Critical Software and Cybersecurity Measures

As the Federal Government begins to regulate software development, American companies are starting to feel the effects. Upstream providers are now requiring proof that downstream service providers meet security standards, and as a result, all software companies must have automation tooling capable of meeting the new requirements, or they will be excluded from the software supply chain.

Companies producing software are scrambling to try and adapt, but it's not clear if they will be able to keep up with the competition from abroad. This is causing a lot of concern among software companies, as many don't have the resources to meet the new requirements. Many are worried that they will be forced to close their doors if they can't comply.

Software Supply Chains

The recent SolarWinds hack has profoundly impacted the IT community’s understanding of security, as it demonstrates the vulnerability of cloud-native systems even more starkly than before. Not only did this attack demonstrate how critical software can be compromised if not secured properly, it also meant that attackers were able to access the SolarWinds development environment – a frightening harbinger for shift-left security proponents.

The development of cloud-based services has driven a seismic shift in the software industry. The increasing proliferation of cloud-native applications and services can bring challenges, particularly with cyber security. It is now essential for businesses to adopt robust security frameworks that protect both cloud network data and core systems against sophisticated attacks.

In order to meet the new requirements, software vendors must provide a Software Bill of Materials (BOM) associated with government purchases and a way to automate vulnerability remediation.

Furthermore, the origin of all software components must be clearly identifiable; cloud-native systems are particularly at risk due to their dynamic and frequently changing nature, making provenance essential. To ensure compliance with these relatively new rules, cloud-native organizations must develop processes and pipeline automation that allow them to quickly detect changes, verify sources, fix any discovered vulnerabilities and deploy updated components in a safe and secure way.

However, by taking ownership of their cloud-native environments in this manner, vendors will not only meet government standards but they will be go well beyond what is required in terms of security and caution.

Improving the Nation's Cybersecurity

Everyone is affected by E.O. 14028 in some way - either through updated requirements for technological infrastructure and security procedures from Federal executive agencies, new contract conditions regarding cyber incidents disclosure from federal contractors, or increased attention towards software supply chain security transparency from companies that make software. These standards prevent foreign adversaries from compromising the country's IT infrastructure.

  • The Federal Government must improve its efforts to identify, deter, protect against, detect, and respond to malicious cyber campaigns.
  • The private sector must adapt to the continuously changing threat environment and ensure that its products are built and operated securely.
  • The Federal Government shall adopt security best practices; advance toward Zero Trust Architecture; accelerate movement to secure cloud services; centralize and streamline access to cybersecurity data; invest in both technology and personnel to match these modernization goals.

Cybersecurity is important because it guards against data breaches which could include sensitive information or entire systems used by businesses or governments. To keep secure, individuals cannot rely solely on standard tools like firewalls or antivirus software- they must cover all aspects of cybersecurity, including awareness training in their workplace.

Zero Trust and Automation

Every phase of DevOps must be designed keeping the micro-segmentation and endpoint security requirements of an enterprise and the Zero Trust framework

The Zone-based Trust Architecture (ZTA) is a cloud-native policy framework used by enterprises to ensure digital security. ZTA contains three core components—the policy engine, the policy administrator, and the policy enforcement point.

The policy engine helps make decisions about access to cloud resources by calculating trust scores for users; the policy administrator is responsible for establishing or terminating cloud transactions; and the policy enforcement point stands between an enterprise resource and a potential user, handling connections and enforcing established policies.

Through automation, ZTA provides consistency in access control across cloud applications and data, greatly improving cloud security for organizations. As cloud usage continues to grow rapidly at many businesses, ZTA provides an invaluable tool for enterprise cloud security.

ZTA works on the basis that no user or device is implicitly trusted, making it difficult for hackers to gain access to sensitive financial information. Furthermore, critical software updates are necessary to protect existing services from malicious attacks, deploy timely patches, and upgrade older applications.

  • Zero Trust Architecture is a security model that eliminates trust in any one element, node, or service.
  • Zero Trust requires continuous verification of the operational picture via real-time information from multiple sources to determine access and other system responses.
  • If a device is compromised, zero trust can ensure that the damage is contained.
  • Zero Trust assumes that a breach is inevitable or has likely already occurred, so it constantly limits access to only what is needed and looks for anomalous or malicious activity.
  • Zero Trust embeds comprehensive security monitoring, granular risk-based access controls, and system security automation in a coordinated manner throughout all aspects of the infrastructure in order to focus on protecting data in real time within a dynamic threat environment.

Businesses need intelligence-driven tools to help identify vulnerabilities in real-time and provide thorough security evaluation even under constantly shifting cloud environments which make regular software maintenance crucial for organizations looking to remain secure in the cloud.

Zero Trust is critical software that builds enhanced security from the ground up, protecting all organizations.​​ Adopting a Zero Trust framework ensures that if a supply chain attack occurs, the event is compartmentalized.

Software Supply Chain Security

Software supply chain security is a critical element of cloud-native architectures, as it affects the safety and security of mission-critical applications and services.

Without the proper safeguards, a single vulnerability in the software pipeline can be exploited to create massive data breaches or the introduction of malicious code into production systems. In order to ensure proper software supply chain security, cloud-native companies must take proactive steps to ensure that all critical software components are secure throughout the development lifecycle.

Automated testing and validation should be used to spot any potential vulnerabilities early in the process, while cloud infrastructure areas such as monitoring and logging should also be employed for continuous monitoring and protection. Additionally, cloud-native teams must observe best practices such as secure coding techniques and data encryption when storing sensitive information and using cloud-native tools carefully vetted by experts.
By taking these precautions to secure their software pipelines from threats, both external and internal, cloud-native companies can ensure that their critical application components remain secure).

  • Administratively separate build environments: This refers to keeping different parts of the software development process in physically or logically separate areas in order to reduce the risk of a cyber incident impacting the entire process. For example, you might have one environment for compiling code and another for running tests. This can help ensure that an incident affecting one part of the process doesn't spread to other parts.

  • Auditing trust relationships: Auditing trust relationships means assessing how much trust you're placing in each entity involved in the software development process. This includes assessing the security of each system that's used, as well as evaluating the risk of any data sharing between systems. It's important to do this so you can understand and manage the risks associated with each relationship.

  • Establishing multi-factor authentication and conditional access: Multi-factor authentication requires more than one type of authentication credential to log in to a system. This can help reduce the risk of unauthorized access, even if someone manages to steal your password. Conditional access allows you to control which users are able to access which systems and data, based on factors such as their location, time of day, and type of device they're using. This can help protect sensitive data from unauthorized access.

  • Documenting dependencies on enterprise products: Enterprise products are those that are used across an organization, such as email servers and HR systems. When developing software, it's important to document any dependencies on these products, so you can understand the potential impact of a cyber incident on the software development process. If there are any vulnerabilities in these products, it's important to know about them so they can be addressed.

  • Employing encryption for data: Encryption helps protect data from unauthorized access and disclosure. When encrypting data, you need to use a strong cryptographic algorithm and key size. You also need to make sure that your encryption keys are protected from unauthorized access.

  • Monitoring operations and alerts: Monitoring operations and alerts means keeping track of all activity on your systems so you can detect any suspicious or malicious behavior. This includes setting up automated alerts so you're notified immediately if something unexpected happens. It's important to respond quickly to any attempted or actual cyber incidents in order to minimize damage and disruption.

Cybersecurity Frameworks

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST for short, has developed a cyber security framework that helps businesses better understand their risks. This allows them to protect networks against vulnerabilities while reducing the chances of being hacked themselves!

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a user-friendly, four-tier system that helps businesses manage and reduce their cybersecurity risk. The framework's three core processes - risk assessment, configuration management, and threat defense action planning - provide the necessary guidance for any size company to better understand how they can protect themselves from cyber-attacks while maintaining connectivity on networks or data storage devices like laptops, computers, and cloud resources.

FedRAMP and Cloud Service Offerings

Cloud technology has opened up new opportunities for organizations to become more efficient and agile by reducing the cost of cloud operations and making cloud systems more automated. Unfortunately, with cloud adoption, security risks have also increased, making it critical for cloud service offerings (CSOs) to meet stringent security requirements. That's where Third-Party Assessment Organizations (3PAOs) come in.

Accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), 3PAOs perform initial and periodic assessments of cloud systems to ensure they meet FedRAMP requirements set forth by the federal government.

These assessments look at several factors, such as cloud infrastructure, cloud automation, and secure data sharing between cloud providers and their tenants. By providing a detailed assessment of risks associated with the use of cloud services, 3PAOs play a critical role in helping secure cloud resources and giving the federal government assurance that cloud products and services are ready for secure deployment.

As such, they are an essential part of the authorization process when assessing CSO security. With these thorough risk reviews in place, decision-makers can make reliable and risk-based decisions on whether or not to utilize a given cloud service offering. Ultimately, this allows organizations to securely migrate applications over to cloud environments with confidence.

Obtaining a FedRAMP authorization is an essential step for cloud service providers to demonstrate their security capabilities and gain access to the federal market. There are two primary approaches: through the Joint Authorization Board (JAB) or through direct agency provisioning. Through the JAB, cloud products may be selected for a provisional authority to operate (P-ATO), and the JAB is also responsible for performing continuous monitoring. For agencies that want more control over cloud products and approvals themselves, there are also direct agency authorization options available. However, these often include more demanding requirements such as cloud automation testing and cloud system interviews with cloud networking personnel.

Both methods offer key benefits for cloud service providers looking to obtain FedRAMP authorization; regardless of which approach is chosen, there are systems in place to ensure everything is secure and compliant with federal requirements. Visit Joint Authorization Board to get started with your filing.

Summary

The United States faces sophisticated cyber campaigns that threaten security and privacy, so the government must improve efforts to identify, deter, protect against, detect, and respond to these threats.

  • The Federal Government needs to partner with the private sector in order to foster a more secure cyberspace.
  • The trust we place in our digital infrastructure should be proportional to how trustworthy and transparent that infrastructure is.
  • It is the policy of my Administration that the prevention, detection, assessment, and remediation of cyber incidents is a top priority.

This calls for cloud-native DevSecOps pipeline automation in any cloud with critical software production components in order to ensure these components are secure and up-to-date. This is a critical step towards preventing attacks like those seen with SolarWinds and ensuring the safety and integrity of cloud environments. As such, businesses must prioritize proper security measures when developing their cloud systems or risk serious vulnerability.

This is a major change for the American software industry, which has long relied on foreign suppliers for components and software. Many of these suppliers are based in countries like China and Russia, which are known for their cyber-espionage activities. The new standards will make it much harder for these companies to do business with the US government and could lead to higher costs and delays in getting products approved.

It's not clear how long it will take for the US software industry to adapt to the new standards, but it's clear that this is a major shift in policy that will have a significant impact on the industry.

  • CMMC: The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a voluntary program that provides organizations with a framework to assess and improve their cybersecurity posture. The CMMC is based on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and organizations that achieve certification will be able to demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity and protect their sensitive information.

  • SOC 2: The Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2 report is a widely-recognized standard for assessing the security and controls of service organizations. SOC 2 reports are used by organizations to demonstrate the trustworthiness of their services and protect their customers' data.

  • PCI 4.0: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to protect credit card data. PCI 4.0 is the latest version of the standard, and organizations that meet its requirements are deemed to be compliant with PCI DSS.

  • NIST: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a U.S. government agency that develops standards for information technology and cybersecurity. NIST standards are used by organizations around the world to improve their cybersecurity posture.

  • FedRAMP: Program Management Office runs the government’s program for securing cloud computing products and services. In FY 2019, federal agencies reported 28,581 security incidents to FedRAMP, which allowed them securely provide seamless experiences as they migrate into this new era of technology with its many benefits.