For cybersecurity professionals tasked with defending the public sector, tackling the U.S. Government Configuration Baseline (USGCB) is just another hurdle to a safer federal tomorrow. Part of a wide collection of necessary federal government compliance requirements, it hones in on which baseline security configurations are necessary for federally deployed IT products.

While not a standalone piece of legislation, USGCB compliance is a core requirement of FISMA (Federal Information Security Modernization Act). Here’s the top 10 FAQs related to USGCB and how you can come out on top.

1. What is the United States Government Configuration Baseline (USGCB)?

The USGCB sets security configuration standards for Information Technology devices widely used across the federal landscape.

2. How Does USGCB Relate to FDCC?

USGCB evolved from the Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC) mandate that outlined the security configuration requirements for federal desktops or laptops running Vista or Windows XP.

Under whose jurisdiction did that evolution occur? The Technology Information Subcommittee (TIS) was created by the Federal CIO Council to oversee the FDCC initiative. In doing so, the TIS created the USGCB to better support configuration setting baseline guidance and replaced the original FDCC configuration standards.

3. Who Manages and Updates USGCB Compliance Standards?

The TIS transferred the jurisdiction of USGCB to the Information Security and Identity Management Committee (ISIMC), which has already modified existing settings and is currently underway with new developments.

4. What Platforms Are Covered Under USGCB?

The U.S. Government Configuration Baseline addresses the following platforms:

Microsoft

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 7 Firewall
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows Vista Firewall
  • Windows XP
  • Windows XP Firewall
  • Internet Explorer 7
  • Internet Explorer 8

Red Hat Enterprise

5. How To Implement USGCB?

The implementation of USGCB standards is up to each federal agency. While they have the autonomy to customize USGCB requirements to fit their individual needs, each adjustment should be documented, and agencies are responsible for ensuring proper implementation and testing takes place.

6. Can I Use More Secure Settings than the USGCB?

Yes. While USGCB compliance standards must be met, they are only a minimum safety requirement for the configuration of federal IT products. Additional and stricter safety regulations may be added at the discretion of the federal agency.

7. Are There Any Federal Workstations Outside the Scope of the USGCB?

Yes. The USGCB was developed for general-purpose systems like managed laptops and desktops. The following are excluded from USGCB oversight:

  • Embedded computers
  • Process control systems
  • Specialized scientific or experimental systems
  • Similar systems to the above

However, it is still advised that USGCB standards be applied where and as possible to the previous exceptions, along with sound risk management principles.

8. Do USGCB Compliance Standards Apply to Federal Contractors and Vendors?

Yes, on both accounts, though the scenarios are different.

U.S. Government contractors who own or operate one of the following systems on their behalf or in connection with working with the USG are subject to all USGCB guidelines:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows XP
  • Vista

Vendors are as well, and they are responsible for asserting their own USGCB compliance (though it is naturally in their best interest). As part of that compliance, they are expected to meet the following exigencies:

With more attackers picking off weak links in the software supply chain, requirements like the USGCB, in addition to the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), have never been more crucial to maintaining government supply chain cybersecurity in a modern threat context.

9. Is There a List of Applications That Are Already USGCB Compliant?

There is no centralized list, though lists of individual USGCB-compliant devices and applications can be found on the individual vendors’ websites. Agencies can share what they know about compliant products and applications. However, each agency’s CIO will be held individually responsible for implementing USGCB requirements, regardless of vendor-given information. In other words, trust but verify.

10. Must USGCB Compliance Be Reported?

While the Office of Management and Budget may require USGCB compliance to be reported as part of their SOPs, such a requirement has yet to go into effect. Check the following FAQ sheet for updates and details.

Government Cybersecurity Compliance and Fortra

The U.S. Government Configuration Baseline is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to federal compliance requirements. Without an experienced guide, navigating the maze of government compliance standards can be daunting at best. Fortra’s arsenal of battle-tested tools has proven itself at the federal level and can help your agency:

Check out Fortra’s impressive cybersecurity portfolio for government – full of constantly updated solutions that support industry, civilian, and federal systems – to enhance your viability in the federal workspace today.