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Tech Brief

Enabling Real-Time Visibility and Reporting on Compliance Controls with Splunk

A Historical Challenge with NIST Compliance

Maintaining visibility into security posture with respect to federally-mandated information security controls has historically been a challenging and often time-consuming line of activity across Federal agencies, DoD components, systems integrators, contractors, and research institutions. These challenges in many ways have been driven by the underlying technical complexities of implementing meaningful solutions for automated analysis and reporting on the status of information security controls specified in NIST Security Engineering and Risk Management Group guidance and doing so in a timely manner.

Distilling down these underlying technical complexities reveals four key challenges: scope and scale of information and systems; diversity of the environments; constant changes across the environment; and aggregation, analysis and status reporting on security posture.

PBST Historical technical Copmplexities

Scope and Scale

In many cases, the scope and scale of most executive agencies, DoD components, large systems integrators, and research institutions are so complex and distributed that agency heads, chief information officers, senior information, security officers (ISSMs/ISSOs) have historically been challenged to effectively maintain a comprehensive view of their security posture across the whole of their organization and down into each of their suborganizations.

Diverse Environments

Further complicating this scope and scale challenge is the diversity of the environments across these organizations. In many cases sub-organizations, with their varying responsibilities, priorities, and mission sets, contain a diverse array of systems, software and vendors. When viewed individually, the components of these diverse environments are not necessarily problematic from a security perspective. The key challenge arises when attempting to gain a comprehensive understanding of security posture across the diverse components of ansub-organization’s infrastructure. This sub-org challenge exists to some degreevacross each component and when aggregated up to the full Executive agency, DoD component, or organizational level, it makes holistic understanding of security posture a considerable challenge. Leaders need a solution that can provide visibility into down into and across their environments, regardless of its architecture or the components it is comprised of.

Constant Change

Adding to the challenges posted by the scale and diversity of these environments is the near constant change introduced by system usage and configuration.  The dynamic nature of information systems and users creates a real-world scenario that requires continuous monitoring to truly understand the security posture of an environment, sub-agency or agency.

Data Collection and Reporting

Beyond the importance of complying with federal law and DoD instructions, understanding and reporting on the security posture of information systems that agencies use to drive critical missions is a matter of national stability and security.  Unfortunately, the data collection, analysis and compilation required for reporting can be a time-consuming exercise that takes time away from other important tasks and in some cases produces an outdated view of system security posture.  This challenge ties in closely with the importance of continuous monitoring mentioned previously in the context of constant change.  if that reporting is simply an outdated snapshot in time versus a near real-time assessment driven by continuous monitoring, then agency leaders are ill-equipped to make data-driven decisions related to the status and security of the critical infrastructure under their purview.

Splunk's Adaptable NIST Compliant Software

Splunk has crafted a quick-start solution that is specifically tailored to address each of these historical technical complexities and drive rapid operationalization of continuous monitoring of technical security controls relevant to U.S. civilian agencies, DoD components, systems integrators, and research institutions. This solution was specifically aligned to address the key historical technical challenges cited above.:

  • E-Discovery - Search every data source required for E-Discovery from one place. Get instantaneous results across large data sets
  • FISMA - Securely collect, index and store all your log and machine data along with audit trails to meet NIST requirements.
  • HIPAA - Search all your machine data to instantly assess reports of EPHI leakage and meet HIPAA’s explicit log requirements
  • PCI - Rapid compliance with explicit PCI requirements for log retention/review and change monitoring, comprehensive reporting on all PCI controls such as passwords and firewall policy.
  • SOX - Splunk makes the ambiguous chore of compliance mandated routine log review easy and straightforward.

Scope and Scale

Splunk’s compliance posture analytics solution, based on Splunk Enterprise software, natively provides a highly-scalable platform that can ingest and analyze virtually any type of machine data. This naturally aligns with the scope and scale challenge in that it provides an easy path to consolidate and automate collection of “compliance-relevant” status information - on-prem, in the cloud, or across hybrid environments.

Diverse Environments

Splunk software provides data normalization through a set of common information models. This means that the compliance posture solution provides a vendor agnostic view of even the most diverse environments - regardless of the the separate types of systems, information, and vendors that comprise any given agency or sub-organization. This cross-cutting, vendor agnostic view enables teams to look across the diverse components of their organizations and assess their posture with respect to the relevant technical security controls.

Constant Change

The pre-packaged analytics and visualizations included in Splunk’s compliance posture solution, built on top of Splunk’s near real-time architecture, ensures that agency heads and operations teams are able to identify security events that are trending toward non-compliance as they emerge. This continuous visibility into constantly changing environments is one of the drivers that has made Splunk Enterprise a central component of the continuous diagnostics and mitigation (CDM) program at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Unlike legacy solutions based on schema-on-write databases, Splunk’s schema on the fly approach enables agency security and compliance analysts to ask additional questions of their data and drive new insights dynamically without having to wait to redesign a database schema first.

Data Collection and Reporting

Some of Splunk’s largest customers ingest over two petabytes of data per day across distributed infrastructure and multiple geographic locations. Splunk’s compliance posture analytics solution has created a total paradigm shift in continuous monitoring for compliance and information security by combining the ability to rapidly collect, analyze, and report on data from across complex environments and providing meaningful insights and reporting in near real time – all within the context of the relevant technical compliance and risk management frameworks applicable across Executive Agencies, DoD components, Federal Systems Integrators, and major research institutions.

Splunk For Compliance Applications 


Escalating law enforcement requests to investigate suspected criminal activity online are distracting IT at education institutions and large enterprises that provide Internet access. Servicing requests is distracting and time consuming and the inability to respond effectively opens organizations to legal risk. Splunk makes E-Discovery fast and easy. You can search every data source required for E-Discovery from one place. Instantaneous results across large data sets slash the time to respond to requests. Set-up simple searches for HR personnel to lift the burden from IT staff. Data signing and audit trails demonstrate the integrity of your results.


FISMA and NIST standards require federal government agencies have the ability to effectively respond to incidents by analyzing massive amounts of data from large network and IT infrastructures. Splunk scales to provide visibility into the security technologies in large network infrastructures. Powerful search and reporting of results and flexible ways to organize and tag systems with inventory information and enable the creation of status views for different security controls or locations.


HIPAA and EPHI security and privacy rules include explicit requirements for audit trail collection, review, automated monitoring and incident investigation. But providers and insurance carriers lack the ability to rapidly search machine data in support of incident investigation requirements. Slow, manual investigation process raises level of exposure and risk of violations. Splunk closes HIPAA compliance gaps. Search your machine data to instantly assess reports of EPHI leakage and meet HIPAA’s explicit log collection and monitoring requirements.

Splunk is the CHW standard for event logging for HIPAA. It’s a critical tool for monitoring access to information to our business, and patient privacy.

Steve Hight, Director Strategic Technology, CHW


Credit card merchants find collecting and retaining audit trails for at least one year is the most daunting PCI compliance requirement. It’s difficult to access, analyze and manage all the data from card processing systems. Existing PCI solutions are expensive, clumsy and difficult to maintain. The Splunk App for PCI Compliance is a pre-packed application that provides rapid compliance with PCI requirements for audit trail collection, retention and review.


Failure to comply with PCI equates to failure for our business. Splunk enables us to demonstrate compliance across all PCI DSS requirements.

Peter Bassill, Director Strategic Technology, CISSP


Sarbanes-Oxley IT compliance has driven public companies and their vendors to adopt stringent IT controls based on ITIL, COBiT, COSO, ISO 17799, BS-7799 and other best-practice frameworks for IT operations and security. Demonstrating these controls has become a huge burden for IT operations, Splunk provides comprehensive visibility for SOX IT controls. Search the data generated by SOX control tools and technologies from one place. Instantaneous retrieve the information requested by IT auditors.

Splunk automated our evidence gathering for SOX compliance, saving engineering from working on compliance related tasks.

David Jones, IT Ops Manager, Alexza Pharmaceutical

Anticipated Impact

Accelerated path to compliance

  • Wide visibility Agency-level or org-level compliance/security posture
  • Newly gained visibility into compliance posture will aid prioritization of corrective actions for non-compliant resources

Consistent implementations

  • Universal platform for machine data that consolidates and normalizes compliance/security-relevant data regardless of the vendor
  • Data normalization supports consistent reporting across the agency/sub-agency while providing flexibility as systems and mission requirements continue to evolve

Maintaining compliance

  • Visibility drives quick identification and correction of short-term variances/non-compliance

Better decisions based on current data

  • Understanding the current status of the environment at any given time enables agency heads, chief information officers and senior agency information security officers to dynamically prioritize resources as the situation dictates

Splunk can help executive agencies, DoD components, systems integrators, and research institutions quickly gain visibility into the security posture of their systems in the context of FISMA, DoD RMF, or DFARS controls. Thousands of public and private sector enterprises already rely on Splunk software to gain visibility into their security posture, increase efficiencies, and enable data-driven decision-making. Contact us to learn more.

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