The Digitalist Team
December 19, 2023

Common Criteria Protection Profile Library: A Repository of Trusted Security Standards

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In the landscape of information technology, security is a paramount concern. The Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation has emerged as an internationally recognized set of technical standards encapsulated in ISO/IEC 15408-1:2009 to address this. 

This framework provides a systematic approach for assessing the security capabilities of various information technology products. 

Within the Common Criteria framework, Protection Profiles play a crucial role. A PP serves as a specialized blueprint, tailoring security requirements to specific types of IT products. By presenting a structured methodology for addressing security concerns, the Common Criteria  Protection Profiles guide the evaluation process, ensuring that information technology solutions adhere to rigorous security standards. This article delves into the significance of Protection Profiles within the CC framework, unraveling their role in fortifying the security posture of IT products and systems.

Within the Common Criteria framework, Protection Profiles play a crucial role. Source: Freepik

Understanding Common Criteria Protection Profiles

A Protection Profile (PP) serves as a foundational and comprehensive document at the core of the certification process, acting as a roadmap for evaluating and ensuring the security of IT products. Governed by ISO/IEC 15408, alias Common Criteria (CC), a PP is not merely a static document but a dynamic entity meticulously crafted to address the unique challenges a specific type of IT product poses.

Its significance lies in its ability to amalgamate threats, security objectives, assumptions, security functional requirements, security assurance requirements, and rationales into a cohesive framework.

In essence, a Common Criteria Protection Profile is a tailored set of guidelines embodying a systematic approach to fortifying the security posture of information systems. It goes beyond mere documentation, becoming a detailed blueprint that substantiates vendors' claims regarding the security robustness of a particular family of information system products. This substantiation is achieved by specifying generic security evaluation criteria, a critical component that underpins the entire certification process.

Quantifying Security: The Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL)

One notable aspect of a Common Criteria Protection Profile is its capacity to express the depth and rigor of the security evaluation process through the Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL). The EAL, ranging from 1 to 7, serves as a quantifiable metric, providing a standardized measure of the thoroughness applied in evaluating a product's security features. 

This evaluation encompasses supporting documentation and rigorous testing, ensuring the product meets the stringent security requirements outlined in the Common Criteria Protection Profile.

Precision Targeting: Addressing Security Concerns for TOE

Moreover, a Common Criteria Protection Profile operates with precision, focusing on the specific security concerns relevant to a designated Target of Evaluation (TOE). The TOE represents the product, whether smart meters, network devices, digital signature product, or other IT entities. 

Common Criteria Protection Profile becomes an indispensable guide for the evaluation process by articulating security requirements tailored to address identified issues. This strategic alignment is crucial for ensuring that the evaluation process is efficient and effective, targeting the unique security challenges posed by the TOE.

Initiating Evaluation: The Comprehensive Security Target (ST) Document

Vendors must create a comprehensive Security Target (ST) document to initiate the evaluation journey. This document, evaluated within the Assurance Security Environment (ASE) assessment class, becomes a cornerstone of every Common Criteria (CC) assessment. The ST goes beyond the generic guidelines of the Common Criteria Protection Profile, delving into the minutiae of the product and the assessment's purpose. It is a detailed exposé, thoroughly explaining every facet of the product and its security features.

Structured Methodology: Defining Minimum Requirements

Common Criteria Protection Profiles go beyond being a set of guidelines – they become a structured methodology for presenting threats to specific security objectives. 

This structured approach identifies potential vulnerabilities and defines the minimum requirements for corresponding security measures. By doing so, Common Criteria Protection Profiles establishes a robust framework that ensures a consistent and comprehensive evaluation process, laying the foundation for trust in the security claims of certified IT products.

Common Criteria  Protection Profiles guide the evaluation process. Source: Freepik

Certification based on Protection Profiles

Certification initiates with vendors or developers applying the certification authority, triggering a comprehensive evaluation process. 

The role of the Evaluation Technical Report (ETR)

At the core of the certification process lies the Evaluation Technical Report (ETR). This complete document is a chronicle of the product's journey through evaluation, capturing crucial insights into its adherence to the meticulously outlined security criteria and overall structure specified in the Common Criteria Protection Profile. The ETR becomes a tangible representation of the product's security robustness, providing stakeholders with a detailed account of its strengths and areas of compliance.

CB Scrutiny: Meticulous Review for Rigorous Compliance

The certification body's (CB) scrutiny is critical in this process. The CB assumes the role of an impartial evaluator, meticulously reviewing the documentation submitted by the vendor or developer. 

This scrutiny goes beyond a mere formality; it is a rigorous examination to ensure that the product meets the predefined security criteria. The CB's meticulous review lays the foundation for the subsequent issuance of certification, signifying that the product has successfully withstood rigorous scrutiny.

Culmination of Compliance: Issuance of Certification

The issuance of certification is not a mere acknowledgment but a culmination of a journey marked by compliance confirmation. The certification body (CB) plays a crucial role in this final step, affirming that the product meets recognized security standards and criteria. 

This issuance is not just a stamp of approval but a testament to the product's capability to meet and exceed stringent security expectations. It elevates the product from a mere offering to a certified and trustworthy component in the digital landscape.

A Common Criteria Protection Profile is a robust platform for users and buyers to cultivate trust. Source: Freepik

Importance of Certification

The certification process is a crucial mechanism in information security, ensuring that the established security criteria comprehensively cover a spectrum of potential risks. 

By subjecting products or systems to a rigorous evaluation, certification acts as a proactive safeguard, identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities that could threaten the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information. This pivotal step ensures that certified products are resilient and capable of withstanding various security challenges.

Certification as a Trust-Building Platform: Independent Validation of Security Standards

Beyond its technical facets, a Common Criteria certification based on a chosen protection Profile is a robust platform for users and buyers to cultivate trust. It is a testament that a product or system has undergone an independent and thorough examination, assuring stakeholders. 

The certification process is a neutral arbiter, validating the product's adherence to recognized and standardized security benchmarks. This independent validation becomes a cornerstone for trust-building, signaling to users that the security claims made by certified products are not mere assertions but have been rigorously verified by impartial evaluators.

Confidence in Security Promises: Enhancing Market Acceptance and Trust

Certification instills profound confidence in users regarding the security promises made by certified products. This heightened confidence becomes a catalyst for improved market acceptance and trust. 

Users and buyers can confidently navigate the digital landscape, knowing that accredited products have undergone a meticulous evaluation process. This assurance enhances the reputation of certified products and contributes to creating a healthier and more trustworthy digital marketplace.

Common Criteria Protection Profiles stand out as foundational pillars. Source: Freepik

Most Common Protection Profiles

Specific Common Criteria Protection Profiles stand out as foundational pillars, each meticulously crafted to address specific security challenges. Below, we delve into the intricacies of three such profiles, highlighting their significance in fortifying digital landscapes against evolving threats.

Network Device Collaborative Protection Profile (NDcPP)

The NDcPP takes center stage as a robust framework, specifying a fundamental set of security requirements expected from a network solution. 

This Common Criteria Protection Profile is specifically designed to specify a fundamental set of security requirements expected from a network solution. Its wide embrace among network device suppliers attests to its effectiveness. The NDcPP's structured approach to security requirements ensures consistency and reliability in the certification process. 

Under this cPP(collaborative Protection Profile), networked devices may be physical or virtualized. In the context of a physical Network Device (pND), this entails including network device functionality within a tangible chassis with physical network connections. Implementing network device functionality within a pND can utilize hardware, software, or a combination of both. In the case of pNDs, the Target of Evaluation (TOE) spans the entirety of the device, encompassing both the network device functionality and the physical chassis. This configuration eliminates any differentiation between the TOE and the TOE Platform.

The NDcPP Common Criteria Protection Profile is pivotal in fostering a resilient and standardized security posture across diverse network environments by providing a universal baseline for security expectations.

Common Criteria Protection Profiles are a repository of trusted security standards. Source: Freepik

Signature Activation Module Protection Profile (SAM)

This Common Criteria Protection Profile emerges as a critical component, offering a security element implementable in signing services. Aligned with remote signing standards defined by CEN and ETSI under the eIDAS regulation, SAM holds particular importance for entities dealing with legal documents. 

Its compliance with the CEN EN 419 241-1 standard ensures a meticulous verification of the origin and authenticity of signature requests, authorizing key-related activities. Integrating SAM into signing infrastructure enhances overall security and ensures compliance with eIDAS regulations. SAM, AM, within the Common Criteria Protection Profile framework, becomes an indispensable tool for entities traversing the legal landscape, providing a vital layer of security in digital signatures.

Cryptographic Module Protection Profile

At the core of digital trust lies the Cryptographic Module Protection Profile, outlining stringent security requirements for cryptographic modules. These modules, encompassing hardware, software, and firmware, play a pivotal role in managing and safeguarding private signing keys. 

Crucially, they facilitate the creation of legally binding documents across EU/EEA member states. The Common Criteria Protection Profile ensures that these modules are resistant to moderate attack potential and capable of providing a robust layer of security. By setting a high standard for cryptographic security functions, this Common Criteria Protection Profile becomes the bedrock upon which digital trust is built, reinforcing the integrity of digital transactions and communications.

Conclusion

Common Criteria Protection Profiles are a repository of trusted security standards, ensuring the reliability and integrity of IT products and systems. Understanding Common Criteria Protection Profiles, the certification process and the significance of certification educates stakeholders and emphasizes these profiles' critical role in building a secure digital environment.

As technology advances, the role of Common Criteria Protection Profiles in safeguarding digital assets becomes increasingly crucial, making them a cornerstone of modern information security practices. Embracing and adhering to these profiles meets certification requirements and instills user confidence, fostering a secure and reliable digital ecosystem.

In providing support, CCLab, an agile cybersecurity lab, offers evaluation and consultation services for organizations seeking Common Criteria Evaluation certifications. Employing agile methodologies in the consultation and pre-evaluation phases enables clients to navigate potential challenges, avoid unexpected costs, and expedite the certification process.

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