This is the tenth 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 second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth blogs described the actions taken by various Government agencies to implement the EO from June 2021 through January 2022, respectively.
This blog summarizes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during February 2022. As with steps taken during prior months, the actions described below reflect the implementation of the EO within the Government. However, these activities portend further actions in March 2022 that are likely to impact government contractors, particularly those who provide software products or services to government agencies.
NIST Publishes Guidance to Federal Agencies on Practices to Enhance Supply Chain Security When Procuring Software
Section 4(e) of the Cyber EO requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to publish guidelines on practices for software supply security for use by U.S. Government acquisition and procurement officials. Section 4(k) of the EO requires the Office of Management and Budget, within 30 days of the publication of this guidance (or March 4, 2022), to “take appropriate steps to require that agencies comply with such guidelines with respect to software procured after the date of the EO. Section 4(n) of the EO states that within one year of the date of the EO (or May 12, 2023), the Secretary of Homeland Security…shall recommend to the FAR Council contract language requiring suppliers of software available for purchase by agencies to comply with, and attest to complying with, any requirements issued pursuant to subsections (g) through (k) of this section.”
NIST issued the Supply Chain Security Guidance called for by Section 4(e) of the EO on February 4, 2022. The Supply Chain Security Guidance states that it “provides recommendations to federal agencies on ensuring that the producers of software they procure have been following a risk-based approach for secure software development throughout the software life cycle,” and that “[t]hese recommendations are intended to help federal agencies gather the information they need from software producers in a form they can use to make risk-based decisions about procuring software.” The scope of the Supply Chain Security Guidance is expressly limited to “federal agency procurement of software, which includes firmware, operating systems, applications, and application services (e.g., cloud-based software), as well as products containing software.” The Guidance further provides that “the location of the implemented software, such as on-premises or cloud-hosted, is irrelevant,” and also excludes open source software and software developed by federal agencies. However, open-source software that is bundled, integrated, or otherwise used by software purchased by a federal agency is within the scope of the Guidance.
The Supply Chain Security Guidance defines minimum recommendations for federal agencies as they acquire software or a product containing software:
- Use the Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF) terminology and structure to organize communications about secure software development requirements.
- Require attestation to cover secure software development practices performed as part of processes and procedures throughout the software life cycle.
- Accept first-party attestation of conformity with SSDF practices unless a risk-based approach determines that second or third-party attestation is required.
- When requesting artifacts of conformance, request high-level artifacts.