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Federal Information Processing Standardization 140

Federal Information Processing Standardization 140 is a standard that specifies security requirements for cryptographic modules used by the U.S. government. Federal Information Processing Standardization 140-2 accreditation is required for any cryptography product sold by a private sector company to the U.S. government.

The United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) develops and issues Federal Information Processing Standardizations (FIPSs) when adequate industry standards do not already exist to ensure that products conform to security requirements. Publication series 140 specifically applies to cryptography modules. The current version of the 140 series is FIPS 140-2.

FIPS 140-2, issued by NIST in 2001, qualitatively specifies security requirements for cryptographic modules in four increasingly severe levels intended to cover the wide range of potential applications and environments in which cryptographic modules might be employed by the government:

Level 1 – The lowest level of security. Requires at least one approved algorithm but no physical security

Level 2 – Requires role-based authentication and some physical security

Level 3 – Requires identity-based authentication and tighter physical security

Level 4 – Highest level of physical security, intended to provide a “complete envelope of protection” around the module

The FIPS 140 requirement is applicable to all U.S. government departments and agencies that use cryptographic-based security systems to protect sensitive but unclassified information, including any organizations selling products to U.S. and Canadian government agencies.

Learn more:

How to verify 140-2 (FIPS 140-2) compliance

USB thumb drive security best practices spelled out by NIST.

This was last updated in June 2010

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