The Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL1 through EAL7) of an IT product or system is a numerical grade assigned following the completion of a Common Criteria security evaluation, an international standard in effect since 1999. The increasing assurance levels reflect added assurance requirements that must be met to achieve Common Criteria certification. The intent of the higher levels is to provide higher confidence that the system’s principal security features are reliably implemented. The EAL level does not measure the security of the system itself, it simply states at what level the system was tested to see if it meets all the requirements of its Protection Profile.
The following is a breakdown of the Assurance Levels:
EAL1: Functionally Tested
EAL1 is applicable where some confidence in correct operation is required, but the threats to security are not viewed as serious. It will be of value where independent assurance is required to support the contention that due care has been exercised with respect to the protection of personal or similar information. EAL1 provides an evaluation of the TOE (Target of Evaluation) as made available to the customer, including independent testing against a specification, and an examination of the guidance documentation provided. It is intended that an EAL1 evaluation could be successfully conducted without assistance from the developer of the TOE, and for minimal cost. An evaluation at this level should provide evidence that the TOE functions in a manner consistent with its documentation, and that it provides useful protection against identified threats.
EAL2: Structurally Tested
EAL2 requires the cooperation of the developer in terms of the delivery of design information and test results, but should not demand more effort on the part of the developer than is consistent with good commercial practice. As such it should not require a substantially increased investment of cost or time. EAL2 is therefore applicable in those circumstances where developers or users require a low to moderate level of independently assured security in the absence of ready availability of the complete development record. Such a situation may arise when securing legacy systems.
EAL3: Methodically Tested and Checked
EAL3 permits a conscientious developer to gain maximum assurance from positive security engineering at the design stage without substantial alteration of existing sound development practices. EAL3 is applicable in those circumstances where developers or users require a moderate level of independently assured security, and require a thorough investigation of the TOE and its development without substantial re-engineering.
EAL4: Methodically Designed, Tested, and Reviewed
EAL4 permits a developer to gain maximum assurance from positive security engineering based on good commercial development practices which, though rigorous, do not require substantial specialist knowledge, skills, and other resources. EAL4 is the highest level at which it is likely to be economically feasible to retrofit to an existing product line. EAL4 is therefore applicable in those circumstances where developers or users require a moderate to high level of independently assured security in conventional commodity TOEs and are prepared to incur additional security-specific engineering costs.
EAL5: Semi-formally Designed and Tested
EAL5 permits a developer to gain maximum assurance from security engineering based upon rigorous commercial development practices supported by moderate application of specialist security engineering techniques. Such a TOE will probably be designed and developed with the intent of achieving EAL5 assurance. It is likely that the additional costs attributable to the EAL5 requirements, relative to rigorous development without the application of specialized techniques, will not be large. EAL5 is therefore applicable in those circumstances where developers or users require a high level of independently assured security in a planned development and require a rigorous development approach without incurring unreasonable costs attributable to specialist security engineering techniques
EAL6: Semi-formally Verified Design and Tested
EAL6 permits developers to gain high assurance from application of security engineering techniques to a rigorous development environment in order to produce a premium TOE for protecting high value assets against significant risks. EAL6 is therefore applicable to the development of security TOEs for application in high risk situations where the value of the protected assets justifies the additional costs.
EAL7: Formally Verified Design and Tested
EAL7 is applicable to the development of security TOEs for application in extremely high risk situations and/or where the high value of the assets justifies the higher costs. Practical application of EAL7 is currently limited to TOEs with tightly focused security functionality that is amenable to extensive formal analysis