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Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) Publication 140-2

FIPS 140-2 standard overview

The Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) Publication 140-2 is a U.S. government standard that defines minimum security requirements for cryptographic modules in information technology products, as defined in Section 5131 of the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996.

The Cryptographic Module Validation Program (CMVP), a joint effort of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS), validates cryptographic modules to the Security Requirements for Cryptographic Modules standard (i.e., FIPS 140-2) and related FIPS cryptography standards. The FIPS 140-2 security requirements cover 11 areas related to the design and implementation of a cryptographic module. The NIST Information Technology Laboratory operates a related program that validates the FIPS approved cryptographic algorithms in the module.

Microsoft's approach to FIPS 140-2 validation

Microsoft maintains an active commitment to meeting the 140-2 requirements, having validated cryptographic modules since the standard's inception in 2001. Microsoft validates its cryptographic modules under the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cryptographic Module Validation Program (CMVP). Multiple Microsoft products, including many cloud services, use these cryptographic modules.

For technical information on Microsoft Windows cryptographic modules, the security policy for each module, and the catalog of CMVP certificate details, see the Windows and Windows Server FIPS 140-2 content.

Microsoft in-scope cloud platforms & services

While the current CMVP FIPS 140-2 implementation guidance precludes a FIPS 140-2 validation for a cloud service itself; cloud service providers can choose to obtain and operate FIPS 140 validated cryptographic modules for the computing elements that comprise their cloud service. Microsoft online services that include components, which have been FIPS 140-2 validated include, among others:

  • Azure and Azure Government
  • Dynamics 365 and Dynamics 365 Government
  • Office 365, Office 365 U.S. Government, and Office 365 U.S. Government Defense

Azure, Dynamics 365, and FIPS 140-2

For more information about Azure, Dynamics 365, and other online services compliance, see the Azure FIPS 140-2 offering.

Office 365 and FIPS 140-2

Office 365 environments

Microsoft Office 365 is a multi-tenant hyperscale cloud platform and an integrated experience of apps and services available to customers in several regions worldwide. Most Office 365 services enable customers to specify the region where their customer data is located. Microsoft may replicate customer data to other regions within the same geographic area (for example, the United States) for data resiliency, but Microsoft will not replicate customer data outside the chosen geographic area.

This section covers the following Office 365 environments:

  • Client software (Client): commercial client software running on customer devices.
  • Office 365 (Commercial): the commercial public Office 365 cloud service available globally.
  • Office 365 Government Community Cloud (GCC): the Office 365 GCC cloud service is available for United States Federal, State, Local, and Tribal governments, and contractors holding or processing data on behalf of the US Government.
  • Office 365 Government Community Cloud - High (GCC High): the Office 365 GCC High cloud service is designed according to Department of Defense (DoD) Security Requirements Guidelines Level 4 controls and supports strictly regulated federal and defense information. This environment is used by federal agencies, the Defense Industrial Base (DIBs), and government contractors.
  • Office 365 DoD (DoD): the Office 365 DoD cloud service is designed according to DoD Security Requirements Guidelines Level 5 controls and supports strict federal and defense regulations. This environment is for the exclusive use by the US Department of Defense.

Use this section to help meet your compliance obligations across regulated industries and global markets. To find out which services are available in which regions, see the International availability information and the Where your Microsoft 365 customer data is stored article. For more information about Office 365 Government cloud environment, see the Office 365 Government Cloud article.

Your organization is wholly responsible for ensuring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Information provided in this section does not constitute legal advice and you should consult legal advisors for any questions regarding regulatory compliance for your organization.

Office 365 applicability and in-scope services

Use the following table to determine applicability for your Office 365 services and subscription:

Applicability In-scope services
Office 365, GCC, GCC High, DoD See FIPS 140-2 Validation

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between 'FIPS 140 Validated' and 'FIPS 140 compliant'?

'FIPS 140 Validated' means that the cryptographic module, or a product that embeds the module has been validated ('certified') by the CMVP as meeting the FIPS 140-2 requirements. 'FIPS 140 compliant' is an industry term for IT products that rely on FIPS 140 Validated products for cryptographic functionality.

When does Microsoft undertake a FIPS 140 validation?

The cadence for starting a module validation aligns with the feature updates of Windows 10 and Windows Server. As the software industry evolved, operating systems are released more frequently, with monthly software updates. Microsoft undertakes validation for feature releases, but in between releases, seeks to minimize the changes to the cryptographic modules.

Which computers are included in a FIPS 140 validation?

Microsoft validates cryptographic modules on a representative sample of hardware configurations running Windows 10 and Windows Server. It is common industry practice to accept this FIPS 140-2 validation when an environment uses hardware, which is similar to the samples used for the validation process.

There are many modules listed on the NIST website. How do I know which one applies to my agency?

If you are required to use cryptographic modules validated through FIPS 140-2, you need to verify that the version you use appears on the validation list. The CMVP and Microsoft maintain a list of validated cryptographic modules, organized by product release, along with instructions for identifying which modules are installed on a Windows system. For more information on configuring systems to be compliant, see the Windows and Windows Server FIPS 140-2 content.

What does 'When operated in FIPS mode' mean on a certificate?

This caveat informs the reader that required configuration and security rules must be followed to use the cryptographic module in a way that is consistent with its FIPS 140-2 security policy. Each module has its own security policy — a precise specification of the security rules under which it will operate — and employs approved cryptographic algorithms, cryptographic key management, and authentication techniques. The security rules are defined in the security policy for each module. For more information, including links to the security policy for each module validated through the CMVP, see the Windows and Windows Server FIPS 140-2 content.

Does FedRAMP require FIPS 140-2 validation?

Yes, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) relies on control baselines defined by the NIST SP 800-53 Revision 4, including SC-13 Cryptographic Protection mandating the use of FIPS-validated cryptography or NSA-approved cryptography.

Can I use Microsoft's adherence to FIPS 140-2 in my agency's certification process?

To comply with FIPS 140-2, your system must be configured to run in a FIPS approved mode of operation, which includes ensuring that a cryptographic module uses only FIPS-approved algorithms. For more information on configuring systems to be compliant, see the Windows and Windows Server FIPS 140-2 content.

What is the relationship between FIPS 140-2 and Common Criteria?

These are two separate security standards with different, but complementary, purposes. FIPS 140-2 is designed specifically for validating software and hardware cryptographic modules, while the Common Criteria is designed to evaluate security functions in IT software and hardware products. Common Criteria evaluations often rely on FIPS 140-2 validations to provide assurance that basic cryptographic functionality is implemented properly.