CISA Binding Operational Directive 23-01: A Mandate for Attack Surface and Vulnerability Management in Federal Networks
- Oct 25, 2022
- Michelangelo Sidagni
CISA has recently issued a Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 23-01: Improving Asset Visibility and Vulnerability Detection on Federal Networks, which seeks to improve asset visibility and vulnerability enumeration across the federal agency networks.
A binding operational directive is a compulsory direction to federal, executive branch, departments and agencies for purposes of safeguarding federal information and information systems.
Although BOD 23-01 is only applicable to federal civilian executive branch (FCEB) agencies, CISA recommends all stakeholders review and incorporate the standards it sets forth. Doing so will ensure asset / attack surface management and vulnerability management practices that will strengthen their organization’s cyber resilience.
Continuous and comprehensive asset visibility is a basic precondition for any organization to effectively manage cybersecurity risk.
The purpose of this Binding Operational Directive is to make measurable progress toward enhancing visibility into agency assets and associated vulnerabilities.
The requirements of this Directive focus on two core activities essential to improving operational visibility for a successful cybersecurity program: asset discovery and vulnerability enumeration.
Discovery of assets and vulnerabilities can be achieved through a variety of means, including active scanning, passive flow monitoring, querying logs, or in the case of software defined infrastructure, API query.
Asset visibility is not an end in itself, but is necessary for updates, configuration management, and other security and lifecycle management activities that significantly reduce cybersecurity risk, along with exigent activities like vulnerability remediation.
In terms of scope, these required actions apply to any FCEB unclassified federal information system, including any federal information system used or operated by another entity on behalf of an agency.
This Directive applies to all IP-addressable networked assets that can be reached over IPv4 and IPv6 protocols. The scope includes, but is not limited to, servers and workstations, virtual machines, routers and switches, firewalls, network appliances, and network printers — whether in on-premises, roaming, and cloud operated deployment models. The scope excludes ephemeral assets, such as containers and third-party-managed software as a service (SaaS) solutions.
In terms of required actions going forward, by April 3, 2023, all FCEB agencies are required to take the following actions on all federal information systems in scope of this directive:
CISA also published an Implementation Guidance for this Directive – which can be found here: https://www.cisa.gov/implementation-guidance-binding-operational-directive-23-01 – that includes a set of FAQs addressing most commonly asked implementation questions.
Due to the incidence and relevance of cyber attacks that have been hitting U.S federal networks, CISA decided to issue this binding Directive mandating any FCEB unclassified federal information system to be mapped in a formal inventory process and vulnerability assessed every 7 and 14 days respectively. This Directive issuance also highlights the centrality of the concept of attack surface and vulnerability management as part of the overall agency’s threat management strategy.
NopSec Unified VRM, with its focus on vulnerability prioritization, attack surface risk management, and asset management, provides an easy-to-deploy vulnerability risk management framework through a SaaS Service that can be used to easily implement the CISA Directive 23-01.
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