NIST outlines standards for critical software use and verification

To help agencies comply with the Biden administration’s executive order on cybersecurity, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has posted guidance on secure use of EO-critical software and minimum standards for software verification.

In response to the Biden administration’s cybersecurity executive order, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has posted two new pieces of guidance. “Security Measures for ‘EO-Critical Software’ Use” outlines security measures for critical software use, such as applying practices of least privilege, network segmentation and proper configuration. “Recommended Minimum Standards for Vendor or Developer Verification (Testing) of Software Under Executive Order (EO) 14028”  discusses the minimum standards for vendors or developers should use to verify their software. 

The security measures guidance, developed in consultation with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and the cybersecurity community, addresses the five protection objectives for federal agencies laid out in the cyber EO:

  • Protect critical software and platforms from unauthorized access and usage.
  • Protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability data used.
  • Identify and maintain critical software.
  • Quickly detect, respond to and recover from threats.
  • Improve users’ understanding of their cybersecurity responsibilities.

The NIST guidance lists a number of security measures for each objective and maps those measures to relevant federal publications and projects.

By defining a set of common security objectives and measures for protecting EO-critical software use, the guidance is designed to give agencies a common framework.

NIST calls the guidance “fundamental” and says the security measures “are not intended to be comprehensive, nor are they intended to eliminate the need for other security measures that federal agencies implement as part of their existing requirements and cybersecurity programs.” Meanwhile, agencies should keep working to secure their systems and supply chains and implement zero trust practices.

For its guidance on vendors’ source code testing, NIST worked with the security community and the National Security Agency to develop recommended minimum testing standards and high-level directions on how to work those standards into a robust testing program and development process. 

NIST describes software testing and verification as “a mental discipline” required to increase software quality. Developers must frequently and thoroughly test and verify their software at every stage of development life cycle. This document recommends 11 software verification techniques:

  • Threat modeling to look for design-level security issues and focus verification efforts.
  • Automated testing for accuracy, consistency and reducing manual work.
  • Static code scanning to look for top bugs and vulnerabilities and ensure the code complies with the organization’s coding standards.
  • Heuristic tools to look for possible hardcoded passwords and private encryption keys.
  • Take advantage of software’s built-in checks and protections.
  • “Black box” test cases that ensure code meets functional specifications or requirements outside a specific implementation.
  • Code-based structural test cases based on the implementation.
  • Historical test cases to be sure software will still run securely after a change.
  • Fuzzing to test an immense number of inputs with minimal human supervision.
  • Web app scanners, if applicable, to detect vulnerabilities in web applications.
  • Identify the libraries, packages and services the software uses so they can be checked against known vulnerability databases.

The guidance also describes good development practices and includes information on software installation and operation as well as advances in software verification technology.

Because no single software security verification standard can be used for all types of software, NIST intends this guidance to describe minimum standards that will help software producers create their own verification processes.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.