This is the eighteenth 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 subsequent blogs described the actions taken by various Government agencies to implement the Cyber EO from June 2021 through September 2022. This blog describes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during October 2022.
I. CISA, NSA, and ODNI Release Software Supply Chain Security Guidance for Suppliers
In October 2022, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released Part 2 in its series of recommended practice guides for securing the software supply chain (the “Supplier Guide”). This second practice guide is for software suppliers—Part 1 of the guide is intended to be used by software developers, and the third (and final) guide will be targeted to software customers (i.e., acquirers). Each of these guides is intended to supplement the Secure Software Development Framework (SSDF) published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) pursuant to Section 4 of the Cyber EO.
According to the Supplier Guide, a software supplier acts as a liaison, or intermediary, between the developer and customer, and, as such, “retains primary responsibility over the following”:
- Maintaining the integrity of securely delivered software.
- Validating software packages and updates.
- Maintaining awareness of known vulnerabilities.
- Accepting customer reports of issues or newly discovered vulnerabilities and notifying developers for remediation.
The guide is intended to reflect “industry best practices and principles.” It identifies key supplier objectives and recommends several broad categories of practices to achieve those objectives. For each of these practice categories, the guide identifies scenarios that could be exploited (threat scenarios) and actions that could be taken to mitigate those threat scenarios. For example, the guide outlines recommended mitigations for protecting the integrity of software code being developed either on premises or in a SaaS cloud solution, among many others.
The guide also has several appendices. Of particular interest is Appendix C, “Supply-chain levels for Software Artifacts” (SLSA). The SLSAs contained in this appendix address the four levels of security guidelines that are supposed to be tied to industry standards. Appendix C designates which requirements apply to each of the four levels of SLSAs, with the fourth level representing the ideal end state for a secure software supply chain “from source to service.”
II. White House Issues Fact Sheet Detailing Past and Future Cybersecurity Efforts
On October 11, 2022, the Biden Administration issued a fact sheet that described various efforts that the Administration has undertaken to strengthen and safeguard the nation’s cybersecurity. Among these efforts are several mandated by the Cyber EO. The fact sheet demonstrates the Administration’s overall emphasis on implementation of the Cyber EO and its continued view of federal contracting as a lever to pull in that process. Among other things, the fact sheet highlights that the Administration “issued a strategy for Federal zero trust architecture implementation, as well as budget guidance to ensure that Federal agencies align resources to our cybersecurity goals.” Regarding procurement, the fact sheet states that “we are . . . harnessing the purchasing power of the Federal Government to improve the cybersecurity of products for the first time, by requiring security features in all software purchased by the Federal Government, which improves security for all Americans.” As discussed in more detail below, the fact sheet also highlighted the White House’s plan to bring together private companies, associations, and Government agencies to discuss the development of a label for Internet of Things (IoT) devices “so that Americans can easily recognize which devices meet the highest cybersecurity standards to protect against hacking and other cyber vulnerabilities.”
III. White House Holds Meeting to Discuss Cybersecurity Label for Consumer Internet-of-Things Devices
As previewed by the October 11 White House fact sheet (see section II above), the Biden Administration convened a meeting of representatives of industry, associations, and Government agencies on October 19, 2022 to discuss the Administration’s cybersecurity labelling program for IoT devices. This program is based on labelling criteria developed by the IoT labelling pilot program conducted by NIST pursuant to the Cyber EO. These criteria envision a physical label on the IoT device accompanied by a QR code that consumers could use to obtain further information regarding the cybersecurity vulnerabilities and resilience of the device, coupled with vendor self-attestations, and possible third-party certifications. Speakers at the conference suggested that the Administration is planning a targeted rollout of a national cybersecurity labelling program in Spring 2023.