Laws, rules, and regulations are critical drivers of information technology performance. NIST is a framework (National Institute of Standards and Technology) consisting of critical IT infrastructure guidelines, standards, and practices. The framework is meant to help owners and operators of essential IT infrastructure manage cybersecurity risks. As NIST is a Federal government construct, NIST only applies to businesses within the United States.
Different Facets of NIST Compliance
Compliance requires that the business break down the cybersecurity framework into three main components.
The Core facet refers to a set of the desired security activities and outcomes that have been organized into categories. This facet is designed to be intuitive with a mandate of enabling communication between the different teams.
The Core facet consists of three parts:
The functions element is expected to help you identify any threats, protect through data security, detect any possible threats, respond to vulnerabilities, and recover any lost data. The categories cover various cybersecurity objectives for an organization, while the subcategories include outcome-driven statements providing considerations for improving or creating a cybersecurity program.
The Framework Implementation Tiers facet is expected to describe the degree to which your cybersecurity risk management protocols exhibit the characteristics defined by NIST framework. There are four tiers ranging from Partial (Tier 1) to Adaptive (Tier 4). Using this element of the framework, you can access your degree of rigor and how well integrated your cybersecurity risk decisions are.
At its tenet, the Framework Profiles facet aims to check on the unique alignment of the organization to compliance. Specifically, you can use Profiles to check and improve your current cybersecurity posture.
Tips for NIST Compliance
In a bid to be NIST compliant, consider the following tips:
Categorize the Data and Information You Need to Protect
To be NIST compliant, you need to categorize the data and information within your security landscape. In effect, this requires data mining, especially in an age where organizations have become data hoarders, as storage is significantly cheaper.
As a pro tip, you should consider getting rid of redundant or obsolete data, which only takes up massive amounts of your data storage. Additionally, consider prioritizing intellectual property, personally identifying information (PII), and financial account information.
Conduct Risk Assessment
Periodic NIST cyber risk assessments should help you refine your baseline controls. The latter highlights the set of controls applicable to your information and IT systems in a bid to have them meet legal, regulatory, and policy requirements. Conducting consistent risk assessment essentially assesses your compliance and safety within the parameters put in place by the Federal Government.
Notably, suppose your business is ever in a relationship with the federal government. In that case, you are required by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) to conduct a risk assessment guided by the Risk Management Framework (RMF). It would be prudent to maintain the NIST security risk assessment over a longer term, including ongoing monitoring and evaluation of new and existing data for compliance.
Document Your Baseline Controls
At the root of documenting your baseline controls is having a written security plan. The latter should clearly point out low, moderate, and high-security controls for your information system. Note that your baseline will be primarily influenced by the community’s interests, environmental operations, and the IT infrastructure used during operations.
Monitoring your performance should help you measure the efficacy of some of the security controls you have implemented. The measures of performance are used to facilitate decision-making. It should provide a matrix through which you can establish a relationship between the IT infrastructure and program security practices.
Benefits of NIST Compliance
Confidence against Cybersecurity Threats
For any business, you consistently need to identify and assess any cybersecurity risk. When you are NIST compliant, you should have sufficiently clarified how your business would respond and bounce back after a cybersecurity incident. This translates to greater confidence in the face of cybersecurity threats, including malware and data breaches.
Deflection of Fines
NIST is a federal contract whose noncompliance is considered a breach of contract and can result in monetary damages and other adverse consequences. Compliance with the framework should ensure that you are safe from any litigation or fines.
Avoidance of Reputation Damage
Data breaches not only have a serious impact on your bottom line but can damage your reputation and the trust your partners and consumers have in your business. Concisely, NIST compliance is part of proactive reputation management and should help avoid any reputation damages.
Meeting the Qualifications for Contracts and Federal Funding
As part of federal guidelines, companies must incorporate NIST compliance into their requirements during contacts. Compliance should therefore make it possible for your business to be eligible for more contracts within its niche. Additionally, it is paramount for businesses seeking to secure federal funding to comply with the different NIST frameworks in place.
To sum it up, NIST compliance refers to the adherence to IT security best practices and controls instituted by both the federal government and private enterprises. The special publication has its requirements mapped up across 14 security control families expected to ensure system and information integrity and security. Altogether, noncompliance with the NIST frameworks in place may have adverse consequences, including fines, litigation, and compromise to the IT infrastructure. Besides, from a marketing perspective, compliance makes your business appear more security-conscious than competitors, thus attracting the security-conscious consumer.