3.1.20 Verify and control/limit connections to and use of external systems.

External systems are systems or components of systems for which organizations typically have no direct supervision and authority over the application of security requirements and controls or the determination of the effectiveness of implemented controls on those systems. External systems include personally owned systems, components, or devices and privately-owned computing and communications devices resident in commercial or public facilities. This requirement also addresses the use of external systems for the processing, storage, or transmission of CUI, including accessing cloud services (e.g., infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, or software as a service) from organizational systems.

Organizations establish terms and conditions for the use of external systems in accordance with organizational security policies and procedures. Terms and conditions address as a minimum, the types of applications that can be accessed on organizational systems from external systems. If terms and conditions with the owners of external systems cannot be established, organizations may impose restrictions on organizational personnel using those external systems.

This requirement recognizes that there are circumstances where individuals using external systems (e.g., contractors, coalition partners) need to access organizational systems. In those situations, organizations need confidence that the external systems contain the necessary controls so as not to compromise, damage, or otherwise harm organizational systems. Verification that the required controls have been effectively implemented can be achieved by third-party, independent assessments, attestations, or other means, depending on the assurance or confidence level required by organizations.

Note that while “external” typically refers to outside of the organization’s direct supervision and authority, that is not always the case. Regarding the protection of CUI across an organization, the organization may have systems that process CUI and others that do not. And among the systems that process CUI there are likely access restrictions for CUI that apply between systems. Therefore, from the perspective of a given system, other systems within the organization may be considered “external” to that system.

Actionable Items: Sections 3.1.14 and 3.1.15 should be followed closely here. Also make sure you have proper contracts drawn between any outside actors with remote access. You may also draw up contracts with any employees that have off-site access to your system.

Monitoring: For some methods of remote connection the same monitoring software that can monitor the network can also monitor this. However, there are some connections methods that circumvent this type of monitoring and therefore should have some other sort of monitoring or control to ensure security. These second type of services usually include remote desktop software which is widely used by service companies. There are not many remote desktop software that have secure encryption.