Announcing Federal Security and Compliance Controls for Docker Datacenter

Dec 15 2016

Security and compliance are top of mind for IT organizations. In a technology-first era rife with cyber threats, it is important for enterprises to have the ability to deploy applications on a platform that adheres to stringent security baselines. This is especially applicable to U.S. Federal Government entities, whose wide-ranging missions, from public safety and national security, to enforcing financial regulations, are critical to keeping policy in order.

Federal agencies and many non-government organizations are dependent on various standards and security assessments to ensure their systems are operating in controlled environments. One such standard is NIST Special Publication 800-53, which provides a library of security controls to which technology systems should adhere. NIST 800-53 defines three security baselines: low, moderate, and high. The number of security controls that need to be met increases from the low to high baselines, and agencies will elect to meet a specific baseline depending on the requirements of their systems.

Another assessment process known as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP for short, further expands upon the NIST 800-53 controls by including additional security requirements at each baseline. FedRAMP is a program that ensures cloud providers meet stringent Federal government security requirements.

When an agency elects to deploy a system like Docker Datacenter for production use, they must complete a security assessment and grant the system an Authorization to Operate (ATO). The FedRAMP program already includes provisional ATOs at specific security baselines for a number of cloud providers, including AWS and Azure, with scope for on-demand compute services (e.g. Virtual Machines, Networking, etc). Since many cloud providers have already met the requirements defined by FedRAMP, an agency that leverages the provider’s services must only authorize the components of its own system that it deploys and manages at the chosen security baseline.

A goal of Docker is to help make it easier for organizations to build compliant enterprise container environments. As such, to help expedite the agency ATO process, we’re excited to release NIST 800-53 Revision 4 security and privacy control guidance for Docker Datacenter at the FedRAMP Moderate baseline.

The security content is available in two forms:

  • An open source project where the community can collaborate on the compliance documentation itself and
  • System Security Plan (SSP) template for Azure Government



First, we’ve made the guidance available as part of a project available here. The documentation in the repository is developed using a format known as OpenControl, an open source, “compliance-as-code” schema and toolkit that helps software vendors and organizations build compliance documentation. We chose to use OpenControl for this project because we’re big fans of tools at Docker, and it really fits our development principals quite nicely. OpenControl also includes schema definitions for other standards including Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This helps to address compliance needs for organizations outside of the public sector. We’re also licensing this project under CC0 Universal Public Domain. To accelerate compliance for container platforms, Docker is making this project public domain and inviting folks to contribute to the documentation to help enhance the container compliance story.

Second, we’re including this documentation in the form of a System Security Plan (SSP) template for running Docker Datacenter on Microsoft Azure Government. The template can be used to help lessen the time it takes for an agency to certify Docker Datacenter for use. To obtain these templates, please contact [email protected].

We’ve also started to experiment with natural language processing which you’ll find in the project’s repository on GitHub. By using Microsoft’s Cognitive Services Text Analytics API, we put together a simple tool that vets the integrity of the actual security narratives and ensures that what’s written holds true to the NIST 800-53 control definitions. You can think of this as a form of automated proofreading. We’re hoping that this helps to open the door to new and exciting ways to develop content!

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