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    By: Laura P. Taylor & Patricia Moulder

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    "FISMA, also known as Title III of the E-Government Act (Public Law107-347), requires that all systems and applications that reside on U.S. government networks undergo a formal security assessment before being put into production. System authorization isthe ultimate output of a FISMA compliance project, and a system or application cannot be authorized unless it meets specific security control requirements. However, keep in mind that no system can be completely secure - unless it is powered off and locked in a vault. Of course then it is not very useable. Determining the security controls for the system is a balancing act between making the system useable and making the system secure. These two endeavors are often at odds with each other. In order to find the balance, security experts analyze the probability and impact of potential vulnerabilities being exploited (or not) and then make risk-based decisions based on the analysis. Clearly the goal of FISMA is to force federal agencies to put into production secure systems and applications. Once put into production, FISMA requires that system owners analyze risk periodically on the production system in order to find vulnerabilities, and fix them, before they are exploited by adversaries"--

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