Classification & Control Markings

Classification and control markings are required for digital products created for government clients who interact with classified or controlled information. In your digital product, such as a desktop or web application, there should be an Overall Marking, Portion Markings if possible, and an Authority Block. Each of these features will be described in more detail below.

All classification and control markings on this page are for illustration purposes only.

Official Requirements

This page lists general guidance and components for marking practices. For the most up-to-date policies, use the following resource links which should bxe considered the prime authorities for CNSI (Classified National Security Information) and CUI (Controlled Unclassified Information). In addition to these requirements, each government agency may have their own rules to use with those listed below.

Classified National Security Information

  • ISOO Training Aids: Latest standards for CNSI from the ISOO (Information Security Oversight Office)
  • ISOO Blog: Latest updates for ISOO topics including CNSI and CUI

Controlled Unclassified Information

  • CUI Registry: Latest standards for CUI from the NARA
  • CUI Blog: Latest updates for CUI including previews of upcoming policy changes

The guidance on this page is focused on the use of, and rules for, classification and control markings in electronic application designs for government clients. Information about markings for emails, presentations, or other media (e.g. printed documents) can be found in the Additional Resources linked at the end of the page.

Overall Marking

State Hex Value RGB Value Custom Property Name Font Color
Marking Unclassified Swatch Unclassified #007a33 0, 122, 51 --classificationUnclassified white
Marking Top Secret//SCI Swatch Top Secret//SCI #fce83a 252, 232, 58 --classificationTopSecretSCI black
Marking Top Secret Swatch Top Secret #ff8c00 255, 140, 0 --classificationTopSecret black
Marking Secret Swatch Secret #c8102e 200, 16, 46 --classificationSecret white
Marking Controlled Swatch Controlled (CUI) #502b85 80, 43, 133 --classificationControlled white
Marking Confidential Swatch Confidential #0033a0 0, 51, 160 --classificationConfidential white

Overall Marking Background Information

Applications used on government workstations with access to classified networks and information often do not have a full set of classification markings because the workstations themselves are already appropriately labeled. On the physical workstations, physical classification labels will be present showing the highest level of classified information the machine can access. The color of the physical classification label may also be apparent in the theme used in a workstation’s user interface when in use. The wallpaper of the desktop of the workstation often has an overall classification banner at the top of the screen that also marks the highest classification access of the machine and any additional caveats. There is not a banner at the bottom of the desktop wallpaper since it would be covered by the computer menus from the bottom of the screen. The Astro library provides a standardized banner marking for dynamic electronic systems to indicate the highest level of classification present.

Overall Marking Text

Text in the overall marking banner should be as specific as possible to the highest level of classified information contained in that system or view. The banner message should follow the standard marking structure (placeholder text example: CLASSIFICATION//SCI//SAP//AEA//FGI//CUI//DISSEM) with bold, centered text in all capital letters. The classification level itself (excepting CUI) must be spelled out completely (example: UNCLASSIFIED instead of just U), but later caveats or control markings in the classification text can be abbreviated in their traditional formats or spelled out completely (example: SP-EXPT or SP-EXPORT CONTROLLED). Only classification and/or control information in the standard format should be present in this banner.

Overall Marking Placement

Always place the overall marking banner at the top of the application in a fixed position so that it cannot scroll out of view. Since the banner message can be quite long, we recommend that the banner span the full width of the application. This mimics physical classification markings, which span the full width of the top of a document page.

Overall Marking Colors

Astro banner component colors match what government users are familiar with in physical labels, their workstations, and other applications. Adding a colored background is not officially required by the government, but is culturally expected and does help with recognizing classification levels at a quick glance. The background colors for the banner components are based on the traditional Pantone colors used in the relevant Standard Form labels for SF 706 through SF 712 with the new addition of the purple CUI color from SF-902. The text colors for the banners are either white or black (the two text colors used on the physical labels) depending on which best contrasts with the background color. There is, however, a risk that the classification colors could create confusion when compared with similar colors used for status purposes, so the visual footprint of the banner has been reduced in Astro to the smallest recommended height.

Examples

Do: Use all-caps for marking text
Do: Use all-caps for marking text
Don't: Add any other text or elements to the banner
Don’t: Add any other text or elements to the banner
Do: Show the banner at the top of every page
Do: Show the banner at the top of every page
Don't: Allow the banner to scroll out of view or be obscured by other elements
Don’t: Allow the banner to scroll out of view or be obscured by other elements
Do: Use Astro’s defined color sets for contrast compliance
Do: Use Astro’s defined color sets for contrast compliance
Don't: Deviate from the defined background colors
Don’t: Deviate from the defined background colors

Portion Marking

Tag Examples

Portion Marking Background Information

Proper portion marking is critical to reduce classification problems and leaks. It is equally important to show which portions are Uncontrolled Unclassified Information to enable better communication between teams and teammates with different levels of security clearance. A ‘portion’ is anything in a document that has a separate classification from other elements of the document.

For those developing applications/websites, there are specific rules about portion marking file names, URLs, and metadata. To learn more about these aspects, review the requirements in the relevant Additional Resources.

Current policies require portion marking throughout a document, but, in practice, portion marking is often left to section markings at best. At a minimum, include section markings using the standard abbreviated text format in parentheses or other enclosed format, such as a tag, if the classification information is available. Give serious consideration to adding portion marking to individual fields with drastically different classification levels or to move higher classification items to a separate section if the new grouping is still consistent with the user’s mental model and the UI organization. If relevant, the information could also be portrayed in a separate column in a table for each item’s row (preferably in an immediately visible location). In this case, the parentheses should no longer be necessary as the column division should provide enough differentiation from the rest of the table text.

There are few exceptions to portion marking requirements, but the ISOO does acknowledge that different types of documents such as “dynamic documents,” a category that many applications or databases fall under, may have difficulty with these requirements. If a document is not portion marked fully and the classification/control level is higher than CUI, the responsible agency for the application may need to obtain a waiver from the ISOO and will need to indicate on the document that it cannot be used as a derivative source document.

Portion Marking Text

Portion markings should be bold, all capital letters and abbreviated within parentheses like (CUI//SP-EXPT) or within a tag as seen in the components pictured above. They can also be spelled out in full, if needed, however this method should be avoided for longer text strings. Note that control markings such as SCI, SAP, AEA, CUI, or dissemination are also required in portion markings if they are relevant to that portion.

Portion Marking Placement

Portion markings should be placed at the top or top-left of the classified or controlled portion. Astro recommends using the tag version of portion marking if the markings are at a higher section or card level. For more in-line text portions or portions lower in the visual hierarchy of the User Interface, use the text-only version.

Portion Marking Colors

The colors used in the tag components are the same as those in the overall banner markings for easy recognition.

Examples

Do: Abbreviate text in portion markings
Do: Abbreviate text in portion markings
Don't: Have portion markings with higher classifications than the overall marking
Don’t: Have portion markings with higher classifications than the overall marking
Do: Place portion markings at the top-left of classified or controlled information
Do: Place portion markings at the top-left of classified or controlled information
Do: Use colored tags for general section markings and text portion marking in portions lower in the visual hierarchy
Do: Use colored tags for general section markings and text portion marking in portions lower in the visual hierarchy
Don't: Clutter the interface with colored tags on every line
Don’t: Clutter the interface with colored tags on every line

Authority Block

Authority Block Guidelines

Whenever classified or controlled information is present, use an Authority Block, to trace the source of the designation and any necessary clarifications about declassification dates or classification reasons. The authority block is typically in the bottom left of a document page, but can be placed elsewhere according to layout needs. Similarly, if necessary in the layout, the authority information for electronic material may appear as a single line of text instead of the typical three-line approach. Note that there is a slightly different structure for CUI, originally classified documents, and documents with a classification derived from another document. Authority blocks are most often displayed as lines of text and do not currently require a component to satisfy this marking requirement. To learn more about this element, go to our Additional Resources.

Do
Show the source of classified or controlled information on a page with relevant contact information.
Clarify if the classified information is originally classified or derivatively classified from another document.

Additional Resources

Classified National Security Information

Controlled Unclassified Information