What does FISMA do? Understanding Federal Cybersecurity


Updated on:

As a cyber security expert with years of experience in the field, I’ve come to understand that cybersecurity plays a vital role in safeguarding sensitive information and ensuring the smooth functioning of various government institutions. However, keeping up with the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity can be a daunting task, especially for federal agencies. That’s where FISMA comes in.

FISMA, or the Federal Information Security Management Act, is critical legislation that mandates the development of a comprehensive cybersecurity framework for all federal agencies. As cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated, it’s more important than ever for federal agencies to understand the implications of FISMA and how it can help protect their sensitive data.

In this article, I’ll delve deeper into the intricacies of FISMA and provide a thorough understanding of its role in federal cybersecurity. By the end of this article, you’ll gain a better appreciation of the importance of FISMA and how it can help enhance the cybersecurity posture of federal agencies. So, sit back, relax, and let’s explore the nuances of FISMA together.

What does Fisma do?

FISMA, which stands for the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, is a legislation enacted by the US Congress in 2014. Its primary goal is to ensure the protection of sensitive information, mainly related to national security, from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, or modification. FISMA outlines the responsibilities of various federal agencies towards information security and provides a framework for ensuring compliance with established policies. To help you understand what FISMA does in more detail, here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • FISMA defines the role of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in coordinating the implementation of information security guidelines that apply to Federal Executive Branch civilian agencies.
  • FISMA requires federal agencies to develop, document, and implement agency-wide information security programs and report on their compliance with established policies.
  • FISMA also requires an annual independent evaluation of an agency’s information security program, policies, and internal controls.
  • FISMA provides a comprehensive framework for managing and protecting information, including risk management, contingency planning, incident response, and ensuring the security of information transmitted over public networks.
  • FISMA provides for the development and implementation of security awareness and training programs for employees to ensure they are aware of their roles and responsibilities in maintaining information security.
  • Overall, FISMA plays a crucial role in ensuring the security of sensitive information related to national security. The legislation provides a framework for managing and protecting information, as well as ensuring compliance with established policies. Federal agencies must follow FISMA guidelines to protect the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information, and doing so also helps to maintain public trust in the government’s ability to protect sensitive information.

    ???? Pro Tips:

    1. Familiarize Yourself with FISMA: As a cybersecurity professional, it is important to know what the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is and what it does. Therefore, it is recommended to spend time reading and understanding the law, regulations, and guidelines that govern FISMA.

    2. Understand Your Role in FISMA: Depending on your job position, you may have a specific responsibility to comply with FISMA requirements. Therefore, it is recommended to understand your role in FISMA, as well as any specific requirements or guidelines that apply to your job.

    3. Use FISMA as a Framework: FISMA provides a set of guidelines and best practices that can help organizations establish and maintain effective information security programs. Therefore, it is recommended to use FISMA as a framework to develop your information security program and ensure that it aligns with FISMA requirements.

    4. Stay Up-to-Date on FISMA Developments: FISMA requirements and guidelines may change over time as new threats and technologies emerge. Therefore, it is recommended to stay up-to-date on the latest FISMA developments by regularly checking for updates and attending relevant training courses and conferences.

    5. Ensure Compliance with FISMA: Lastly, it is important to ensure compliance with FISMA by conducting regular risk assessments, implementing appropriate security controls, and documenting your compliance efforts. This will not only help you meet FISMA requirements but also enhance your organization’s overall security posture.

    FISMA: An Introduction

    Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) of 2014 was enacted to create guidelines and practices for securing the federal computer systems. It facilitates federal agencies to meet required security standards for safeguarding sensitive data, identifying and mitigating risks, and making people aware of different threats that may arise. FISMA is relevant to all Federal Executive Branch civilian agencies, and in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it monitors compliance with FISMA policies and provides support to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in creating viable policies for securing federal information.

    FISMA 2014: Coordinating Information Security Guidelines

    The previous version of FISMA 2002 established practices for maintaining and updating the standards for information security threats. FISMA 2014 put in place an updated information search security framework that relies on five categories: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. These target areas aim to ensure that all federal agencies have a reliable, adaptable, and efficient information security plan in place that can monitor and stop threats.

    Federal Executive Branch Civilian Agencies and FISMA

    Agencies that fall under executive departments, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA), are considered federal executive branch civilian agencies. These agencies form the core of FISMA’s mission and are governed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These departments follow the FISMA guidelines to eliminate risks when it comes to securing their information infrastructure and keeping cybercriminals at bay.

      FISMA requirements for branches:

    • Develop and document a comprehensive security plan.
    • Identify information assets and define levels of control.
    • Maintain awareness and training programs.
    • Implement access standards for people accessing information systems.
    • Regularly assess security systems and refine when necessary.
    • Develop procedures for the detection, reporting, and response to cyberattacks or system failure.
    • Perform regular security audits by DHS or other authorized sources.
    • Develop contingency plans for disaster and failure recovery.

    Monitoring Compliance of Agencies with FISMA Policies

    The authority to oversee the implementation of FISMA in Federal Executive Branch civilian agencies rests with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). US-CERT supports agencies in implementing FISMA policies and maintaining adherence through audits and compliance verification. They provide regular reports to OMB to keep them informed of any progress and develop future policies.

    The Role of Department of Homeland Security in FISMA

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has several duties related to FISMA, including maintaining the systems that sustain the US-CERT, reviewing compliance reports and inventories of information systems, and issuing directives to various federal agencies. DHS also coordinates the sharing of threat information and vulnerabilities among federal, state, local, and territorial authorities to ensure that the federal computer infrastructure remains secure.

    OMB’s Involvement in FISMA Policy Development

    OMB engages with agencies and sets in motion various policy directives, guidelines, and standards that adhere to FISMA. They also approve policies followed by the Federal government and monitor the implementation of the FISMA plan. OMB oversees the advancement of information system security and continuously reviews administrative, technical, and physical security measures for their applicability.

    Understanding FISMA’s Impact on Information Security

    FISMA is designed to protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands and prevent security breaches. However, the increasing tide of sophisticated, well-funded, and state-sponsored attacks target computer systems operated by government agencies, making FISMA guidelines a major concern in the eyes of the DHS. By creating these regulations, our government can now ensure that our critical information remains secure, and prevent any nefarious actors from interfering.

    Conclusion: Making sense of what FISMA does

    FISMA is essential for ensuring that our government’s sensitive information remains secure from those that are looking to exploit it. It does this by providing guidelines and practices that all federal agencies must follow to safeguard their data, identify and mitigate risks, and educate others about harmful threats. Given the risks, DHS follows an updated information security framework, involving five categories which can keep computer systems up and running. FISMA is a significant piece of legislation, and without its guidelines and protocols, keeping our data safe from cyber threats will be a near-impossible task.