Understanding NIST SSDF​ compared to FedRAMP

NIST SSDF is a high-level framework of secure software development practices based on established standards and guidelines.

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Introduction: What is NIST SSDF?

In the ever-increasing effort to mitigate risks within our supply chains, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Secure Software Development Framework (NIST SSDF) aims to bolster software security and resilience. This voluntary, yet influential framework provides us an array of secure software development practices, structured around four foundational pillars: equipping the organization.

The brilliance of the NIST SSDF lies within its versatility, offering software creators the freedom to tailor its application to their distinct operational landscapes, all while maintaining a stance of technological impartiality. The framework also provides strategic insights on harmonizing SSDF protocols with renowned standards and models like ISO/IEC 27034, OWASP SAMM, BSIMM, and Microsoft SDL.  

Launched initially in 2019 as NISTIR 8269 and refined in 2021 as NISTIR 8269A, it now bears the title NIST SP 800-218. Endorsed by the Network Resilience Coalition, the NIST SSDF is an indispensable asset that significantly propels the evolution of secure software development methodologies. 

How Does SSDF compare to FedRAMP?

The NIST SSDF and FedRAMP are two driving forces in the cybersecurity arena, each playing a decisive role in fortifying software development and cloud services.   The NIST SSDF stands tall as a comprehensive framework, rooted in established standards and guidelines, in addition to championing secure software development practices throughout the entire software lifecycle.   On the other hand, FedRAMP emerges as a government-wide beacon of excellence, focusing on the meticulous assessment, authorization, and continuous surveillance of cloud products and services.  While they march to different drums, these frameworks are not rivals but allies in the cybersecurity landscape. The SSDF casts a wide net with recommendations that adapt to various software development life cycle models, prioritizing the reduction of software vulnerabilities through robust security practices. FedRAMP, with laser focus, zeroes in on cloud service providers’ environments and operations, enforcing strict adherence to specific security controls and rigorous documentation.  When the proactive principles of SSDF’s secure software development are woven together with FedRAMP’s stringent security assessments, organizations are empowered to construct an impenetrable cybersecurity fortress that spans both the software and cloud service domains.  The delineation between the NIST SSDF FedRAMP primarily lies in their respective scopes of application. The NIST SSDF is designed to be integrated within the software development lifecycle. NIST SSDF provides guidelines that help organizations incorporate security practices from the early stages of development. Conversely, FedRAMP focuses on the security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services, which are typically in the production environment. This distinction ensures that security is addressed comprehensively at both the development phase, through NIST SSDF, and during the operational phase, via FedRAMP requirements.

Defining “Good Faith Effort"

Embracing a “Good Faith Effort” approach is akin to donning an armor of diligence, aligning with the NIST SSDF’s stringent security standards. It’s a dynamic dance of proactive risk assessment, where vulnerabilities are identified and deftly countered with strategic defenses.  

Engagement is key—open dialogues with customers, regulators, auditors, and partners are the cornerstone of trust. When challenges arise, swift and decisive action is taken. When done with transparency at its core, a clear and concise view of remedial steps can be known to all involved. 

In the same regard, staying ahead means never standing still; policies and procedures undergo regular refinement, while training programs elevate staff and user savvy to new heights. This symphony of efforts harmonize into an ethos of security that stands resilient, while fostering an environment where trust is paramount, and operations are seamless. 

Key Practices

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