What is OSCAL?
As nist.gov says, OSCAL is a framework for documenting and assessing the security controls of an information system. Its stated goals are to decrease the paperwork burden by moving from a text-based and manual approach (using word processors or spreadsheets) to a set of standardized, machine-readable formats.
As of November, 2023, OSCAL has a handful of different models, expressed in XML, JSON, and YAML:
- Catalog: A set of published controls, e.g. NIST 800-53
- Profile: A tailored selection of controls from a catalog, e.g. FedRAMP High Baseline
- System Security Plan (SSP): A description of how an information system implements controls.
- Plan of Actions & Milestones (POA&M): Used to identify risk and track remediation.
- Security Assessment Plan (SAP): Outlines the plan for assessing an information system.
- Security Assessment Results (SAR): Represents the results of an information systems assessment.
The Benefits of OSCAL
With features like machine-readable formats and API integrations, OSCAL aims to make your life easier, whether it's about obtaining FedRAMP authorization or continuous compliance monitoring.
- Control Standardization: OSCAL replaces ambiguous prose with precise, machine-readable formats, increasing accuracy and consistency, speeding up approval processes.
- Component and Framework Assessment: It simplifies the assessment of complex, multi-component systems, supporting a unified view across diverse regulatory requirements.
- Interoperability and Automation: OSCAL helps transition organizations from manual to automated documentation, enhancing system communication and compliance efficiency.
Enhanced System Security Assessments
- Framework Uniformity: By standardizing security control representations, OSCAL ensures consistent, efficient assessments across multiple frameworks.
- Continuous Compliance: A machine-readable format promotes ongoing security evaluations, leading to more timely and labor-efficient assessment cycles.
- Support Multiple Regulatory Frameworks Simultaneously: Often, a system needs to support multiple regulatory frameworks. OSCAL supports the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA); the NIST Cybersecurity Risk Management Framework (RMF); the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); NIST SP 800-53; ISO 27001; SOC 2; and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
Read more about NIST’s goals for OSCAL.
The Limitations of OSCAL
While OSCAL offers a forward-thinking approach to security control assessment, it's not without its challenges.
OSCAL: A Language Awaiting Tools
Think of OSCAL not as a ready-to-use software but as a new language designed for security compliance. It's made for tech experts to build tools that everyone can use. Without these tools, getting to grips with OSCAL's detailed and technical format requires a lot of specialized knowledge, which can be quite overwhelming.
Complex Component Documentation
The need for detailed documentation across diverse components, especially in intricate cloud environments, can complicate the compliance process.
Less Redundant, but Still Redundant
OSCAL's architecture, while reducing some repetitive tasks in compliance reporting, still has its challenges. For every component in a system, OSCAL requires that all associated controls be updated individually. This creates a substantial manual workload, especially when a single change affects multiple references within the documentation.
How Risk Solutions Address OSCAL’s Limitations
Introducing Risk Solutions
Through the 1-hour Paramify intake process you will get your tailored Risk Solutions, which are leveraged to address several OSCAL limitations.
Learn more how Risk Solutions simplify compliance.
Your Key to OSCAL Adoption
The Risk Solutions Platform is the tool needed to effectively implement OSCAL for your organization. It bypasses the complex learning curve and provides an intuitive way to produce accurate OSCAL deliverables, like SSPs.
Simplified Component Management
By providing a framework that scales with your intricate cloud environments, Risk Solutions facilitate seamless adaptation and minimize the documentation effort required for each component.
Paramify's Risk Solutions significantly streamline the update process within OSCAL's framework. With Paramify, you make a single update to a Risk Solution, and it automatically synchronizes that change across all related components, controls, and compliance documents. This capability spans across different security frameworks, ensuring consistent and accurate updates without the need to manually edit each control for every component. By integrating with Paramify, you can effectively manage and reduce redundancy, saving valuable time and resources in maintaining compliance documentation.
Risk Solutions go beyond OSCAL’s component model by providing a holistic view of how various elements work together to implement specific controls. It enables more targeted and streamlined compliance documentation.
While OSCAL offers numerous advantages, it also brings in an additional layer of complexity. Paramify aims to simplify this process, offering an efficient, uniform, and consistent approach to managing compliance documentation.
Are you ready to see the first draft of your OSCAL SSP? Paramify is here to guide you every step of the way. Schedule a demo with us today.