FedRAMP – What’s the Big Deal?

By on Oct 13, 2020

If you are someone who works for a cloud service provider in the business of federal contracting, you probably already have a good understanding of FedRAMP. It is also likely that our regular blog readers know the ins and outs of this program.

For those who are not involved in these areas, however, this acronym may be more unfamiliar. Perhaps you have only heard of it in passing conversation with a few of your expert cybersecurity colleagues, or you are just curious to learn what all of the hype is about. If you fall into this category – read on! This blog is for you.

At first glance, FedRAMP may seem like a type of onramp to an interstate headed for the federal government – and in a way, it is.

FedRAMP stands for the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which provides a standard security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services to be used by federal agencies. The program’s overall mission is to protect the data of U.S. citizens in the cloud and promote the adoption of secure cloud services across the government with a standardized approach.

Once a cloud service has successfully made it onto the interstate – or achieved FedRAMP authorization – it’s allowed to be used by an agency and listed in the FedRAMP Marketplace. The FedRAMP Marketplace is a one-stop-shop for agencies to find cloud services that have been tested and approved as safe to use, making it much easier to determine if an offering meets security requirements.

In the fourth year of the program, FedRAMP had 20 authorized cloud service offerings. Now, eight years into the program, FedRAMP has over 200 authorized offerings, reflecting its commitment to help the government shift to the cloud and leverage new technologies.

Who should be FedRAMP authorized?

Any cloud service provider that has a contract with a federal agency or wants to work with an agency in the future must have FedRAMP authorization. Compliance with FedRAMP can also benefit providers who don’t have plans to partner with government, as it signals to the private sector they are committed to cloud security.

Using a cloud service that complies with FedRAMP standards is mandatory for federal agencies. It has also become popular with organizations in the private industry, which are more often looking to FedRAMP standards as a security benchmark for the cloud services they use.

How can a cloud service obtain authorization?

There are two ways for a cloud service to obtain FedRAMP authorization. One is with a Joint Authorization Board (JAB) provisional authorization (P-ATO) and the other is through an individual agency Authority to Operate (ATO).

A P-ATO is an initial approval of the cloud service provider by the JAB, which is made up of the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) from the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and General Services Administration (GSA). This designation means that the JAB has provided a provisional approval for agencies to leverage when granting an ATO to a cloud system.

The head of an agency grants an ATO as part of the agency authorization process. An ATO may be granted after an agency sponsor reviews the cloud service offering and completes a security assessment.

Why seek FedRAMP approval?

Achieving FedRAMP authorization for a cloud service is a very long and rigorous process, but it has received high praise from security officials and industry experts alike for its standardized approach to evaluate whether a cloud service offering meets some of the strongest cybersecurity requirements.

There are several benefits for cloud providers who authorize their service with FedRAMP. The program allows an authorized cloud service to be reused continuously across the federal government – saving time, money and effort for both cloud service providers and agencies. Authorization of a cloud service also gives service providers increased visibility of their product across government with a listing in the FedRAMP Marketplace.

By electing to comply with FedRAMP, cloud providers can demonstrate dedication to the highest data security standards. Though the process for achieving FedRAMP approval is complex, it is worthwhile for providers, as it signals a commitment to security to government and non-government customers.

McAfee’s Commitment to FedRAMP

At McAfee, we are dedicated to ensuring our cloud services are compliant with FedRAMP standards. We are proud that McAfee’s MVISION Cloud is the first Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) platform to be granted a FedRAMP High Impact Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO) from the U.S. Government’s Joint Authorization Board (JAB).

Currently, MVISION Cloud is in use by ten federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

MVISION Cloud allows federal organizations to have total visibility and control of their infrastructure to protect their data and applications in the cloud. The FedRAMP High JAB P-ATO designation is the highest compliance level available under FedRAMP, meaning that MVISION Cloud is authorized to manage highly sensitive government data.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with the FedRAMP program and other cloud providers dedicated to authorizing cloud service offerings with FedRAMP.

 

About the Author

Tom Gann

Tom Gann is the Chief Public Policy Officer at McAfee. In this capacity, he manages the U.S. and international advocacy activities and partners with the public relations team to help position McAfee as an industry leader in capitals around the world. Prior to joining McAfee, Gann managed cyber security policy, government relations, alliances, product marketing, ...

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