Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)

Regulations, Standards & Compliance

What is FIPS? How do you complaint with FIPS?

Maintaining the security of sensitive data, such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), at all stages of its existence is critical for any organization. Standards, laws, and best practices have been developed to make this process easier. One of these standards is the Federal Information Protection Standard, or FIPS. The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) developed these standards to protect government data and ensure that those working with the government meet specific safety requirements before being given access to it. Although FIPS contains a multitude of standards, this page focuses on FIPS 140-2.

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What is FIPS 140-2?

FIPS 140-2 is a standard for cryptographic modules, which are used by businesses to encrypt data in transit and at rest. Level 1 is the least secure, whereas level 4 is the most secure: FIPS 140-2 has four degrees of security:

Level 1 of FIPS 140-2 has the simplest criteria. It necessitates production-grade hardware and at least one thoroughly tested encryption technique. This has to be a functional encryption algorithm, not one that hasn’t been given permission to be used.

Level 2 of FIPS 140-2 raises the bar slightly, requiring all of level 1’s requirements, as well as role-based authentication and tamper-evident physical devices. It should also be operated on an EAL2 operating system certified by Common Criteria.

FIPS 140-2 Level 3– FIPS 140-2 level 3 is the level that the majority of businesses use since it is secure while not being difficult to utilise. This level adds tamper-resistant devices, a separation of the logical and physical interfaces where “important security parameters” enter or depart the system, and identity-based authentication to the level 2 requirements. Before private keys may be transported to or from the system, they must first be encrypted.

FIPS 140-2 Level 4– The most secure level of FIPS 140-2 uses the same standards as level 3, but adds the requirement that the compliant device be tamper-active and that the contents of the device be deleted if certain environmental attacks are detected. Another focus of FIPS 140-2 level 4 is that the cryptographic module’s operating systems must be more secure than in previous levels. When a system has several users, the operating system is held to an even higher level.

Why is being FIPS 140-2 compliant important?

The government requires that any organisation working with them be FIPS 140-2 compliant, which is one of the numerous reasons to become FIPS compliant. This criterion guarantees that third-party entities handling government data store and encrypt data securely and with the appropriate levels of confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity. Enterprises that seek to develop cryptographic modules, such as nCipher or Thales, must become FIPS compliant if they want the great majority of companies, including the government, to use their technology. Many companies have made it a policy to become FIPS 140-2 compliant because it makes their company and services appear more secure and trustworthy.

Another reason to be FIPS compliant is the extensive testing that has been done to validate the strength of the FIPS 140-2 standards. After a series of tests for confidentiality, integrity, non-repudiation, and authenticity, the standards for each level of FIPS 140-2 were chosen. Because the government handles some of the most sensitive data in the country, the devices, services, and other goods they utilise must always be at the greatest degree of security. Using services or software without these tried-and-true ways might result in a catastrophic security breach, causing problems for everyone in the country.

Who needs to be FIPS complaint?

Federal government organisations that collect, store, transmit, transfer, or distribute sensitive data, such as Personally Identifiable Information, are the key organisations that must comply with FIPS 140-2. FIPS compliance is required of all government agencies, contractors, and service providers. FIPS 140-2 compliance is also required for any systems used in a government environment. This comprises Cloud Service Providers’ (CSPs’) encryption systems, as well as computer solutions, software, and other associated technologies. This means that only FIPS 140-2 compliance services, equipment, and software can be considered for use by the federal government, which is one of the reasons why so many technology companies want to make sure they are.

FIPS compliance is also widely regarded as one of the most effective approaches to ensure the security of cryptographic modules. Many businesses adhere to FIPS to ensure that their security meets or exceeds that of the government. Many additional businesses are becoming FIPS 140-2 compliant in order to sell their goods and services not only in the United States, but also globally. Because FIPS is a globally recognised standard, any company that complies with it will be seen as a reliable source of services, goods, and software. FIPS 140-2 compliance is also required in several professions, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and finance, as well as by local governments.

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