What is FISMA?
The Federation Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) was established in 2002 as part of the Electronic Government Act and remains one of the most important legislations in data security. The act officially recognizes the importance of an effective IT security infrastructure in the national and financial security of the United States of America.
Through FISMA, federal agencies are obliged to create and implement programs that safeguard information security through managing the CIA triad of confidentiality, integrity, and availability within agency data.
The law requires FISMA to be observed by all members of federal agencies as well as contractors and any other person who is involved in governmental data operations. This clause includes any private company in a contractual collaboration with the federal government.
Federal agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are part of an ongoing collaboration, which serves to frequently discuss and update the guidelines of FISMA that create the most effective information security and risk management programs and practices.
FISMA essentially ensures that confidential data and information remains protected across all electronic government portals, platforms and processes.
Requirements for FISMA Compliance
There are some important steps involved in FISMA compliance, as described in the guidelines of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Firstly, protected information should be properly identified and categorized. This means that all agencies should keep an organized system inventory that is accessible at all times. Additionally, information and information systems should be sorted according to risk levels, which facilitates the use of level-appropriate security responses.
Minimum baseline controls (the most relevant to an organization) are selected during the security process. These controls are refined through careful risk assessment processes and documented within a secure system security plan. According to NIST guidelines, effective risk management strategies should identify specific problems on business process, organizational process and information system process levels. This is followed up with the implementation of security controls in appropriate information systems.
Subsequently, agents must assess the quality of implemented security controls. Teams should also determine if the entity is facing an agency-level risk, which will have a large impact on responses.
Finally, the information system should be authorized for processing while security controls are kept continuously monitored. FISMA compliance is maintained through certification & accreditation that agencies and companies acquire by passing annual security reviews.
Updates to FISMA
FISMA has been recently revised to provide a more robust information security infrastructure. The update was enacted in response to the evolving needs of the digital world. The FISMA 2014 update provides the latest major amendment to the original 2002 legislation.
Based on FISMA (Federal Security Modernization Act) 2014, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is authorized in the administration and implementation of agency information and practices for federal information systems. Secondly, the director of the OMB is required to provide an annual report to congress, which effectively states the quality of federal information security and practices.
Thirdly, cyber breach notifications are mandatory. Agencies are required to respond to all breaches with a comprehensive report within a 30 day period. Additionally, the Director of OMB is required to improve the Budget Circular A-130, which is set to eliminate inefficient or wasteful reporting. This will allow better management of federal resources.
Finally, the FISMA 2014 will reshape the Federal Information Security Incident Center as an educational hub that provides cybersecurity support to companies and agencies.
A failure to comply with FISMA can lead to harsh consequences, which may include a reduction in federal funding and lasting damage to the reputation of the agency or company.
FISMA continues to ensure that the confidential data of US citizens are protected through regular security awareness training of staff, system tests, updates and upgrades.