Understanding FISMA and its impact on government organisation’s cybersecurity

Updated: Dec 23, 2020



RiskXchange can ensure organisations across America and around the world are FISMA compliant.


The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is a federal law passed in the United States in 2002 that outlines an information security framework for government agencies and their third-party vendors to follow.

The aim of the act is to ensure that information security is a high priority for economic and national security interests. In order to protect private, confidential, and sensitive information, FISMA requires federal agencies to construct and implement a risk-based and cost-effective information security program.


FISMA has more recently been updated by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (known as FISMA Reform or FISMA2014) to remain in line with current information security threats.


FISMA implementation project


The FISMA implementation project was launched by the National Institute of Technology and Standards (NIST). Responsible for developing and implementing FISMA security requirements, NIST determines which risk assessment practices and security controls are necessary for each agency.


Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Inspectors General, and other program officials conduct annual reviews of agency’s information security programs to ensure compliance. The review results are sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which in turn prepares a FISMA compliance report for Congress.


A continuous monitoring approach is required to verify the effectiveness of security controls between audits, which should be in line with FISMA, NIST and OMB standards. What’s more, an effective approach should be applied when tracking changes in security posture - real-time security data should allow agencies to make cost-effective and risk-based decisions around how to operate their information systems.


FISMA compliance requirements


All executive and legislative branch agencies, any organisation under contract with those agencies, as well as state agencies operating federal programs must follow the information security framework defined by FISMA.

Key FISMA compliance requirements:

  • Maintain an inventory of information systems

  • Categorise information and information systems according to risk level

  • Maintain a system security plan

  • Implement security controls (NIST 800-53)

  • Conduct risk assessments

  • Certification and accreditation

  • Conduct continuous monitoring

FISMA compliance


To meet the requirements highlighted above, agencies and contractors should ensure they are security-first in all operations. Making sure the encryption and classifying of data is implemented so that the security of critical information is secured, and the risk of a security breach is reduced.


In order to remain audit-ready, agencies and contractors should track the steps they take to achieve FISMA compliance. Not only is training necessary to ensure that agencies and contractors are remaining compliant, but so is continuous cybersecurity monitoring and threat analysis.

FISMA guidelines provide organisations with a cost-effective roadmap for safeguarding sensitive data that lives on government networks. Private companies demonstrating FISMA compliance gain a competitive advantage when in the running for contracts.


FISMA non-compliance


FISMA non-compliance can lead to a loss in federal funding for government contractors, censure by congress, and critical repetitional damage. In some cases, companies can be struck off the government tender list.


Failing to follow the guidelines could mean that agencies and contractors may be called to testify before congress. In the aftermath of a data breach or hack, they will be called upon to assess the cause and scope of the damage, especially when classified information or anything relating to national security is involved.


How RiskXchange can help


RiskXchange is one of the firms leading the fight against cybercrime, coming up with novel solutions to everyday problems experienced at the hands of hackers. We are a respected provider of cybersecurity ratings and can ensure organisations across America and around the world are FISMA compliant.


With full visibility over your eco-systems' entire attack surface in near real-time, you can regularly monitor and mitigate risks to prevent unnecessary exposures. Our passive data collection methods are effective and have no impact on your network performance. Using data-driven insights to prevent breaches is the best way to reduce an attack surface and prevent cyberattacks. 


About RiskXchange


RiskXchange provides a powerful AI-assisted, yet simple automated and centralised 360-degree cybersecurity risk rating management approach. We generate objective and quantitative reporting on a company's cybersecurity risk and performance, which enables organisations with evolving business requirements to conduct business securely in today's open and collaborative digital world. 


RiskXchange is an information security technology company, which helps companies of all sizes fight the threat of cyber threats by providing instant risk ratings for any company across the globe. RiskXchange was founded and is led by recognised experts within the security industry, who have held leading roles within companies such as IBM Security. 


Find out more here.

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