What Guidance Identifies Federal Information Security Controls? – A Comprehensive Review

Today, in an era when our lives are interconnected through digital technology, the importance of information security in federal agencies cannot be overstated. The risks, ranging from data breaches to cyber terrorism, demand robust protective measures. This makes the role of guidance in establishing controls absolutely essential.

The purpose of this article is to elucidate the frameworks and guidelines that shape federal information security controls. It will present an overview of the subject matter, dive into the NIST Framework, and touch upon Federal Information Processing Standards.

Overview of Federal Information Security Controls

Overview of Federal Information Security Controls

Information Security Controls are safeguards or countermeasures employed to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. They are pivotal in managing the risks related to the use, processing, storage, and transmission of data.

The significance of federal information security controls stretches far and wide. These measures not only ensure the secure operation of federal agencies but also safeguard the data of millions of citizens. In fact, the very impact on national security and public interest is profound.

Importance of Federal Information Security Controls

Protecting the operational integrity of federal agencies
Safeguarding the data of millions of citizens
Ensuring national security
Promoting public interest

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Framework

NIST, a component of the Department of Commerce, is a key entity that formulates standards, guidelines, and minimum requirements for providing adequate information security.

NIST Special Publications


SP 800-53 Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations
SP 800-37 Risk Management Framework for Information Systems and Organizations
SP 800-171 Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Non-federal Systems and Organizations

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is another key pillar of federal information security. It introduces core functions and implementation tiers and fosters collaboration between the public and private sectors. This allows for a unified approach to managing and reducing cybersecurity risk in a cost-effective way.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework Components


Core Functions Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover
Implementation Tiers Partial, Risk Informed, Repeatable, Adaptive
Collaboration Public and Private Sector Cooperation

Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)

FIPS are developed by NIST for use in computer systems by all non-military government agencies and by government contractors. These standards underline the federal government’s commitment to information security and its role as an exemplar of best practices.

FIPS Publications for Information Security

Various FIPS publications detail specific protocols for different aspects of information security

FIPS Publications


FIPS 199 Standards for Security Categorization of Federal and Information Systems
FIPS 200 Minimum Security Requirements for Federal and Information Systems
FIPS 140-2 Security Requirements for Cryptographic Modules

Federal Laws, Regulations, and Directives

Federal Laws, Regulations, and Directives

The legal foundation of information security is built upon several key pieces of legislation and directives from the executive branch.

Federal Laws and Regulations


Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) Development and Implementation of an Enterprise-Wide Information Security Program
Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) Standardized Approach to Security for Cloud Products and Services
Executive Order 13800 Strengthening Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure
Presidential Policy Directive 21 Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

Department of Defense (DoD) Information Security Guidance

The DoD has its own set of security regulations in place, further bolstering the nation’s information security infrastructure.

DoD Security Guidance Purpose
DoD Directive 8500.01 Guidelines for Managing Risk to DoD Information
DoD Instruction 8510.01 Establishing a Risk Management Framework for DoD IT
NIST SP 800-171 Protection of Controlled Unclassified Information in Non-DoD Systems and Organizations

The Role of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The OMB plays a pivotal role in shaping federal information security policies and procedures.

OMB Guidance Purpose
Circular A-130 Policy for the Management of Federal Information Resources
OMB Memorandums Timely Guidance to Agencies on Information Security Issues

Collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a critical partner in enhancing the nation’s information security through its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance.

DHS Collaboration Purpose
CISA Guidance Resources, Tools, and Best Practices for Cybersecurity Management
Public-Private Partnerships Information Sharing and Incident Response to Address Cyber Threats

Continuous Monitoring and Compliance

Continuous monitoring in maintaining a robust cybersecurity helps agencies to keep a vigilant eye on their cybersecurity landscape and promptly respond to any potential threats.

Continuous Monitoring and Compliance


Importance of Continuous Monitoring Real-time insights into security posture
Compliance Reporting and Auditing Ensuring implementation and functionality of security controls
Challenges and Benefits Balancing resource intensity and complexity with real-time detection and mitigation of threats

Fun Fact

Did you know that the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) was originally called the E-Government Act of 2002? It was renamed in 2014 to better reflect its purpose!


strategic guidance on managing cybersecurity risk

What is the role of the NIST in federal information security?

It establishes and updates standards, guidelines, and methodologies to help federal agencies and contractors improve their cybersecurity posture. NIST also develops frameworks, such as the Cybersecurity Framework, to provide strategic guidance on managing cybersecurity risk.

Why is FIPS important in federal information security?

They are federal government standards that provide parameters for various areas including encryption algorithms, security categorization, and minimum security requirements for information systems.

How does the DoD enhance federal information security?

The Department of Defense (DoD) enhances federal information security through its own set of stringent regulations and guidelines. also leverages NIST standards in its contracts to ensure the security of its information systems.

What is the impact of federal information security controls on national security?

They protect the government’s critical infrastructure and sensitive data from cyber threats, thereby ensuring the continuity of government functions. Furthermore, they safeguard the privacy of citizens by protecting personally identifiable information, enhancing the public’s trust in government services.


Federal information security controls are an integral part of our national security and public interest. With the guidance continuously evolving to keep up with emerging threats, it is vital to maintain vigilance and adaptability. Remember, information security is not a one-time task but an ongoing process!