5-Top NIST Best Practices To Secure Your Organization

Updated on: January 2, 2024

5-Top NIST Best Practices To Secure Your Organization

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is part of the US department of Commerce. NIST was originally established to help the US become more competitive with economic rivals and peers. It prioritizes developing measurements, metrics, and standards for technology used in different industries.

NIST is a non-regulatory agency, so NIST compliance is not mandatory. The NIST cybersecurity framework was established in response to an executive order by former US president Obama – Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. While compliance is voluntary, NIST has become the gold standard for assessing cybersecurity maturity, identifying security gaps, and meeting cybersecurity regulations. It’s estimated that more than 30% of US companies use the NIST cybersecurity framework as their standard for data protection. 

This guide breaks down the NIST cybersecurity framework, NIST best practices, and a high-level checklist to implement NIST in your organization. 

5-Top NIST best practices

1. Identify

The first step in the cybersecurity best practices NIST list is to identify all critical software solutions and systems that require protection. This step brings transparency in terms of the utilization of tools, platforms, and solutions and helps lay the foundation for protecting critical assets. 

This step in the NIST best practices includes: 

  1. Identify critical enterprise processes and assets: Identify the processes and activities of your organization that must continue without interruption. This could be protecting user information securely or ensuring that the information collected remains accessible or accurate. 
  2. Document information flows: To protect your data, it is important to understand the data’s journey as well. Audit the data’s location and usage especially in cases where contracts and external partners are engaged. 
  3. Maintain inventory of all systems: While understanding data, it is important to also understand the entry points. Your computers and software are the entry points to malicious actors, inventory of these could help in case of an attack. 
  4. Establish policies: These cybersecurity policies and procedures should clearly describe your expectations for how cybersecurity activities will protect your information and systems. These nist security best practices policies should be integrated with other risk considerations such as financial, and reputational. 
  5. Identify threats, vulnerabilities, and risks to assets: Conduct a thorough NIST security audit to identify potential threats to your digital assets. A risk-based vulnerability assessment process ensures internal and external threats are identified, assessed, and documented in risk registers. 

Read more: NIST Cloud Security: Standards, Best Practices, & Benefits

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2. Protect

Protect NIST

Once you’ve audited your digital assets, you should put together nist security best practices to reduce the number of attacks, incursions, or leaks that could occur. You should also limit the damage that could occur in case of a successful attack. It is important to develop and implement safeguards to ensure that your business is prepared and has a plan to respond if these safeguards fail. 

This step in the NIST best practices includes:

  1. Manage access to assets and information: Put in place identity access management controls, role-based access controls, multi-factor authentication etc for each employee and ensure that users only have access to information, computers, and applications that are absolutely necessary for the successful operation of their jobs. Tightly manage and track physical access to devices. 
  2. Protect sensitive data: If you store and/or transmit sensitive data, ensure that this is protected both in transit and in rest via various encryption methods. Consider utilizing integrity checking to ensure only approved changes to the data have been made. Securely delete and/or data when it is no longer needed. 
  3. Conduct regular backups: Many operating systems have built-in back-up capabilities. Software and cloud solutions also have the ability to automate backup processes. It is important to store one set of backed up data offline to protect it against any form of online threat. 
  4. Protect your devices using firewalls: Install host-based firewalls and other protections such as end-point security products. It is important to apply uniform configurations to devices and control changes to device configurations. You can also consider disabling device services or features that are not necessary to support mission functions. Here, you should also ensure that there are policies regarding secure disposal of devices. 
  5. Train users: Conduct regular security training to your employees to ensure that they are aware of cybersecurity best practices NIST policies and procedures and their specific roles and responsibilities as a condition of their employment at your organization. 
  6. Manage device vulnerabilities: Ensure that both the operating system and applications installed on the computer and other devices are regularly updated. If possible, enable automatic updates to ensure that these are not missed. Consider using tools to scan devices for additional vulnerabilities, remediate vulnerabilities with a high likelihood and impact. 

Read more: NIST Penetration Testing: A Comprehensive Guide

3. Detect

NIST Detect

Despite your best efforts, malicious actors may find their way into your digital assets. You may still have to remedy a security breach – whether a zero-day exploit or an SQL injection. It’s important to constantly monitor your system for a data-security breach. 

This step in the NIST best practices includes:

  1. Test and update detection processes: It is important to develop and test processes and procedures for detecting unauthorized entities and actions on the networks and in the physical environment. Your employees should be aware of their roles and responsibilities for detection and also policies around reporting vulnerabilities both within your organization and to external governance and legal authorities. 
  2. Maintain logs: Maintaining a log of all activities on your digital assets is crucial to identify anomalies in your organization’s computers and applications. These logs record events such as changes to systems and/or accounts as well as the initiation of communication channels. You can consider using tools that can aggregate these logs and look for patterns such as anomalies. 
  3. Monitor data flow: Look for unexpected data flows which might include customer information being exported from an internal database and exiting the network. If you have contractor work to a cloud and/or managed service provider, understand how they are tracking data flows and look for reports of all activity including unexpected events. 
  4. Understand the impact of cybersecurity events: If a threat has been detected, you should immediately set your remediation processes into motion. You should work quickly and thoroughly to understand the impact. Keep the appropriate stakeholders in the loop and improve policies and processes to ensure that this does not occur again. 

Read more: A Detailed Guide to NIST Vulnerability Scanning

4. Respond

NIST Respond

The fourth phase of the NIST network security best practices is to respond to any cybersecurity threat. This stage covers the processes and guidelines that you should follow in the event of a successful attack. It can be hard to predict response methodologies when the type of attack is unknown. However, having these controls in place can help minimize damage and smoothen the remediation process without last-minute hustle-bustle. 

This step in the NIST best practices includes:

  1. Ensure response plans are tested: Once you’ve collaborated with stakeholders to create a response plan, test it out thoroughly to make sure each person knows their responsibilities in executing the plan. The more prepared you are, the more effective the remediation plan will be. This test should also include testing the legal reportage requirements to ensure that all required information is shared. 
  2. Ensure policies are updated: The threat landscape is constantly updating, it is important to ensure that your plans and policies are also updated to keep up with them. Testing the plan and execution during an incident will reveal needed improvements. Ensure that you are updating these plans regularly. 
  3. Conduct incident analysis: An incident analysis ensures that appropriate response and recovery activities have taken place to determine the impact of the attacks. This process includes all security-related activities that are initiated as a result of an attack that is suspected, under way, or completed. It includes 4 phases: incident trigger, expert gathering, incident analysis, response activities. 

Read more: Mastering NIST Risk Management Framework; Decoding NIST Risk Assessment: A Definitive Guide to Effective Cybersecurity

5. Recover

NIST Recover

The last leg of NIST security best practices is to plan for business continuity. If your organization has undergone an attack and you’ve been successful in battling it, you need to also plan for the aftermath. Here, you need to ensure that appropriate plans are taken and implemented to take a stance against a cybersecurity event.

This step in the NIST best practices includes:

  1. Ensure recovery plans are updated: With the information you have now about the attack and the remediation process, update your recovery plans.
  2. Ensure that attacked assets are restored and recovered
  3. Train employees with updated information and policies 
  4. Inform stakeholders about updated recovery and remediation plans and processes. 
Cybersecurity best practices NIST framework

Why are cybersecurity best practices NIST important?

Cybersecurity best practices NIST are important because they help businesses and organizations to manage their cybersecurity risks and protect their critical assets, data, and services from cyber threats. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a voluntary set of standards, guidelines, and best practices that can help any business in any industry to improve their IT security. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is based on five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. These functions provide a common language and a systematic approach to address cybersecurity challenges and achieve desired outcomes. 

By following the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, businesses and organizations can:

  1. Assess their current cybersecurity posture and identify gaps or weaknesses
  2. Prioritize their cybersecurity goals and actions based on their specific needs and resources
  3. Implement appropriate safeguards and controls to prevent or mitigate cyberattacks
  4. Monitor and detect any cybersecurity incidents or events in a timely manner
  5. Respond effectively and efficiently to any cybersecurity incidents or events
  6. Recover quickly and restore normal operations after a cybersecurity incident or event
  7. Learn from their experiences and improve their cybersecurity practices over time

The NIST security best practices is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a flexible and adaptable tool that can be customized to suit different contexts and scenarios. The NIST best practices also supports collaboration and communication among different stakeholders, such as business owners, IT professionals, customers, regulators, and partners. 

By using the NIST network security best practices, businesses and organizations can demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity excellence and enhance their reputation and trustworthiness. 

For more information about the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, you can visit this website or this website

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The NIST framework and its recommendations can help any firm improve its cybersecurity risk management and security infrastructure. The NIST framework can be used as a whole or as a reference to address specific issues according to your organization’s cybersecurity needs. A basic understanding of cybersecurity architecture can greatly enhance the security of your organization’s devices, information systems, and critical data.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does NIST stand for in the NIST cybersecurity framework?

NIST is the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST works to improve economic stability and the quality of life for all Americans by developing measurement science, standards, and technology.

Does the NIST cybersecurity framework work? 

The NIST cybersecurity framework works by providing a common language and a systematic approach to manage cybersecurity risks and protect critical assets, data, and services from cyber threats. The NIST cybersecurity framework is based on five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. These functions help organizations to assess their current cybersecurity posture, prioritize their goals and actions, implement appropriate safeguards and controls, monitor and detect any incidents or events, respond effectively and efficiently, and recover quickly and restore normal operations. 

How long does it take to implement NIST security best practices?

The time it takes to put the NIST security best practices into implementation depends on the size and complexity of the organization, as well as the level of maturity and resources available for cybersecurity. Implementation time for the NIST best practices can vary from weeks to months. Implementing the NIST network security best practices should be seen as a long-term, iterative process that is done gradually. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for applying the cybersecurity best practices NIST, as each organization has different needs and challenges.


Aishwarya is a senior content writer at Astra. She believes that everything has a story and the world deserves to know each of them. When she is not busy writing security, you can find her exploring the creative world.
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