What is FIPS?
FIPS 140 is a U.S. and Canada Government data protection standard. It defines security requirements related to the design and implementation of a cryptographic module. The reason for a data protection standard dedicated to cryptography is because cryptography today is omnipresent, and is very hard to get right in a constantly expanding threat model such as today’s Internet. The standard ensures that cryptographic algorithms known to be secure are used for data protection, and they are thoroughly tested and attested by a 3rd party. The testing and validation must be performed by a laboratory, which is accredited under the Cryptographic and Security Testing (CST) Laboratory Accreditation Program (LAP) and is part of NIST's National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) in the US and CCCS's Cryptographic Module Validation Program (CMVP) in Canada.
FIPS 140-2 is required under multiple compliance regimes, such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH).