What is FIPS and How Does it Affect Cloud Communication Solutions?

In today’s world when it seems cyber attacks and data breaches are in the news every day, it's really hard to protect your data. Every company claims to be the most secure and reliable in their respective fields, but how do you differentiate the fakes from the real deal?

The United States Government has proved its strong stance against cyber crimes through stern data and encryption policies. The major bulwark came in the form of Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS), an allied effort of the U.S. Federal National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Communications Security Establishment of Canada to standardize and regulate the security requirements for non-military computer systems.

FIPS presides over a wide spectrum of protocols encompassing equally diverse applications, but the IT industry is mainly concerned with just two FIPS publications: FIPS 197 and FIPS 140-2.

FIPS 197 is essentially a cryptographic algorithm, also known as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is used to protect electronic data. The algorithm can be implemented in software, hardware, firmware, or a combination of any. However, AES was superseded by a more advanced and comprehensive FIPS 140-2 standard, which was released in May 2001.

FIPS 140-2 is a comprehensive standard, titled ‘Security Requirements for Cryptographic Modules,' and it is administered by NIST through the Cryptographic Module Validation Program (CMVP). This is the standard for handling sensitive data, and it's mandatory for all companies dealing with U.S. Federal organizations to adhere to it.

However, not all FIPS 140-2 validations are same. There are four levels of validation starting from Level 1, the most basic security level, to all the way up to Level 4, which is strongest and most modern defense you can pull up against cyber attacks. You will usually come across Levels 1 and 2 only because Levels 3 and 4 are very rare and difficult to obtain. While Level 1 validation ensures only standard encryption algorithms, Level 2 validation looks for tampering and other hardware level malpractices as well.

Initially, FIPS 140-2 was intended for regulation in only the U.S. and Canada, but it gained wide popularity in the European Union, Australia, and other countries as well. While it has been a long time since its release, publication 140-2 is still relevant and secure due to its well-structured approach of testing 11 different areas of design and implementation of modules such as:

  • Cryptographic Module Specification
  • Cryptographic Module Ports and Interfaces
  • Roles, Services, and Authentication
  • Finite State Model
  • Physical Security
  • Operational Environment
  • Cryptographic Key Management
  • Electromagnetic Interference/Electromagnetic
  • Compatibility (EMI/EMC)
  • Self-Tests
  • Design Assurance
  • Mitigation of Other Attacks

Importance of FIPS in Cloud Communications

Many government agencies and most of the private firms perceive FIPS reliable and secure. FIPS enjoy special privileges worldwide because there are not many testing protocols and review processes in the world and none of them are as rigorous as FIPS.

Most of the customers do not know about these industry standards and various third-party certifications and validations. The tests and reviews are considered "marketing gimmicks," but that is simply not the case. FIPS is arguably the most popular standard for securing your data. Computing and, specifically, computer networks are all about data, its storage, transmission, and handling. So, security of data against malicious attacks is of utmost importance.

These days, when a large number of companies are adopting cloud computing services, cybersecurity has arisen as a top requirement for consideration.

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and other cloud communication services are as vulnerable as any other cloud service against cyber attacks. FIPS is even more necessary if you are employing solutions targeted at government organizations or the healthcare industry.

If you do not want yourself in the midst of a cyber attack or on the list of data breach victims, always choose cloud solutions which are FIPS validated or compliant.

When it comes to security, 8x8 provides reliable and compliant cloud solutions at a demanding level rarely seen by other cloud providers. Don't take your chances with a subpar cloud-based telecom system. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out our form online to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 Product Specialist.

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