[ISN] ITL Bulletin for August 2009

From: InfoSec News <alerts_at_private>
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 2009 04:18:14 -0500 (CDT)
Fowarded from: "Lennon, Elizabeth B." <elizabeth.lennon (at) nist.gov>



Shirley Radack, Editor
Computer Security Division
Information Technology Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
U.S. Department of Commerce


The Information Technology Laboratory (ITL) of the National Institute of 
Standards and Technology (NIST) recently revised and expanded its 
catalog of security controls to help organizations protect their 
information and information systems. Developed by the Interagency 
Working Group of the Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative, the 
revised catalog brings together, for the first time, comprehensive 
information about security controls that can be used in both national 
security and nonnational security information systems. The cooperative 
development of the catalog represents an ongoing effort to build a 
unified information security framework for the federal government and 
its contractors. The Joint Task Force includes participants from the 
Department of Defense, the intelligence community, and civil agencies of 
the federal government.


The updated catalog, NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-53, Revision 3, 
Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems and 
Organizations, incorporates updated effective practices for information 
security. These best practices provide broad-based and comprehensive 
safeguards and countermeasures for protecting today’s information 
systems. The uniform approach to describing controls for both national 
security and nonnational security applications helps all government 
organizations address the advanced cyber threats that can exploit 
vulnerabilities in federal information systems. A common foundation for 
information security also provides a strong basis for reciprocal 
acceptance of information system interconnection and facilitates 
information sharing.


Security Controls in Information Security Programs

Security controls are the management, operational, and technical 
safeguards or countermeasures that an organization employs to protect 
the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its information 
systems and its information. Organizations select, implement, and assess 
their security controls most effectively when the process is carried out 
as part of a comprehensive and documented information security program. 
The foundation for this integrated approach is the system development 
life cycle, a multistep process that starts with the initiation, 
analysis, design, and implementation of a system and continues through 
the maintenance and disposal of the system.


The selection, implementation, and evaluation of security controls are 
important components of the risk-based approach to the management of 
information systems. Risk management is the process that information 
technology managers apply to balance the operational and economic costs 
of protective measures for their information and information systems 
with the gains in capabilities and improved support of their 
organizational missions that result from the use of efficient protection 


NIST has developed a six-step Risk Management Framework to help 
organizations manage risks from the use of information systems. The 
framework includes a series of steps for identifying and maintaining an 
appropriate set of security controls to reduce risks to an acceptable 
level by:


* Categorizing the information system and the information being 
  processed, stored, and transmitted by the system, based on the 
  potential impact to the organization should events occur to put the 
  system and its information at risk;

* Selecting an appropriate set of security controls for the information 
  system after determining the security categorizations;

* Implementing the security controls in the information system;

* Assessing the security controls using appropriate methods and 
  procedures to determine the extent to which the controls are 
  implemented correctly, operating as intended, and producing the 
  desired outcome with respect to meeting the security requirements for 
  the system;

* Authorizing information system operation based upon a determination of 
  the risk to organizational operations, organizational assets, or to 
  individuals resulting from the operation of the information system and 
  the determination that the risk is acceptable; and

* Monitoring and assessing selected security controls in the information 
  system on a continuous basis including documenting changes to the 
  system, conducting security impact analyses of the changes, and 
  reporting the security status of the system to appropriate 
  organization officials on a regular basis.

Information about the Risk Management Framework and the NIST 
publications that support organizations in managing the risks associated 
with their information systems is available from the NIST Web page 


The July issue of the ITL Bulletin included a description of the Risk 
Management Framework and provided links to resources that are useful in 
the risk management process. The bulletin is available at the NIST Web 



Federal Agency Responsibilities to Select and Specify Security Controls

The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002 
establishes a governmentwide policy for the implementation and 
assessment of security controls. FISMA requires that federal agencies 
develop, document, and implement programs to protect their information 
and information systems. This policy applies to the systems that support 
the operations and assets of the agency, and includes those systems 
provided or managed by another agency, contractor, or other source. 
FISMA calls for agencies to apply a risk-based policy to achieve 
cost-effective results for the security of their information and 
information systems.

Standards and guidelines developed by NIST help agencies to carry out 
effective information security programs based on the management of risk. 
Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 199, Standards for 
Security Categorization of Federal Information and Information Systems, 
specifies that federal organizations categorize their information and 
information systems, based on the potential impact on the organization 
should adverse events occur which could jeopardize the information and 
information systems needed by the organization to accomplish its 
mission, protect its assets, fulfill its legal responsibilities, 
maintain its day-to-day functions, and protect individuals. 

Under FIPS 200, Minimum Security Requirements for Federal Information 
and Information Systems, organizations use the categorization results 
obtained under FIPS 199 to designate their information systems as 
low-impact, moderate-impact, or high-impact for the security objectives 
of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. For each information 
system, agencies then select an appropriate set of security controls 
from NIST SP 800-53, Recommended Security Controls for Federal 
Information System and Organizations, to satisfy their minimum security 


NIST Special Publication 800-53, Revision 3, Recommended Security 
Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations

NIST SP 800-53, Revision 3, Recommended Security Controls for Federal 
information Systems and Organizations, replaces an earlier version of 
the catalog. Revision 3 is part of a larger strategic initiative to 
focus on enterprise-wide, near real-time risk management; that is, 
managing risks from information systems in dynamic environments of 
operation that can adversely affect organizational operations and 
assets, individuals, other organizations, and the Nation.

Aimed toward achieving more secure information systems and more 
effective risk management programs for the federal government, NIST SP 
800-53 facilitates using a consistent and repeatable approach in 
selecting and specifying security controls for information systems and 
organizations. The catalog of security controls helps organizations to 
fulfill their current requirements for implementing protection measures, 
and to meet the challenges of future needs for protection. 

  The Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative considered security 
controls from a variety of sources in developing the revised catalog. 
These sources included security controls from the defense, audit, 
financial, healthcare, and intelligence communities as well as controls 
defined by national and international standards organizations. The Task 
Force’s goal was to produce a group of security controls to address a 
broad range of security requirements for information systems and 
organizations. The controls are consistent with and complementary to 
other established information security standards.

NIST SP 800-53, Revision 3, is available from the NIST Web page



Information Presented in NIST SP 800-53, Revision 3

The publication starts with basic information on the selection and 
specification of security controls, including the structural components 
of security controls and how the controls are organized into families. 
There are three general classes of security controls: management, 
operational, and technical. 

  The concept of baseline security controls is discussed. Baseline 
controls, which are the starting point for the selection of security 
controls, are chosen based on the security category and the associated 
impact level of the information system that are determined in accordance 
with FIPS 199 and FIPS 200. Baseline controls, which are included in 
Appendix D (see below) and which can be adjusted in accordance with the 
guidance provided in NIST SP 800-53, comprise the minimum set of 
security controls for the information system. Although the baseline is 
intended to be the starting point for the selection of controls, 
organizations have flexibility in applying the baseline security 
controls. Organizations can tailor the security control baseline so that 
it is more closely aligned with their mission, business requirements, 
and environments of operation.  Through their risk assessment processes, 
agencies can validate the selection of security controls and determine 
if any additional controls are needed to protect the agency’s 
operations, taking into consideration the agency’s mission, functions, 
and other factors. 

  Other topics discussed in NIST SP 800-53 are the use of common 
security controls to support organization-wide information security 
programs and the use of security controls when external services are 
used. External services, which are implemented outside the organization, 
are not part of the organization’s information systems. Many 
organizations rely on external providers for essential services that are 
needed to carry out their missions and business functions. Federal 
organizations are responsible for and accountable for the risk incurred 
by the use of external services. This risk can be addressed through the 
implementation of compensating controls when necessary. 

  NIST SP 800-53 discusses the need for assurance that the security 
controls implemented within an information system are effective in their 
application. Organizations can achieve assurance through the actions 
taken by developers, implementers, and operators in the specification, 
design, development, implementation, operation, and maintenance of 
security controls. Assurance is also achieved through the actions taken 
by security control assessors to determine the extent to which the 
controls are implemented correctly, operating as intended, and producing 
the desired outcome with respect to meeting the security requirements 
for the system.


A chapter of the publication focuses on how to select and specify 
security controls for an organizational information system. 
Organizations are advised to:

* apply the organization’s approach to managing risk;

* categorize the information system and determine the system impact 
  level in accordance with FIPS 199 and FIPS 200;

* select security controls, including tailoring the initial set of 
  baseline security controls;

* supplement the tailored baseline as necessary based on an 
  organizational assessment of risk; and

* assess the security controls as part of a comprehensive continuous 
  monitoring process.

Supporting information for the controls is contained in the appendices 
to the publication.  Appendix A provides a reference list that includes 
applicable laws, policies, directives, regulations, memoranda, standards 
and guidelines. Appendix B provides users with definitions for security 
terminology used within the publication, and Appendix C contains 
acronyms used within the publication.

Appendix D contains the security control baselines that represent the 
starting point in determining the security controls for low-impact, 
moderate-impact, and high-impact information systems, as defined in FIPS 

Appendix E lists the minimum assurance requirements for security 
controls described in the security control catalog. The assurance 
requirements are directed at the activities and actions that the 
developers and implementers of security controls define and apply to 
increase the level of confidence that the controls are implemented 
correctly, operating as intended, and producing the desired outcome with 
respect to meeting the security requirements for the information system. 
The assurance requirements are applied on a control-by-control basis.

Appendix F provides the extensive range of safeguards and 
countermeasures for organizations and information systems. Each control 
of the three general classes (management, operational, technical) is 
described. The descriptive structure includes a control section 
providing an explanation of the control capabilities needed to protect 
information or a particular aspect of an information system. This 
section also includes specific security-related activities or actions to 
be carried out by the organization or by the information system. Other 
components of the descriptive structure are supplemental guidance on 
applying the control, and enhancements for building in additional 
functionality to a control and increasing the strength of a control. A 
reference section and information on priority and baseline allocations 
complete the structure.

Appendix G describes information security program management (PM) 
controls which complement the security controls in Appendix F and focus 
on the organization-wide information security requirements that are 
independent of any particular information system and are essential for 
managing information security programs. Organizations specify the 
individuals who are responsible for the development, implementation, 
assessment, authorization, and monitoring of the information security 
program management controls. Program management controls are documented 
in the organization’s information security program plans. The 
organization’s overall information security program plan supplements the 
individual security plans developed for each organizational information 
system. Together, the security plans for the individual information 
systems and for the information security program cover the full range of 
security controls that are employed by the organization.

Appendix H includes mapping tables that help organizations compare their 
security controls to the controls specified in an international 
standard, ISO/IEC 27001 (International Organization for 
Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission), Information 
technology–Security techniques–Information security management 
systems–Requirements. Appendix I includes security controls, 
enhancements, and supplemental guidance for industrial control systems.


NIST Plans for Maintaining SP 800-53 and Related Publications

The security controls included in NIST SP 800-53 will be carefully 
reviewed and revised periodically to reflect the experiences gained from 
using the controls, changing security requirements, emerging threats, 
vulnerabilities and attack methods, and the availability of new 
technologies. While the security controls will change as conditions 
change, any proposed additions, deletions or modifications to the 
catalog will be announced and open to public review and comments to 
solicit government and private sector opinions and to build consensus 
for any changes. NIST plans to maintain stable, yet flexible and 
technically rigorous security controls in the catalog.

NIST will continue to work with the national and nonnational security 
communities in updating other key publications that will reflect the 
joint approach to information security. These publications and their 
planned revised titles include:

* NIST SP 800-30, Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments;

* NIST SP 800-37, Guide for Applying the Risk Management Framework to 
  Federal Information Systems: A Security Life Cycle Approach;

* NIST SP 800-39, Integrated Enterprise-wide Risk Management: 
  Organization, Mission, and Information Systems View; and

* NIST SP 800-53A, Guide for Assessing Security Controls in Federal 
  Information Systems and Organizations.

The schedule for the development of these and other FISMA-related 
publications based on new milestones established by the participating 
partners in the Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative can be found 



Information on NIST Publications

For information about NIST standards and guidelines that are referenced 
in this bulletin, as well as other security-related publications, see 
NIST’s Web page

http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/index.html. Past ITL bulletins 
covering the use of security controls, risk management issues, and the 
application of NIST standards and guidelines can be found on at 



Any mention of commercial products or reference to commercial 
organizations is for information only; it does not imply recommendation 
or endorsement by NIST nor does it imply that the products mentioned are 
necessarily the best available for the purpose.

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