The Orange Book, FIPS PUBS, and the Common Criteria

Appendix. The Orange Book, FIPS PUBS, and the Common Criteria

When the U.S. government writes the standards, and then becomes itself one of the largest customers for equipment that meets requirements defined by those standards, those standards become important very quickly. Add to this the fact that once the government overcomes its own bureaucratic forces to the point it actually accomplishes something, the corollary is that the work stays in force for a long time.

Such is the case of the Orange Book. Different organizations required different levels of security, and because security professionals needed a metric to gauge if a computer system was secure enough for the intended purpose, the government developed the Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria (TCSEC) and published them in a book that had an orange cover, hence the nickname "Orange Book." The Orange Book was part of a family of publications on security with different colored covers called the Rainbow Book series. See the sidebar "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

The Orange Book was an abstract, very concise description of computer security requirements. It raised more questions than it answered. In an attempt to help system developers, the government has published a number of additional books interpreting Orange Book requirements in particular, puzzling areas. These were known collectively as the Rainbow Series because each had a different color cover, and the influence of these publications is still felt in government computing today.

Chief among the documents in the Rainbow Series was the Trusted Network Interpretation (TNI), the Red Book, which interpreted the criteria described in the Orange Book for networks and network components. Published in 1987, this book identified security features not mentioned in the Orange Book that applied to networks, and it described how these features fit into the graded classification of systems described in the Orange Book. For example, the Red Book discussed how the concept of group identification for DAC might be extended to Internet addresses.

Another book that left traces of language that can sometimes be seen today is Trusted Database Management System Interpretation (TDI), the Lavender Book. This book was directed toward developers of database management systems and interpreted Orange Book requirements for DBMS products. For example, this book discussed how the concept of security labels might be extended to labels for stored view definitions (obtained via DBMS query commands).

There were more than 20 books in the Rainbow Series. Some others included:

Green Book

Password Management Guideline

Tan Book

A Guide to Understanding Audit in Trusted Systems

Purple Book

Guidelines for Formal Verification Systems

Burgundy Book

A Guide to Understanding Design Documentation in Trusted Systems

In theory, the Orange Book, et al., have been superseded by the international Common Criteria, but you would not know it in some circles. The language of the Orange Book, and its rating system, is so pervasive that if you're at all interested in computer security, you'll need to know something about the Orange Book.

Concurrent with the development of the Orange Book is a series of government standards known as the Federal Information Processing Standards Publications. FIPS PUBS are the language of computer system acquisition and information technology operations, as viewed by the U.S. government.

The Common Criteria is the name given to a unification of TCSEC and its European counterpart, the Information Technology Security Evaluation Criteria. Common Criteria represents where the definition of security standardization is going, but the actual state of the art is found somewhere in the nexus of TCSEC, ITSEC, and the national security evaluation policies from several other nations.

The following sections describe these three standards.

Computer Security Basics
Computer Security Basics
ISBN: 0596006691
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 121

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