NVLAP Accreditation for Cybersecurity Labs

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We’ve previously written about the importance of NVLAP Common Criteria accreditation for lab testing and validating products for use in high-risk industries. It’s probably unsurprising that we are markedly interested in cybersecurity labs’ requirements. 

Here, we’re discussing NVLAP Common Criteria accreditation for cybersecurity labs–what it is, how it is unique for assessed labs, and some challenges you might face. 


What is The National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program?

NVLAP is a crucial initiative managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Established in 1976, NVLAP provides an accreditation system that tests laboratories’ competency and capability to perform specific types of testing, including cybersecurity testing. 

In cybersecurity, NVLAP accredits laboratories based on rigorous standards and protocols. These standards ensure that laboratory testing adheres to the highest quality and security guidelines, which is crucial in protecting digital infrastructures and sensitive data. By accrediting laboratories, NVLAP enhances organizations’ cybersecurity posture, fostering a more secure technological environment nationally and internationally.


The NVLAP Accreditation Process

The process of obtaining NVLAP accreditation for cybersecurity testing is comprehensive and meticulous. It begins with a thorough application that details the laboratory’s testing capabilities and procedural documentation. Following the application, a rigorous review evaluates the lab’s adherence to specific standards relevant to cybersecurity testing.

Once the initial review is favorable, NVLAP conducts an on-site assessment to verify the laboratory’s operational and technical competencies. This assessment includes a detailed evaluation of the lab’s equipment, staff qualifications, and quality management systems. The lab must demonstrate its ability to produce accurate and reliable test results consistently.

Upon completing the assessment, the lab must perform proficiency testing to compare its results with those of other accredited laboratories. This step ensures ongoing compliance and maintains the integrity of the accreditation. The process is designed to be robust, promoting transparency and accountability, which are critical for building trust in cybersecurity measures.


What Kind of Cybersecurity Labs Would Need NVLAP Accreditation?

Like any other technology, cybersecurity tools and technologies often pass through rigorous testing and validation before hitting the market. Accordingly, these labs may undergo NVLAP accreditation, each specializing in cybersecurity testing and evaluation. Here are some examples:

  • Penetration Testing Labs: These labs specialize in simulating cyberattacks on systems, networks, and applications to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses. They may undergo NVLAP accreditation to demonstrate their competence in conducting comprehensive and ethical penetration tests. Accreditation adds credibility to their testing methodologies and assures clients of the reliability of their findings.
  • Forensic Analysis Labs: Forensic labs investigate cybersecurity incidents, such as data breaches or cybercrimes, and gather evidence for legal proceedings. NVLAP accreditation validates their adherence to standardized forensic procedures and ensures the integrity and admissibility of their findings in court. This accreditation is particularly valuable for forensic labs that work with law enforcement agencies or provide expert witness testimony.
  • Cryptographic Module Testing Labs: These labs evaluate the security and compliance of cryptographic modules, such as hardware security modules or cryptographic algorithms. NVLAP accreditation demonstrates their ability to assess the robustness and compliance of cryptographic implementations against established standards, such as FIPS requirements. Vendors and government agencies trust accredited labs to provide accurate and reliable assessments of cryptographic products.
  • Security Product Evaluation Labs: These labs evaluate the effectiveness and security of cybersecurity products and solutions, such as antivirus software, firewalls, or intrusion detection systems. NVLAP accreditation verifies their competence in conducting thorough product evaluations according to industry standards and best practices. Accredited labs provide vendors and consumers with confidence in the security posture of evaluated products, helping to inform purchasing decisions and improve overall cybersecurity.
  • Security Compliance Assessment Labs: Compliance labs assess organizations’ adherence to cybersecurity regulations and industry standards, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS.


What Are Unique Requirements that Cybersecurity Labs May Face During the Process?

Lazarus Alliance is a NIST National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP)While NVLAP accreditation and Common Criteria certification are separate processes, they can indeed overlap when a cybersecurity lab seeks accreditation for both. Cybersecurity labs may encounter special or unique requirements when seeking NVLAP accreditation specifically for Common Criteria evaluation. Here are a few:

  • Dual Expertise: Cybersecurity labs seeking NVLAP accreditation for Common Criteria evaluation must demonstrate expertise in cybersecurity testing methodologies and the specific requirements and evaluation criteria outlined in the Common Criteria standard. This requires a deep understanding of the security requirements specified in Protection Profiles (PPs) and Security Targets (STs), as well as the evaluation assurance levels (EALs) defined in the Common Criteria.
  • Compliance with Common Criteria Evaluation Methodologies: NVLAP-accredited labs must adhere to strict evaluation methodologies prescribed by the Common Criteria standard. This includes following standardized testing procedures, documentation requirements, and reporting formats specified by the Common Criteria Evaluation and Validation Scheme (CCEVS). Labs must ensure that their evaluation processes align with these methodologies to maintain accreditation.
  • Technical Competence in Common Criteria Domains: NVLAP accreditation for Common Criteria evaluation requires labs to demonstrate technical competence in specific domains relevant to the Common Criteria, such as cryptography, access control, or security management. This may involve employing experts in these areas.
  • Adherence to Common Criteria Protection Profiles: Cybersecurity labs seeking NVLAP accreditation for Common Criteria evaluation must adhere to the requirements specified in relevant Protection Profiles. PPs define the security requirements for specific IT products and systems, and labs must ensure their testing methodologies align with these requirements when evaluating products against the PP.
  • Collaboration with Accredited Common Criteria Laboratories: NVLAP-accredited labs may need to collaborate with other accredited Common Criteria evaluation facilities, such as international Common Criteria Testing Laboratories (CCTLs), for certain aspects of the evaluation process. This requires coordination and communication to ensure consistency and compatibility in evaluation results.

What Are Some Challenges These Labs Face When Keeping Their Accreditation?

Cybersecurity labs face several unique challenges and requirements when seeking NVLAP accreditation, mainly due to the complex and evolving nature of the cybersecurity field. Here are some of the key challenges and requirements:

  • Keeping Up with Technologies and Threats: Cybersecurity is characterized by rapid technological changes and emerging threats. Labs must continuously update their testing methods and tools to stay relevant and practical. NVLAP requires laboratories to demonstrate their ability to adapt and update their practices to meet current security standards, which can be resource-intensive and challenging to maintain over time.
  • Stringent Technical Competence Requirements: NVLAP accreditation demands high levels of technical competence, including knowledge of the latest security vulnerabilities and testing methodologies. Labs must employ skilled cybersecurity experts who accurately interpret testing outcomes and potential security risks. Recruiting and retaining such highly specialized staff can be difficult and expensive.
  • Comprehensive Documentation and Record Keeping: NVLAP requires extensive laboratory procedures, tests, and documentation of results. This documentation must be meticulously maintained to ensure traceability and reproducibility of results. Managing such detailed records can be a significant operational burden, requiring dedicated systems and processes.
  • Rigorous Quality Management Systems: Accreditation requires labs to implement robust quality management systems that ensure consistent test quality and reliability. This includes regular internal audits, corrective action procedures, and continuous improvement processes. Establishing and maintaining such systems is both time-consuming and costly.
  • Security and Confidentiality Protocols: Given the sensitive nature of the data often involved in cybersecurity testing, labs must also have stringent security measures to protect this information. This includes physical security of the facilities and cybersecurity measures to guard against data breaches. Demonstrating these protections to NVLAP can be challenging but is essential for accreditation.
  • Regular Proficiency Testing: To maintain accreditation, cybersecurity labs must participate in regular proficiency testing. This involves comparing their test results with other accredited labs to ensure continued accuracy and reliability. Organizing and participating in these tests adds additional operational complexity and costs.
  • Adherence to Specific Cybersecurity Standards: NVLAP accredits labs based on specific standards, which can vary widely depending on the type of cybersecurity testing (e.g., cryptographic module validation and penetration testing). Labs must be intimately familiar with these standards and ensure all tests comply with them, which can require specialized knowledge and equipment.


Trust Lazarus Alliance for NVLAP Common Criteria Assessment Preparation

If you’re looking to start or maintain your lab certification, contact Lazarus Alliance.


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