AWS Security Blog

How federal agencies can leverage AWS to extend CDM programs and CIO Metric Reporting

Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM), a U.S. Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity program, is gaining new visibility as part of the federal government’s overall focus on securing its information and networks. How an agency performs against CDM will soon be regularly reported in the updated Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard. That’s in addition to updates in the President’s Management Agenda. Because of this additional scrutiny, there are many questions about how cloud service providers can enable the CDM journey.

This blog will explain how you can implement a CDM program—or extend an existing one—within your AWS environment, and how you can use AWS capabilities to provide real-time CDM compliance and FISMA reporting.

When it comes to compliance for departments and agencies, the AWS Shared Responsibility Model describes how AWS is responsible for security of the cloud and the customer is responsible for security in the cloud. The Shared Responsibility Model is segmented into 3 categories (1) infrastructure services (see figure 1 below), (2) container services, and (3) abstracted services, each having a different level of controls customers can inherit to minimize their effort in managing and maintaining compliance and audit requirements. For example, when designing your workloads in AWS that fall under Infrastructure Services in the Shared Responsibility Model, AWS helps relieve your operational burden, as AWS operates, manages, and controls the components from the host operating system and virtualization layer down to the physical security of the facilities in which the services operate. This also relates to IT controls you can inherit through AWS compliance programs. Before their journey to the AWS Cloud, a customer may have been responsible for the entire control set in their compliance and auditing program. With AWS, you can inherit controls from AWS compliance programs, allowing you to focus on workloads and data you put in the cloud.

Figure 1: AWS Infrastructure Services

For example, if you deploy infrastructure services such as Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) networking and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, you can base your CDM compliance controls on the AWS controls you inherit for network infrastructure, virtualization, and physical security. You would be responsible for managing things like change management for Amazon EC2 AMIs, operating system and patching, AWS Config management, AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), and encryption of services at rest and in transit.

If you deploy container services such as Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) or Amazon EMR that build on top of infrastructure services, AWS manages the underlying infrastructure virtualization, physical controls, and the OS and associated IT controls, like patching and change management. You inherit the IT security controls from AWS compliance programs and can use them as artifacts in your compliance program. For example, you can request a SOC report for one of our 62 SOC-compliant services available from AWS Artifact. You are still responsible for the controls of what you put in the cloud.

Another example is if you deploy abstracted services such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) or Amazon DynamoDB. AWS is responsible for the IT controls applicable to the services we provide. You are responsible for managing your data, classifying your assets, using IAM to apply permissions to individual resources at the platform level, or managing permissions based on user identity or user responsibility at the IAM user/group level.

For agencies struggling to comply with FISMA requirements and thus CDM reporting, leveraging abstracted and container services means you now have the ability to inherit more controls from AWS, reducing the resource drain and cost of FISMA compliance.

So, what does this all mean for your CDM program on AWS? It means that AWS can help agencies realize CDM’s vision of near-real time FISMA reporting for infrastructure, container, and abstracted services. The following paragraphs explain how you can leverage existing AWS Services and solutions that support CDM.

1.0 Identify

AWS can meet CDM Asset Management (AM) 1.1 – 1.3 using AWS Config to track AWS resource configurations, use the resource groups tagging API to manage FISMA Classifications of your cloud infrastructure, and automatically tag Amazon EC2 resources.

For AM 1.4, AWS Config identifies all cloud assets in your AWS account, which can be stored in a DynamoDB table in the reporting format required. AWS Config rules can enforce and report on compliance, ensuring all Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes (block level storage) and Amazon S3 buckets (object storage) are encrypted.

2.0 Protect

For CIO metrics 2.1, 2.2, and 2.14, Amazon Inspector uses Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) based on the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). Using Amazon Inspector, customers can set up continuous golden AMI vulnerability assessments then take the Inspector findings and store them in a CIO metrics DynamoDB table for reporting.

For metrics 2.3 – 2.7, AWS provides federation services with on-premise Active Directory (AD) services, allowing customers to map IAM Roles to AD groups, report on IAM privileged system access, and identify which IAM roles have access to particular services.

To provide reporting for metric 2.10.1, AWS offers FIPS 140-2 validated endpoints for US East/West regions and AWS GovCloud (US).

For metric 2.9, AWS Config provides relationship information for all resources, which means you can use AWS Config relationship data to report on CIO metrics focused on the segmentation of resources. AWS Config can identify things like the network interfaces, security groups (firewalls), subnets, and VPCs related to an instance.

3.0 Detect

For detection that covers 3.3, 3.6, 3.8, 3.9, 3.11, and 3.12, AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) and Amazon GuardDuty have native automation through Amazon CloudWatch, AWS Step Functions (orchestration), and AWS Lambda (serverless) to provide adaptive computing capabilities such as automating the application of AWS WAF rules, recovering from incidents, mitigating OWASP top 10 threats, and automating the import of third-party threat intelligence feeds.

4.0 Respond

The focus is on you to develop policies and procedures to respond to cyber “incidents.” AWS provides capabilities to automate policies and procedures in a policy driven manner to improve detection times, shorten response times, and reduce attack surface. FISMA defines “incident” as “an occurrence that (A) actually or imminently jeopardizes, without lawful authority, the integrity, confidentiality, or availability of information or an information system; or (B) constitutes a violation or imminent threat of violation of law, security policies, security procedures, or acceptable use policies.”

Enabling GuardDuty in your accounts and writing finding results to a reporting database complies with CIO “Recover” metrics 4.1 and 4.2. Requirement 4.3 mandates you “automatically disable the system or relevant asset upon the detection of a given security violation or vulnerability,” per NIST SP 800-53r4 IR-4(2). You can comply by enabling automation to remediate instances.

5.0 Recover

Responding and recovering are closely related processes. Enabling automation to remediate instances also complies with 5.1 and 5.2, which focus on recovering from incidents. While it is your responsibility to develop an Information System Contingency Plan (ISCP), AWS can enable you to translate that plan into automated machine-readable policy through AWS CloudFormation. The service can use AWS Config to report on the number of HVA systems for which an ISCP has been developed (5.1). For both 5.1 and 5.2, “mean time for the organization to restore operations following the containment of a system intrusion or compromise,” using AWS multi-region architectures, inter-region VPC peering, S3 cross-region replication, AWS Landing Zones, and the global AWS network to enable global networking with services like AWS Direct Connect gateway allows you to develop an architecture (5.1.1) that tracks the number of HVA systems that have an alternate processing site identified and provisioned to enable global recovery in minutes.


There are many ways to report and visualize the data for all the solutions identified. A simple way is to write sensor data to a DynamoDB table. You can enhance your basic reporting to provide advanced analytics and visualization by integrating DynamoDB data with Amazon Athena. You can log all your services directly to an Amazon S3 bucket, use Amazon QuickSight for the dashboard and create custom analyses from your dashboards. You could also enrich your CIO metric dashboard data with other normalized datasets.

The end result is that you can build a new CDM program or extend an existing one using AWS. We are relentlessly focused on innovating for you and providing a comprehensive platform of secure IT services to meet your unique needs. Federal customers required to comply with CDM can use these innovations to incorporate services like AWS Config and AWS Systems Manager to provide assets and software management in AWS and on-premise systems to answer the question, “What is on the network?”

For real time compliance and reporting, you can leverage services like GuardDuty to analyze AWS CloudTrail, DNS, and VPC flow logs in your account so you really know “who is on your network,” and “what is happening on the network.”  VPC, security groups, Amazon CloudFront, and AWS WAF allow you to protect the boundary of your environment, while services like AWS Key Management Service (KMS), AWS CloudHSM, AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) and HTTPS endpoints enable you to “protect the data on the network.”

The services discussed in this blog provide you with the ability to design a cloud architecture that can help you move from ad-hoc to optimized in your CDM reporting. If you want more data, send us feedback and please, let us know how we can help with your CDM journey! If you have feedback about this blog post, submit comments in the Comments section below, or contact AWS Support.

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Darren House

Darren is a Senior Solutions Architect at AWS who is passionate about designing business- and mission-aligned cloud solutions that enable government customers to achieve objectives and improve desired outcomes. Outside work, Darren enjoys hiking, camping, motorcycles, and snowboarding.