GSA signals new cyber rules for contractors

The General Services Administration plans to bolster cybersecurity protections and reporting requirements for vendors that access its unclassified systems and the sensitive data on them.

In a Jan. 12 Federal Register notice, GSA announced planned updates to the General Services Administration Acquisition Regulation that require contractors "protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of unclassified GSA information and information systems from cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and threats" in accordance with FISMA and other federal laws and rules.

The planned regulatory updates also will include a breach reporting timeframe in the event contractor systems are successfully attacked. Contractors will be required to report incidents "that could potentially affect GSA or its customer agencies."

GSA contracting officers would have to include cyber incident reporting requirements within GSA contracts and orders placed against GSA multiple award contracts.

The requirements cover internal contractor systems, external contractor systems, cloud and mobile. Acquisition experts welcomed the move, which essentially codifies for federal civilian agencies cyber protections under FISMA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's cybersecurity guidance documents.

"These are all positive things," said John Banghart, senior director for technology risk management at Venable. "DOD and GSA have needed this for a long time."

The Defense Department issued similar guidance that was to be implemented by Dec. 31.

"We've been looking for this for a few years," said Pam Walker, senior director for federal public sector technology at the Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector.

GSA's action eventually will allow uniform guidance across the federal government for contractors and agencies on cybersecurity requirements and reporting. The agency plans to spell out the changes in more detail and collect public feedback before issuing final rules.

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