OSCAL files: Everything you need to know

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-changing fields in the world today. This is due to several factors, including AI, multi-factor authentication, and of course, updated techniques and competencies of bad actors in the space. That means staying compliant with industry standards and regulations is incredibly difficult, but it remains one of the most crucial aspects of safeguarding sensitive and proprietary information for organizations. However, ensuring that various organizations stay compliant and up-to-date is an even more complex task.

These challenges necessitated the creation of the Open Security Controls Assessment Language (OSCAL), released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). OSCAL represents another leap forward in the standardization and streamlining of security documentation. 

Understanding OSCAL

The OSCAL provides a framework for documenting security controls, assessments, and related information across various compliance frameworks. By using a data-centric approach, OSCAL facilitates the automation of generating, maintaining, and exchanging security documentation in machine-readable formats like XML, JSON, and YAML. This standardization helps improve interoperability among tools while also making the entire process more efficient. 

OSCAL is not just about creating documents. It’s about creating a system that enables the exchange of information across platforms. This allows organizations to develop and maintain a more robust cybersecurity posture. 

OSCAL for organizations

For businesses, the Open Security Controls Assessment Language on its own provides some significant advantages:

  • Streamlined compliance: OSCAL reduces the time and effort required to reach and maintain compliance.
  • Reduced costs: Automation decreases the need for extensive manual labor, making the entire process much faster and thus reducing operational costs.
  • Enhanced security: The structured approach helps organizations implement and update their security controls consistently.
  • Agility and flexibility: OSCAL supports multiple regulatory frameworks, allowing organizations to adapt quickly to new regulations and standards.

Despite these advantages, managing your cybersecurity, in addition to the entire ServiceNow environment, is a complex issue, especially for organizations without the technical expertise or resources to leverage this framework fully. 

Implementing OSCAL

The OSCAL framework is composed of multiple parts, including a System Security Plan (SSP), assessment plans and results, implementation statements, plans for continuous monitoring, and more. The end result is typically over 300 pages of technical documentation that organizations are expected to manage. Traditional, manual implementation can create several challenges for companies, including:

  • Technical complexity: Understanding and applying the OSCAL framework requires a specific set of skills and knowledge, which may necessitate significant training or hiring of specialized personnel. 
  • Integration with existing systems: Integrating OSCAL files into current IT ecosystems without disrupting existing operations is a common challenge.
  • Continuous updates: Keeping up with updates in OSCAL standards and ensuring compliance documents are current can be daunting.

Simplify OSCAL with ServiceNow 

Pathways Consulting Group is an experienced ServiceNow partner, and we have seen first-hand how difficult it can be for organizations to keep up with OSCAL. We decided to address these challenges head-on, so we created OSCAL NOW, an innovative cybersecurity solution built on the ServiceNow platform. Our team was able to take OSCAL and simplify it further, making compliance simpler and more accessible. 

Key features of OSCAL NOW

  • Simplified ServiceNow integration: OSCAL NOW is easily downloadable from the ServiceNow app store. It integrates directly into your existing ServiceNow environment, allowing for a smooth transition and immediate usability.
  • Automated document management: This tool automates the creation, management, and updating of OSCAL files, significantly reducing manual workload and the potential for human error.
  • Continuous compliance: With automatic updates and version control, organizations ensure they always meet the latest standards – even without manual oversight.

Working with Pathways Consulting Group

Pathways Consulting Group stands out as a ServiceNow partner due to our deep expertise in ServiceNow integration, particularly our comprehensive understanding of its technical and practical applications with OSCAL. Our groundbreaking solutions ensure that organizations can take full advantage of OSCAL without heavy investments in tools or training. By working with Pathways, businesses gain a partner that not only designs and implements a solution but also ensures it aligns perfectly with their security and compliance needs.

OSCAL is transforming how organizations manage and document security controls and compliance. However, the complexity of implementing and managing OSCAL can be a barrier for many, if not most, organizations. Pathways Consulting Group is a trusted ServiceNow partner. Through our years of experience, our team created the OSCAL NOW platform to offer companies a better way. This app is a powerful tool that allows users to do what they do best – run their operations securely and effectively.