Compliance Automation in the New FedRAMP Memo Draft

FedRAMP compliance automation featured

The latest FedRAMP draft memo from the OMB shakes up quite a bit about the program. While nothing is set in stone, much ink is spilled on what it will mean for the program and participating cloud service providers. 

In this article, we will discuss what this new memo says about automation–specifically, how the program will start approaching automation to ensure compliance within its ecosystem of providers.  


What Is Compliance Automation?

Compliance and assessment automation refers to using technology to streamline the processes to ensure that systems, processes, or products meet required standards and regulations. This automation involves tools and software that can:

  • Automate Audits: Conduct regular, automated checks against compliance standards.
  • Manage Documentation: Organize and maintain necessary compliance documentation.
  • Monitor Systems: Continuously scan for deviations from compliance baselines.
  • Report Findings: Automatically generate reports detailing compliance status and issues.

In many ways, these seem relatively standard. But in terms of compliance, especially when managing compliance over a massive program like FedRAMP, automation can make or break a predictable and trustworthy pipeline of assessments. By automating these tasks, organizations can ensure continuous compliance, reduce the risk of human error, save time, and allocate resources more efficiently.

While there are several other advantages, in this new memo, automation refers to the need for agencies and CSPs to employ automation and for the FedRAMP program to use automation for assessment and reporting purposes. 


What Does the New FedRAMP Memo Say About Automation?

The FedRAMP draft memo, released by the OMB, has a few key passages about automation. These passages explicitly reference automation expectations and requirements around implementing a compliance infrastructure that supports automation at several levels. 

  • Automation of Processes: GSA is mandated to automate FedRAMP security assessments and reviews wherever possible, aiming to establish a means for such automation by December 23, 2023. This should include the receipt of all artifacts in a machine-readable format through application programming interfaces (APIs) that facilitate integration between services operated by FedRAMP and Cloud Service Providers (CSPs)​.
  • Encouraging Automation in CSPs: As part of new expectations for continuous monitoring, FedRAMP is to develop a framework that “prioritizes agility of development and deployments by CSPs, to support automation and DevSecOps practices within cloud ecosystems.” 
  • Continuous Monitoring Framework: GSA, in coordination with the FedRAMP Project Management Office (PMO) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), is tasked with developing a framework for the continuous monitoring of cloud services and products, with the framework subject to the approval of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This framework should support automation and DevSecOps practices within the cloud ecosystem​.
  • Agency Policies and Plans: Within 180 days of the memorandum’s issuance, GSA must update FedRAMP’s continuous monitoring processes and associated documentation to align with the memorandum’s principles. Furthermore, within one year, GSA is required to produce a plan, approved by the FedRAMP Board and developed in consultation with the industry and impacted cloud providers, to encourage the transition of Federal agencies away from government-specific cloud infrastructure. This plan would support the broader goal of using shared infrastructure between the Federal Government and the private sector.
  • Industry Standard Security Assessments: FedRAMP must establish an automated process for the intake and use of industry-standard security assessments and reviews. By automating the intake and processing of security documentation, the burden on program participants will be reduced, and the speed of implementing cloud solutions will be increased. Commercial cloud providers should also be incentivized to integrate improved security practices that emerge from their engagement with FedRAMP.

These points underscore the emphasis on leveraging automation to improve the efficiency, consistency, and speed of security processes within FedRAMP, facilitating a more agile and integrated federal cloud infrastructure.

So, what does this mean for cloud service providers? Not much is known about how these automation standards will pan out. It seems clear, however, that the FedRAMP program is gearing up to streamline all its documentation, assessment, and reporting processes. 


Why Is Automation Important in Compliance?

Even though automation is a big part of this new memo, it isn’t a new concept… not even in FedRAMP. Its increasing use in cybersecurity reflects the scale and complexity of the challenges that organizations face regularly. 

Some of the critical areas that automation addresses in cybersecurity include:

  • Consistency: It ensures that checks for compliance are carried out uniformly and regularly without the variability introduced by human factors.
  • Efficiency: Automation can rapidly process vast amounts of data, enabling real-time or near-real-time monitoring and reporting.
  • Resource Optimization: Human experts can focus on complex analysis and decision-making rather than routine monitoring tasks.
  • Scalability: Automated systems can easily adjust to handle increased workloads, such as monitoring more systems or checking against additional compliance requirements.
  • Accuracy: Automated tools reduce the likelihood of errors that can occur with manual processes.
  • Proactivity: It enables organizations to detect and address compliance issues swiftly, often before they can escalate into more significant problems.


Commit to FedRAMP Compliance with Continuum GRC

The updates to the FedRAMP represent a pivotal moment for MSPs and SaaS providers operating in the federal sphere. As they automate compliance and assessment tools, more companies can take advantage of the framework to work with government agencies effectively. 

Continuum GRC is a cloud platform that can take something as routine and necessary as regular vulnerability scanning and reporting under FedRAMP and make it an easy and timely part of business in the public sector. We provide risk management and compliance support for every major regulation and compliance framework on the market, including:

  • FedRAMP
  • StateRAMP
  • GDPR
  • NIST 800-53
  • FARS NIST 800-171
  • CMMC
  • SOC 1, SOC 2
  • PCI DSS 4.0
  • IRS 1075
  • ISO 27000 Series
  • ISO 9000 Series
  • ISO Assessment and Audit Standards

And more. We are the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP-authorized compliance and risk management solution worldwide.

Continuum GRC is a proactive cyber security® and the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP-authorized cybersecurity audit platform worldwide. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization protect its systems and ensure compliance.

Download our company brochure.

Continuum GRC