The Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation (abbreviated as Common Criteria or CC) is an international standard (ISO/IEC 15408) for computer security certification. It is currently in version 3.1. In this framework, computer system users can specify their security functional and assurance requirements, vendors can then implement and/or make claims about the security attributes of their products, and testing laboratories can evaluate the products to determine if they actually meet the claims. In other words, Common Criteria provides assurance that the process of specification, implementation and evaluation of a computer security product has been conducted in a rigorous and standard manner.
Common criteria can be applied for evaluation IT product or system satisfying a defined set of security requirements.
TOE stands for Target of Evaluation. It is the product or system that is subject of the evaluation.
PP is a document, typically created by a user or user community, which identifies security requirements for a class of security devices relevant to that user for a particular purpose. Product vendors can choose to implement products that comply with one or more PPs, and have their products evaluated against those PPs. In such a case, a PP may serve as a template for the product's Security Target (ST), or the authors of the ST will at least ensure that all requirements in relevant PPs also appear in the target's ST document. Customers looking for particular types of products can focus on those certified against the PP that meets their requirements.
Security Target (ST) is a document that identifies the security properties of the target of evaluation (TOE). It may refer to one or more PPs. The TOE is evaluated against the Security Functional Requirements (SFRs) established in its ST, no more and no less. This allows vendors to tailor the evaluation to accurately match the intended capabilities of their product. This means that a network firewall does not have to meet the same functional requirements as a operating system, and that different firewalls may in fact be evaluated against completely different lists of requirements. The ST is usually published so that potential customers may determine the specific security features that have been certified by the evaluation.
Security functional requirements (SFRs) specify individual security functions which may be provided by a product. The Common Criteria presents a standard catalogue of such functions. For example, an SFR may state how a user acting a particular role might be authenticated. The list of SFRs can vary from one evaluation to the next, even if two targets are the same type of product. Although Common Criteria does not prescribe any SFRs to be included in an ST, it identifies dependencies where the correct operation of one function (such as the ability to limit access according to roles) is dependent on another (such as the ability to identify individual roles).
Security assurance requirements describe the measures taken during development and evaluation of the product to assure compliance with the claimed security functionality. For example, an evaluation may require that all source code is kept in a change management system, or that full functional testing is performed. The Common Criteria provides a catalogue of these, and the requirements may vary from one evaluation to the next. The requirements for particular targets or types of products are documented in the Security Target (ST) and Protection Profile (PP)
Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) is the numerical rating describing the depth and rigor of an evaluation. Each EAL corresponds to a package of security assurance requirements (SARs) which covers the complete development of a product, with a given level of strictness. Common Criteria lists seven levels, with EAL 1 being the most basic (and therefore cheapest to implement and evaluate) and EAL 7 being the most stringent (and most expensive). Normally, a Security Target (ST) or Protection Profile (PP) author will not select assurance requirements individually but choose one of these packages, possibly 'augmenting' requirements in a few areas with requirements from a higher level. Higher EALs do not necessarily imply "better security", they only mean that the claimed security assurance of the TOE has been more extensively verified.
There is a Common Criteria Mutual Recognition Arrangement (CCMRA) among participating countries, whereby each country thereto recognizes evaluations against the Common Criteria standard done by other countries. Originally signed in 1998 by Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, Australia and New Zealand joined 1999, followed by Finland, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain in 2000. The Arrangement has since been renamed Common Criteria Recognition Arrangement (CCRA) and membership continues to expand. Within the CCRA only evaluations up to EAL 2 are mutually recognized (Including augmentation with flaw remediation). The European countries within the former ITSEC agreement typically recognize higher EALs as well. Evaluations at EAL3 and above tend to involve the security requirements of the host nation's government.