CSfC, or Commercial Solutions for Classified, is a program established by the National Security Agency (NSA). This program allows commercial off-the-shelf technology to be used in secure government communications. CSfC empowers government agencies to use products from private companies that meet specific security standards the NSA sets. These agencies no longer rely solely on expensive and customized government equipment. The CSfC program has become increasingly important as government agencies seek more cost-effective solutions while maintaining high security levels. Overall, the CSfC program provides government agencies greater flexibility and promotes technological advancement in secure government communications. In this post, we explore the origins of CSfC, underscore its importance, and point to CSfC-listed products from Digistor.

Exploring the Origins of CSfC (Commercial Solutions for Classified)

The history of CSfC (Commercial Solutions for Classified) dates back to the early 2000s. Our government recognized the need for secure communication solutions both sectors could use. The idea behind CSfC was to create standards that would allow the use of commercial products in classified environments without compromising security.

During this time, the government tasked the NSA with developing secure communication systems. Such systems are needed to transmit classified information without being intercepted by foreign governments or other unauthorized parties.

To meet this challenge, the NSA began working on several projects, including developing encryption technologies and secure communication protocols. Over time, these efforts evolved into what we now know as CSfC.

CSfC in the Past

The NSA released the first version of CSfC in 2010. It quickly gained popularity among government agencies and contractors looking for a more secure way to communicate. Since then, the program has continued evolving and improving, with new features and capabilities regularly added.

Initially, CSfC focused on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, which were becoming increasingly popular among government employees. However, over time, the program expanded to include other types of technology, such as laptops, servers, and networking equipment.

CSfC Today

Over the years, CSfC has continued to evolve and adapt to changing technologies and threats. Today, CSfC provides access to commercial off the shelf products that are secure and properly vetted. Numerous government agencies and contractors have adopted it, which continues to play an essential role in national security efforts.

By creating this set of standards, the program has helped bridge the gap between the public and private sectors.

Selling to the Government without CSfC Listing

One key benefit is that CSfC allows government agencies to use the latest commercial technologies while maintaining strict security protocols. This means they can benefit from features like cloud computing and remote access without sacrificing security.

However, not all products meet the standards and the lengthy validation process CSfC requires. When CSfC was in its infancy, companies could apply for a waiver from the NSA if their products were not listed. Today, however, the issuance of these waivers is incredibly unusual.

Products considered for top-secret applications must be labeled at two levels of CSfC certification. For example, the software and hardware components of our Citadel K series are on the CSFC product-compliant list. This constitutes one layer of the two-layer solution described above.

How Do Products Achieve CSfC Listing?

To be listed as a CSfC solution, products must go through an independent agency approved by the NSA. This third party certifies that products maintain the necessary level of protection for classified data. Depending on the client’s needs, solutions can vary from mobile access to complete capability packages.

Trusted integrators play a vital role in the CSfC program. They allow clients to deploy and maintain their systems remotely while maintaining security standards. These integrators can build and offer solutions for classified data without compromising information or enabling unauthorized access.

All CSfC-listed components must meet their particular Protection Profiles, which outline specific requirements for product types. If a technology category lacks a formal Protection Profile, the vendor must contact a representative from the NSA before proceeding.

Why Does CSfC Matter?

CSfC, or Commercial Solutions for Classified, is a program that allows commercial technology to be used in secure government communications. But why does it matter?

It Offers Access to Affordable Solutions

First and foremost, CSfC provides a cost-effective solution for the government to communicate securely with each other and their partners. By embracing commercial solutions, they can access cutting-edge technologies that are both affordable and secure. The government can save money on expensive custom-built solutions while maintaining the necessary security level.

It Makes Government Agencies and Programs More Flexible

By allowing commercially available products, CSfC offers government agencies access to a broader range of technologies. This enables government agencies to select products and services that best fit their needs.

It Enables Faster Deployment of New Technologies

Additionally, CSfC enables faster deployment of new technologies. With the constantly evolving landscape of technology, the government must have access to the latest tools and software.

The technology used in “made-for-government” solutions tends to lag behind what’s happening in the private sector. This is because the government often takes a while to determine what it needs and define the requirements or standards.

Private companies can develop new technologies much faster and are driven to do so by competition with others in their sector. The potential to capture significant market share and lead the industry encourages private companies to invest in R&D. With the CSfC program, quicker adoption of technological advancements without sacrificing security is possible.

CSfC Listing Also Lifts the Private Sector

The opportunity to have products approved by CSfC also pushes private companies to innovate and exceed industry standards. This listing opens the door to government contracts and enhances consumer trust in the company whose products are CSfC listed.

It Leverages Cutting-Edge Technologies to Protect Our National Security

Most importantly, CSfC helps ensure national security. By using secure communication channels, the government can protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. This not only covers our country’s secrets but also helps maintain trust between allies and partners.

What’s the Difference between NSA Type 1 and CSfC?

The National Security Agency (NSA) has long been associated with classified information and government security. One of their key classifications is the Type 1 rating, which denotes the highest level of protection for classified data. In recent years, they have also launched Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC).

One significant difference between NSA Type 1 and CSfC is their approach to access. Type 1 refers to products approved by the agency and built to meet their strict standards. On the other hand, CSfC allows for a more flexible approach. It uses a “capability package” comprising commercial products certified by an independent, trusted integrator. This will enable clients to maintain mobile access to classified data while ensuring it remains secure.

Another difference lies in how these programs address innovation. While Type 1 has traditionally encouraged progress and the latest technology, this often came at the cost of security. CSfC seeks to balance innovation and protection by listing specific components that can be used within its solutions. This way, companies can continue to innovate and develop without sacrificing security.

Ultimately, both Type 1 and CSfC aim to provide secure solutions for classified data. The choice between them depends on individual agency needs and budgets. Type 1 provides the most proven and safe solution for those with high-value or top-secret data. CSfC offers a more affordable option for those who require remote capability and flexibility in accessing their information.

Both programs remain committed to ensuring that government agencies can protect classified information from unauthorized access or theft.

Who Uses the CSfC Approved Products List?

Classifying data and maintaining its security is crucial in today’s digital age. CSfC products offer a solution for both classified and non-classified data. As such, CSfC products are used by a wide range of clients, from government agencies to commercial businesses.

For example, this resource from the NSA notes that CSfC clients include a wide variety of “National Security Systems (NSS) stakeholders.” Among these stakeholders are “the Department of Defense (DoD), the Intelligence Community (IC), Military Services and other federal agencies.”

But commercial businesses are also CSfC clients. To secure intellectual property, protect trade secrets, and ensure consumer data is safe, private companies also rely on CSfC-listed products. They often check CSfC’s list of components before

purchasing software or hardware elements to enhance secure data storage and sharing.

Our Citadel™ K Series SSDs with Pre-Boot Authentication are used across the private and public sectors. Because both FIPS SSDs and PBA are CSfC listed, this series boasts a complete CSfC layer.

Final Thoughts

In creating CSfC, the NSA created an ongoing opportunity for collaboration between the public and private sectors. This collaboration provides government agencies with the best, most up-to-date technologies the private industry offers. It allows the private sector to prove the safety and effectiveness to consumers while contracting with the government. This partnership enhances our national security.

In short, CSfC matters because it provides a cost-effective, efficient, and secure way for the government to use new technology. It’s an essential tool in protecting our nation’s interests and ensuring our safety.


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