Shifting the Balance of Cybersecurity Risk – Principles and Approaches for Secure-by-Design – Secure-by-Default – CISA

Shifting the Balance of Cybersecurity Risk - Principles and Approaches for Security-by-Design



Technology is integrated into nearly every facet of daily life. Internet-facing systems are connected to critical systems that directly impact our economic prosperity, livelihoods, and even health, ranging from personal identity management to medical care. As only one example, cyber breaches have resulted in hospitals cancelling surgeries and diverting patient care globally. Insecure technology and vulnerabilities in critical systems may invite malicious cyber intrusions, leading to serious potential safety1 risks.

Now more than ever, it is crucial for technology manufacturers to make Secure-by-Design and Secure-by-Default the focal points of product design and development processes. Some vendors have made great strides driving the industry forward in software assurance, while others lag behind. The authoring agencies strongly encourage every technology manufacturer to build their products in a way that prevents customers from having to constantly perform monitoring, routine updates, and damage control on their systems to mitigate cyber intrusions. Manufacturers are encouraged to take ownership of improving the security outcomes of their customers. Historically, technology manufacturers have relied on fixing vulnerabilities found after the customers have deployed the products, requiring the customers to apply those patches at their own expense. Only by incorporating Secure-by-Design practices will we break the vicious cycle of creating and applying fixes.

To accomplish this high standard of software security, the authoring agencies encourage manufacturers to prioritize the integration of product security as a critical prerequisite to features and speed to market. Over time, engineering teams will be able to establish a new steady-state rhythm where security is truly designed-in and takes less effort to maintain. Reflecting this perspective, the European Union reinforces the importance of product security in the Cyber Resilience Act, emphasizing that manufacturers should implement security throughout a product‘s life-cycle in order to prevent manufacturers from introducing vulnerable products into the market.

To create a future where technology and associated products are safer for customers, the authoring agencies urge manufacturers to revamp their design and development programs to permit only Secure-by-Design and -Default products to be shipped to customers. Products that are Secure-by-Design are those where the security of the customers is a core business goal, not just a technical feature. Secure-by-Design products start with that goal before development starts. Secure-by-Default products are those that are secure to use “out of the box” with little to no configuration changes necessary and security features available without additional cost. Together, these two principles move much of the burden of staying secure to manufacturers and reduce the chances that customers will fall victim to security incidents resulting from misconfigurations, insufficiently fast patching, or many other common issues.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the following international partners2 provide the recommendations in this guide as a roadmap for technology manufacturers to ensure security of their products:

Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)
Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS)
United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-UK)
Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI)
Netherlands’ National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-NL)
Computer Emergency Response Team New Zealand (CERT NZ) and New Zealand’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC-NZ)

The authoring agencies recognize the contributions by many private sector partners in advancing security-by-design and security-by-default. This product is intended to progress an international conversation about key priorities, investments, and decisions necessary to achieve a future where technology is safe, secure, and resilient by design and default. Toward that end, the authoring agencies seek feedback on this product from interested parties and intend to convene a series of listening sessions to further refine, specify, and advance our guidance to achieve our shared goals.


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