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AWS FedRAMP ATO: Difficult to Achieve, Easily Misunderstood, Valuable to All AWS Customers

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Compliance with FedRAMP is a complex process with a high bar for a providers security practices. Because few providers have secured an Authority To Operate (ATO) under FedRAMP, and FedRAMP in general is very new, the topic often leaves many confused. So, we wanted to build upon our press release, security blog post, and AWS blog post to briefly clarify a few points.

FedRAMP is a U.S. government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. With the award of this ATO, AWS has demonstrated it can meet the extensive FedRAMP security requirements and as a result, an even wider range of federal, state and local government customers can leverage AWSs secure environment to store, process, and protect a diverse array of sensitive government data. Leveraging the HHS authorization, all U.S. government agencies now have the information they need to evaluate AWS for their applications and workloads, provide their own authorizations to use AWS, and transition workloads into the AWS environment.

On May 21, 2013, AWS announced that AWS GovCloud (US) and all U.S. AWS Regions received an Agency Authority to Operate (ATO) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) requirements at the Moderate impact level. Two separate FedRAMP Agency ATOs have been issued; one encompassing the AWS GovCloud (US) Region, and the other covering the AWS US East/West Regions. These ATOs cover Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, Amazon VPC, and Amazon EBS. Beyond the services covered in the ATO, customers can evaluate their workloads for suitability with other AWS services. AWS plans to onboard other AWS services in the future. Interested customers can contact AWS Sales and Business Development for a detailed discussion of security controls and risk acceptance considerations.

The FedRAMP audit was one of the most in-depth and rigorous security audits in the history of AWS, and that includes the many previous rigorous audits that are outlined on the AWS Compliance page. The FedRAMP audit was a comprehensive, six-month assessment of 298 controls including:

  • The architecture and operating processes of all services in scope.
  • The security of human processes and administrative access to systems.
  • The security and physical environmental controls of our AWS GovCloud (US), AWS US East (Northern Virginia), AWS US West (Northern California), and AWS US West (Oregon) Regions
  • The underlying IAM and other security services.
  • The security of networking infrastructure.
  • The security posture of the hypervisor, kernel and base operating systems.
  • Third-Party penetration testing.
  • Extensive onsite auditor interviews with service teams.
  • Nearly 1,500 individual evidence files.

The award of this FedRAMP Agency ATO enables agencies and federal contractors to immediately request access to the AWS Agency ATO packages by submitting a FedRAMP Package Access Request Form and begin to move through the authorization process to achieve an ATO using AWS. Additional information on FedRAMP, including the FedRAMP Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and Guide to Understanding FedRAMP, can be found at .

It is important to note that while FedRAMP applies formally only to U.S. government agencies, the rigorous audit process and the resulting detailed documentation benefit all AWS customers. Many of our commercial and enterprise customers, as well as public sector customers outside the U.S., have expressed their excitement about this important new certification. All AWS customers will benefit from the FedRAMP process without any change to AWS prices or the way that they receive and utilize our services.

You can visit to learn more about the AWS and FedRAMP or the multitude of other compliance evaluations of the AWS platform such as SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3, ISO 27001, FISMA, DIACAP, ITAR, FIPS 140-2, CSA, MPAA, PCI DSS Level 1, HIPAA and others.

— Jeff;


Modified 10/27/2020 – In an effort to ensure a great experience, expired links in this post have been updated or removed from the original post.
Jeff Barr

Jeff Barr

Jeff Barr is Chief Evangelist for AWS. He started this blog in 2004 and has been writing posts just about non-stop ever since.