In the wild world of business, where cyber threats lurk around every virtual corner, there is no doubt about the need for top-notch cybersecurity. But what is the best way to fortify your defenses (or pump up an existing program)? Industry experts agree: Dive headfirst into an established cybersecurity framework, with the NIST Special Publications at their lead.
By adopting an acknowledged cybersecurity framework, organizations can understand their baseline – where they stand – and gain valuable guidance and objectives for planning, implementing, and optimizing their cybersecurity programs. These programs significantly enhance an organization's capabilities in threat detection, risk mitigation, and incident response. They also contribute to achieving the organization's objectives in risk management and regulatory Compliance.
While several cybersecurity frameworks are available, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) has emerged as the “rockstar” of the industry. Why should organizations adopt the NIST framework? The NIST CSF offers a standardized set of rules, guidelines, and standards applicable to organizations in any industry, empowering them to construct an effective cybersecurity program.
The tried-and-true NIST framework is comprised of many parts. In this blog, we aim to help you understand how to use the NIST cybersecurity framework for different purposes and the benefits of using each NIST Special Publication.
The first step is to define your objective - what are you trying to achieve? Then you can determine which NIST Special Publication will enable you to reach your goals. Use this handy, detailed guide to help you with implementing the NIST cybersecurity framework.
NIST Special Publication 800-37, or NIST Risk Management Framework (NIST RMF), is an all-encompassing publication that brings together a whole family of risk-related documents. This framework was created based on the requirements of the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA), specifically for entities that manage information security risks in federal information systems. It outlines a structured and systematic approach -- supported by detailed guidance and supporting documentation -- to aid organizations in each step of the Risk Management Framework process. Its goal is to promote consistent and effective risk management practices to safeguard federal information systems and protect the sensitive data they handle.
The steps involved in the NIST RMF are:
NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) is a framework that organizations can adopt to protect critical infrastructure. Why use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework? It enables organizations to assess their current cybersecurity posture, identify vulnerabilities and risks, and prioritize resources based on the potential impact and likelihood of cyber incidents. Using the CSF, organizations can communicate about cybersecurity in a way that aligns with their overall risk management strategies. The CSF provides guidance on developing and implementing an incident response plan (IRP) that communicates effectively with relevant stakeholders, ensuring a coordinated and efficient response to security incidents. This special publication is currently under comment and review for a second iteration.
The NIST CSF has five functions:
NIST 800-53 is the most comprehensive of the documents and the most well-known and widely adopted by federal and non-federal agencies.
The publication presents a catalog of security and privacy controls organizations can implement to take a risk-based approach and mitigate risks to their information systems. These controls are organized into 20 control families, such as Access Control, Audit and Accountability, Configuration Management, Incident Response, and System and Communications Protection. The latest revision focuses on providing more flexibility to organizations in tailoring security and privacy controls based on their specific needs and risk profiles.
Some examples of some of the controls listed in NIST 800-53:
It is important to note that many of these NIST special publications feature crossover guidelines and requirements with other documents.
By adopting and implementing the NIST Special Publications, organizations can maintain consistency in reporting cybersecurity matters to leadership, promote effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders, and solidify their Compliance foundation. Overall, NIST frameworks deliver a comprehensive and structured approach to cybersecurity, helping organizations navigate the complex landscape of cyber risks and build resilient security practices.
The NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF) is required for businesses working with the federal government and offers significant benefits for any company. These include asset protection, reputation management, intellectual property (IP) protection, and competitor analysis. By prioritizing risk understanding and mitigation, a robust risk management framework safeguards assets and business operations while minimizing the detrimental impact of cyberattacks. The purpose of the NIST SP 800-37 is to help protect valuable IP and provide valuable insights into the competitive landscape, enabling informed decision-making and enhancing competitiveness.
The benefits of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework are that it provides common language, terminology, and frameworks that facilitate effective stakeholder communication and collaboration. This shared understanding enhances communication between technical and non-technical staff and external partners, promoting a holistic approach to cybersecurity.
The framework also fosters better understanding and informed decision-making at the executive level.
Private organizations voluntarily adopt and comply with NIST 800-53 because it helps with selecting the necessary security controls, policies, and procedures to safeguard information security and privacy. This customization process ensures security and Compliance and contributes to overall business success. By following the guidelines, organizations can achieve consistent and cost-effective implementation of controls across their IT infrastructure. Additionally, adhering to NIST 800-53 provides a strong foundation for compliance with other regulations and programs such as HIPAA, DFARS, PCI DSS, and GDPR.
Even though not mandatory, adopting established cybersecurity frameworks, such as the NIST special publications, is crucial for organizations aiming to strengthen their defenses and protect against cyber threats. These frameworks offer valuable guidance and objectives for planning, implementing, and optimizing cybersecurity programs, ultimately enhancing an organization's capabilities in threat detection, risk mitigation, and incident response.