Securing Sensitive Government Data: Understanding FIPS Certification and Compliance

FIPS compliant is not the same as FIPS certified. Be sure you fully understand the cryptography strength of your IT security solution.
3 min read

When it comes to safeguarding the most sensitive data of the U.S. Government, the stakes are undeniably high. To ensure the highest level of security, the government has established stringent standards for any technology used in cybersecurity solutions designed to protect government data. One such standard is FIPS.

In the world of cybersecurity, you'll often encounter terms like "FIPS certified" and "FIPS compliant." It's essential to understand the distinction between the two, and we'll delve into that in this article.


What is FIPS?

FIPS stands for Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2, or FIPS 140-2 for short. It's a cryptography standard that non-military U.S. federal agencies, government contractors, and service providers must adhere to when working with federal government entities that handle sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information. The FIPS 140-2 security standard holds recognition not only in the U.S. but also in Canada and the European Union.


Why FIPS 140-2 Matters to Both Public and Private Sectors

The robust level of protection offered by FIPS 140-2 has made it the go-to cryptography module standard for state and local government agencies, as well as enterprises in sectors like energy, transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services. Given its significance to both the public and private sectors, it's crucial to distinguish between "FIPS compliant or enabled" and "FIPS certified or validated."


The FIPS validation process

To achieve FIPS 140-2 validation or certification, all components of a security solution, including both hardware and software, must undergo testing and approval by one of the NIST-accredited independent laboratories. This process typically takes 6 to 9 months and entails submitting detailed documentation and source code to the testing laboratory. If the software fails during testing, it must be rectified, and the testing process must start anew. Any changes to the software code require re-validation to ensure no errors have been introduced.


FIPS Compliance Explained

When IT security solutions are marketed as "FIPS compliant," it means they claim to meet FIPS requirements. However, this designation doesn't imply that a NIST-approved laboratory has validated the product as a whole to meet FIPS requirements. In some cases, only specific components within the product might meet FIPS requirements.


Understanding FIPS Certification

During FIPS certification, file transfer software and client and server applications undergo independent testing to confirm their adherence to FIPS standards. They are also checked for security vulnerabilities, predictable number generation, and responsible key disposal. For instance, the GoSilent Cube portable VPN/firewall boasts robust encryption protection algorithms and design and uses FIPS CAVP certified algorithms.


GoSilent Cube: Elevating Data Security

GoSilent Cube employs AES 256-bit encryption to protect sensitive data via dual tunnel, end-to-end encryption. Data is never stored on an intermediary server, and no additional keys are generated. This fully portable, plug-and-play solution combines ease of use with Top Secret, government-grade protection. Today, GoSilent safeguards mission-critical intellectual property and data worldwide for both public and private sectors.

In conclusion, understanding the nuances of FIPS certification and compliance is vital when it comes to securing sensitive data, whether you're a government agency or a private enterprise. FIPS 140-2 sets the gold standard for encryption, and it's crucial to make informed choices when selecting cybersecurity solutions.

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