This is the fifteenth in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”). The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the subsequent blogs described the actions taken by various Government agencies to implement the Cyber EO from June 2021 through June 2022. This blog describes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during July 2022.
NIST Issues Report to White House on Software Supply Chain Security Deliverables Mandated by the Cyber EO
On July 5, 2022, the Department of Commerce publicly released its May 11, 2022 Report to the President on its progress to implement Section 4 of the Cyber EO, including its software supply chain security provisions. Although the report touts certain progress made by the Department of Commerce to implement the EO, the Report discloses that the deliverables required by Sections 4(n), (o), and (p) have not yet been delivered:
- Section 4(n) requires the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to recommend to the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (“FAR Council”) by May 12, 2022 contract language requiring suppliers of software available for purchase by federal government agencies to comply with, and attest to complying with, the guidance for security measures for critical software use issued by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (“NIST”) on July 9, 2021.
- Section 4(o) states that after receiving DHS’s recommendations, the FAR Council shall review the recommendations and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, amend the FAR.
- Section 4(p) states that following the issuance of any final FAR rule, agencies shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, remove software products that do not meet the requirements of the amended FAR from all indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts, Federal Supply Schedules, Government-wide Acquisition Contracts, Blanket Purchase Agreements, and Multiple Award Contracts.
Regarding the DHS recommendations required by section 4(n), the Commerce Report states that “Work is in Progress.” Regarding the FAR amendment requirements of sections 4(o) and (p), the Report states that “[r]ecommendations have not yet been received by the FAR Council,” and that “[t]he FAR final rule has not yet been issued.” However, it notes that FAR (contract) language requiring software providers to comply with and attest to complying with the NIST supply chain security guidelines is “an important security criteria enforcement mechanism for reducing the vulnerability of critical systems to nation-state or criminal attacks,” and urges DHS, OMB, and the FAR Council to complete the FAR revision process contemplated by sections 4(n)-(p) of the Cyber EO.
Cyber Safety Review Board Issues Report on Log 4j Event and Recommends the Government Explore Imposing a Baseline Requirement for Software Transparency on Government Contractors
On July 11, 2022, the Cyber Safety Review Board established by the Cyber EO issued a report on its review of the December 2021 Log 4j Event. In reviewing the vulnerability and its impact on organizations, the Board highlighted that the organizations that were able to respond most effectively had “technical resources and mature processes to manage assets, assess risk, and mobilize their organization and key partners to action.” The Board noted however that few organizations were able to achieve this type of response.
Drawing on these and other observations, the report contains numerous recommendations that span from those centered on to dealing with the Log4j vulnerability itself, to improving security hygiene, to building a better software ecosystem, to making certain investments in the future. Two notable recommendations include: (1) improving Software Bill of Materials (“SBOM”) tooling and adaptability, and (2) exploring a baseline requirement for software transparency for federal government vendors.
Regarding SBOM tooling and adaptability, the Board’s report notes that “[o]rganizations need the ability to quickly identify vulnerable software to facilitate swift response. Traceability capabilities, such as SBOMs that can catalog the components of software, are promising possibilities, but at present are limited.” The report states that “[t]he Board anticipates future improvements in SBOM implementations and adoption, which may enable organizations to leverage SBOMs for vulnerability management.” Pending such improvements, the Board recommends that “software developers should generate and ship SBOMs with their software, and be prepared to incorporate improvements in the tooling and processes as they become available to the industry.” The Board also notes that the Cyber EO “provides a roadmap for the inclusion of SBOMs when providing software to the federal government.”
Regarding a baseline requirement for software transparency in federal procurement, the Report states that the US Government is a significant consumer of software, and “should be a driver of change in the marketplace around requirements for software transparency.” The Report recommends that OMB and the FAR Council “use various mechanisms to minimize the US government’s use of software without provenance and dependency information,” and should consider using “procurement requirements, federal standards and guidelines, and investments in automation and tooling, to create clear and achievable expectations for baseline SBOM information.” The Report further states that OMB should set a specific timeframe to achieve these goals.
In a related development, Section 1627 of the Senate FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act bill (S.4543) released on July 18, 2022 would require DOD to amend the DFARS to require an SBOM for all noncommercial software created for or acquired by DOD. Section 1627 would also require DOD to study whether to acquire SBOMs for such software already acquired by DOD, and, in consultation with industry, to develop an approach for “operationalizing” SBOMs for commercial software acquired by DOD.
NIST Releases Second Volume of Zero Trust Practice Guide
The NIST National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence published a preliminary draft of the second volume SP 1800-35B, “Implementing a Zero Trust Architecture.” See also NIST Computer Security Resource Center, SP 1800-35. This particular volume contains “use cases” for using commercially available technology to build Zero Trust Architecture (“ZTA”) example implementations consistent with the standards in NIST SP 800-207, “Zero Trust Architecture.”
The guidance is part of a broader publication that is intended to allow organizations to enable secure access to enterprise resources that are distributed across on-premises and cloud environments. The project involves NIST’s collaboration with a number of ZTA technology providers. Although the drafts are evolving, the guidance is currently comprised of multiple parts:
- NIST SP 1800-35A: Executive Summary. This is intended to be used to allow business decision makers to “to understand the drivers for the guide, the cybersecurity challenge we address, our approach to solving this challenge, and how the solution could benefit your organization.”
- NIST SP 1800-35B: Approach, Architecture, and Security Characteristics. This is intended to be used by technology, security, and privacy program managers to allow them to understand, assess, and mitigate risk and will “describe what we built and why, including the risk analysis performed and the security/privacy control mappings.”
- NIST SP 1800-35C: How To Guides. These are intended to be used by IT professionals and “will provide specific product installation, configuration, and integration instructions for building this project’s example implementations, allowing them to be replicated in whole or in part.”
- NIST SP 1800-35D: Functional Demonstrations: This is also targeted to IT professionals, and highlights use cases to showcase ZTA security capabilities and the results of demonstrating them with each of the example implementations.