers all AWS data centers in the United States. Amazon becomes the third vendor to meet the security requirements detailed by FedRAMP. FedRAMP is the result of the US Government’s work to address security concerns related to the growing practice of cloud computing and establishes a standardized approach to security assessment, authorizations and continuous monitoring for cloud services and products. By creating industry-wide security standards and focusing more on risk management, as opposed to strict compliance with reporting metrics, officials expect to improve data security as well as simplify the processes agencies use to purchase cloud services. FedRAMP is looking toward full operational capability later this year.
As both the cloud and the government’s use of cloud services grow, officials found that there were many inconsistencies to requirements and approaches as each agency began to adopt the cloud. Launched in 2012, FedRAMP’s goal is to bring consistency to the process but also give cloud vendors a standard way of providing services to the government. And with the government’s cloud-first policy, which requires agencies to consider moving applications to the cloud as a first option for new IT projects, this should streamline the process of deploying to the cloud. This is an ‘approve once, and use many’ approach, reducing the cost and time required to conduct redundant, individual agency security assessment. AWS's certification is for 3 years.
FedRAMP provides an overall checklist for handling risks associated with Web services that would have a limited, or serious impact on government operations if disrupted. Cloud providers must implement these security controls to be authorized to provide cloud services to federal agencies. The government will forbid federal agencies from using a cloud service provider unless the vendor can prove that a FedRAMP-accredited third-party organization has verified and validated the security controls. Once approved, the cloud vendor would not need to be ‘re-evaluated’ by every government entity that might be interested in their solution. There may be instances where additional controls are added by agencies to address specific needs.