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Document the characteristics of the system.
Potential Inputs: System design and requirements documentation; authorization boundary information; list of security and privacy requirements allocated to the system, system elements, and the environment of operation; physical or other processes controlled by system elements; system element information; system component inventory; system element supply chain information, including inventory and supplier information; security categorization; data map of the information life cycle for information types processed, stored, and transmitted by the system; information on system use, users, and roles.
Expected Outputs: Documented system description.
Primary Responsibility: System Owner.
Supporting Roles: Authorizing Official or Authorizing Official Designated Representative; Information Owner or Steward; System Security Officer; System Privacy Officer.
System Development Life Cycle Phase: New – Initiation (concept/requirements definition). Existing – Operations/Maintenance.
Discussion: A description of the system characteristics is documented in the security and privacy plans, included in attachments to the plans, or referenced in other standard sources for the information generated as part of the SDLC. Duplication of information is avoided, whenever possible. The level of detail in the security and privacy plans is determined by the organization and is commensurate with the security categorization and the security and privacy risk assessments of the system. Information may be added to or updated in the system description as it becomes available during the system life cycle, during the execution of the RMF steps, and as any system characteristics change.

Examples of different types of descriptive information that organizations can include in security and privacy plans include: descriptive name of the system and system identifier; system version or release number; manufacturer and supplier information; individual responsible for the system; system contact information; organization that manages, owns, or controls the system; system location; purpose of the system and missions/business processes supported; how the system is integrated into the enterprise architecture; SDLC phase; results of the categorization process and privacy risk assessment; authorization boundary; laws, directives, policies, regulations, or standards affecting individuals’ privacy and the security of the system; architectural description of the system including network topology; information types; hardware, firmware, and software components that are part of the system; hardware, software, and system interfaces (internal and external); information flows within the system; network connection rules for communicating with external systems; interconnected systems and identifiers for those systems; physical or other processes, components and equipment controlled by system elements; system users (including affiliations, access rights, privileges, citizenship); system provenance in the supply chain; maintenance or other relevant agreements; potential suppliers for replacement components for the system; alternative compatible system components; number and location in inventory of replacement system components; ownership or operation of the system (government-owned, government-operated; government-owned, contractor-operated; contractor-owned, contractor-operated; nonfederal [state and local governments, grantees]); incident response points of contact; authorization date and authorization termination date; and ongoing authorization status. System registration information is updated with the system characterization information (see Task P-18).
References: [SP 800-18]; [NIST CSF] (Core [Identify Function]).