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Risk Management Framework (RMF) OVERVIEW

The selection and specification of security controls for an information system is accomplished as part of an organization-wide information security program that involves the management of organizational risk---that is, the risk to the organization or to individuals associated with the operation of an information system. The management of organizational risk is a key element in the organization's information security program and provides an effective framework for selecting the appropriate security controls for an information system---the security controls necessary to protect individuals and the operations and assets of the organization.

Risk-Based Approach

The risk-based approach to security control selection and specification considers effectiveness, efficiency, and constraints due to applicable laws, directives, Executive Orders, policies, standards, or regulations. The following activities related to managing organizational risk (also known as the Risk Management Framework) are paramount to an effective information security program and can be applied to both new and legacy information systems within the context of the system development life cycle and the Federal Enterprise Architecture:

Step 1: Categorize

Categorize the information system and the information processed, stored, and transmitted by that system based on an impact analysis (1).

Step 2: Select

Select an initial set of baseline security controls for the information system based on the security categorization; tailoring and supplementing the security control baseline as needed based on organization assessment of risk and local conditions (2).

Step 3: Implement

Implement the security controls and document how the controls are deployed within the information system and environment of operation.

See appropriate NIST publication in the publications section.

Step 4: Assess

Assess the security controls using appropriate procedures to determine the extent to which the controls are implemented correctly, operating as intended, and producing the desired outcome with respect to meeting the security requirements for the system (3).

Step 5: Authorize

Authorize information system operation based upon a determination of the risk to organizational operations and assets, individuals, other organizations and the Nation resulting from the operation of the information system and the decision that this risk is acceptable (4).

Step 6: Monitor

Monitor and assess selected security controls in the information system on an ongoing basis including assessing security control effectiveness, documenting changes to the system or environment of operation, conducting security impact analyses of the associated changes, and reporting the security state of the system to appropriate organizational officials (5).

See the Risk Management Framework presentation slides with associated security standards and guidance documents. A black and white version is also available for printing.


1. The RMF categorization step, including consideration of legislation, policies, directives, regulations, standards, and organizational mission/business/operational requirements, facilitates the identification of security requirements. FIPS 199 provides security categorization guidance for nonnational security systems. CNSS Instruction 1253 provides similar guidance for national security systems.

2. NIST Special Publication 800-53 provides security control selection guidance for nonnational security systems. CNSS Instruction 1253 provides similar guidance for national security systems.

3. NIST Special Publication 800-53A provides security control assessment procedures for security controls defined in NIST Special Publication 800-53.

4. NIST Special Publication 800-37 Revision 1 provides guidance on authorizing information system to operate.

5. NIST Special Publication 800-37 Revision 1 provides guidance on monitoring the security controls in the environment of operation, the ongoing risk determination and acceptance, and the approved information system authorization to operated status.