FISMA Compliance Checklist - 7 Steps to Stay Compliant
The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002 (later updated in 2014 through the Federal Information Systems Modernization Act) was introduced to strengthen cybersecurity defenses of federal information networks and systems. It requires US federal agencies to create and embed information security plans to protect government networks, which help to strengthen federal IT systems and networks by making cybersecurity defense programs a requirement for government agencies.
Compliance with FISMA reduces the risk to sensitive data within federal systems, as organizations embed baseline security controls and procedures in order to protect sensitive government information. FISMA compliance means organizations take a risk-based approach to cybersecurity, strengthening the areas of the network most at risk of a harmful data breach.
Federal agencies must be compliant, but FISMA is also relevant to any organization that is part of the federal information network. Organizations that provide services to federal agencies or contractors and subcontractors within the supply chain could also be subject to FISMA requirements. It was created to achieve a consistent level of protection across federal systems and networks, including supply chain contractors.
Compliance includes several stages, from embedding the correct security controls, to actively monitoring ongoing compliance. An important element of FISMA is the regular reporting of compliance. The organization will need to continuously monitor controls and systems to maintain and document compliance. FISMA compliance must be regularly measured and reported to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which publishes an annual report on federal agencies’ compliance performance. This encourages a culture of continuous improvement, identifying and strengthening cybersecurity controls.
Here is a 7-step checklist to stay in compliance with the core requirements of FISMA.
FISMA Compliance Checklist
FISMA encourages a risk-based approach to cybersecurity. The creation of a risk management system means that system security controls are embedded relative to the risk from data breach. This takes into account the likelihood of a breach happening, and the level of damage it may cause. There are clear steps that organizations can take to be compliant with the core requirements of FISMA. These include the initial scoping of systems, the embedding of controls, and the continuous review and improvement of system defenses.
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