An Authority to Operate, or ATO, is a formal declaration by a US Government Agency that authorizes the use of a particular application, platform, or product within the agency’s network.
While the ATO process may vary slightly between agencies, they ultimately require an exhaustive review of the application, and completion of a large set of content that accurately captures and defines the risk that using the application presents to the agency. Once the ATO submission is made, a Designated Authorizing Official (DAO) with the government agency reviews and either requests clarification on aspects of the application or certifies the application for use.
The ATO process is time consuming, and must be refreshed every few years, representing a significant workload for IT operations and security teams alike. Because many parts of the process are highly repeatable, however, the ATO process is also an excellent target for automation.
ATO Automation, or ATO-A provides a platform of capabilities that include pre-documented components, tools, and processes that can be applied to generic applications, greatly reducing the required work to submit for and achieve an ATO. ATO-A is a also a core component of digital transformation efforts.
With the adoption of compliance automation, organizations can significantly reduce total cost and the time typically required to monitor and validate ATO controls, while also increasing compliance scores. Only a fully integrated and automated solution that includes the governance, technology, process, and personnel will reduce the burden and increase innovation.