The advent of technology and its latest innovations has come with its own challenges in the form of cyber attacks, and data theft, and protecting themselves from them is a task for most organizations and if not done properly, can leave the organizations vulnerable.
Cybersecurity frameworks outline the best practices to be followed rigorously for a seamless operation of cybersecurity for one’s organization. One such well-followed set of guidelines is the NIST cybersecurity framework.
This article will detail on NIST cybersecurity framework, its components, and its elements.
What is NIST cybersecurity framework?
The NIST cybersecurity framework is a powerful set of guidelines and best practices that help organizations build and improve their cybersecurity posture in a security-conscious manner.
These recommendations and standards help organizations to be better prepared for the identification, detection, response, prevention, and recovery from cyber-attacks.
All About NIST
NIST or National Institute of Standards and Technology is a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce that was established in 1901 as National Bureau of Standards. It was renamed NIST in 1988.
NIST was established with the mission of promoting innovation through the advancement of science, standards, and technology. NIST’s work consists mainly of cybersecurity, physical sciences, engineering, and information technology among others.
In the field of cybersecurity, however, NIST is well known for its cybersecurity framework or NIST CSF. This framework was designed with the protection of organizations from risks and cyber threats in mind.
The framework is used globally by most organizations ranging from governmental agencies to large companies to even SMEs and NGOs.
Why Is NIST Important?
NIST is important due to the active role it plays in the advancement of technology, innovation, and science in the United States. Besides this, the NIST Cybersecurity framework is a vital contribution by the NIST towards the field of cybersecurity.
The framework provides a highly flexible approach to cybersecurity management that is risk-based thus making it adaptable for organizations of various industries, sizes, and types.
NIST and its cybersecurity framework allow organizations to structure their cybersecurity posture in a more productive manner that effectively protects from and prioritizes fixes based on risks detected.
NIST cybersecurity framework details standards for access controls, data encryption and more thus helping organizations implement the framework to maintain the security standards competitively in the global marketplace.
Benefits Of Following the NIST Cybersecurity Framework
Here are some of the benefits of implementing the NIST cybersecurity framework:
- Can stop worrying about unidentified or undetected cyber risks and vulnerabilities.
- Have an accurate inventory of assets that need cybersecurity.
- Time and effort efficient since teams can effectively prioritize the most critical risks for patching.
- Understanding of how to address risks efficiently based on the current availability of tools and based on what’s available in the current market.
- The entire organization gets a better understanding of cyber risks that can arise from the mitigation of critical tasks.
- Compliance with NIST brings a level of authority and reliability to the services provided by your organization.
- Helps in the making of a strategic cybersecurity plan that aids in the quantification of risk reduction outcomes.
What Are The Main Components Of Cybersecurity Framework
This section provides clarity on what constitutes the major components of NIST framework for cybersecurity. NIST CSF framework has three major components to it i.e. core, implementation tiers, and profiles. Let’s take a look at them further.
NIST CSF core is essentially a set of desired activities and results that guides companies in an easy-to-understand language in the efficient management and reduction of cybersecurity risks. This guide is designed to complement your company’s existing cybersecurity risk management processes.
The framework core acts as a translative layer of communication between various teams using non-technical language. It consists of three different parts, functions, categories, and sub-categories.
The entire framework is out-come driven without mandating how the organizations must achieve thereby giving you the leeway to enable risk-based implementation best suited to your company’s needs.
- Functions: The high-level functions under the core framework include identification, protection, detection, response, and recovery. These measures are applicable to risk management in general and in specific to cybersecurity as well.
- Categories: This part of CSF deals with covering the breadth of cybersecurity objectives for an organization covering topics such as cyber, physical, and personnel related with a focus on business-related outcomes.
- Sub-categories: This is essentially the deepest level in the Core NIST framework 108 sub-categories. These subcategories are basically result-oriented statements that provide grounds for the creation and improvement of a cybersecurity program.
Implementation tiers guides are for aiding an organization by giving it the right context on cybersecurity that is apt for each organization based on its capacity. It is used as a communication tool to discuss mission priority, budgeting, and risk capacity.
Tiers essentially explain the level at which an organization’s cybersecurity management practices align with the defined framework characteristics. The implementation tiers range from partial (Tier 1) to Adaptive (Tier 4) based on the increasing rigor of cybersecurity measures implementation.
These levels are precisely described by their corresponding monikers, i.e. the security functions can be partial, informed, repetitive, or at the best level possible, adaptable.
Organizations can decide on the desired tier and ensure that the selected level meets the goals of the organization in terms of advancing cybersecurity in a feasible and fiscally responsible manner.
Lastly under the components of NIST security framework is Profile. Profiles are segments created by organizations to better optimize the NIST CSF to one’s requirements.
It is essentially a document created that maps out the current status of cybersecurity within the organization along with cybersecurity requirements, objectives, and methodologies against the subcategories of the framework core to create a current-state profile.
These profiles are primarily helpful for the identification and prioritization of opportunities to improve cybersecurity measures within one’s company.
By creating such profiles the gap between the ideal state of cybersecurity according to NIST CSF and the current state can be analyzed and understood.
This in turn helps in the creation of an actionable implementation plan with an estimated cost of corrective measures, the size of the gap, and the priority mentioned.
What Are The Five Elements Of NIST Cybersecurity Framework?
This section deals in detail with the functions under NIST CSF which are also called NIST CSF controls or phases of NIST cybersecurity framework.
Identification is the first of NIST CSF controls. This function relates to laying a solid foundation for an effective cybersecurity program. Identification is beneficial in gaining a thorough understanding of the cybersecurity risks posed to the assets, users, data, and other processes.
It entails listing out all of one’s organizational assets, equipment, users, software and more thus enabling companies to take a more focused approach to cybersecurity implementation. The function stresses the value of knowing the business context, critical resources, and related risks within them.
Some of the items to be identified are:
- Identification of software and hardware assets to efficiently manage the assets.
- Identification of the business setting and its role in the supply chain.
- Identification of currently established cybersecurity policies and their governance.
- Identification of regulatory requirements for cybersecurity that is to be followed based on the industry.
- Identification of asset vulnerabilities, and internal and external threats to different resources critical to the company’s functioning.
- Identification of an appropriate risk management strategy.
This CSF function ensures the development and implementation of appropriate safeguards to ensure the smooth delivery of critical infrastructure services.
Essentially this involves setting certain cyber measures such as access controls, data security measures such as encryption, and more.
Activities undertaken for protection includes:
- Implementation of identity management and access controls for physical and remote access.
- Creating awareness among staff and stakeholders through cyber safety training sessions.
- Establishing data security measures through encryptions that align with the company’s risk strategy to protect the confidentiality and integrity of the information.
- Establishing processes and procedures pertinent to the management and protection of information assets.
- Protection of an organization’s resources through continuous security maintenance.
This step refers to the detection and identification of a cybersecurity event based on the implemented detection activities in a timely manner.
Detection usually involves:
- Quick detection of anomalies and events to understand their potential impact.
- Constant monitoring of cybersecurity events to verify the effectiveness of protective measures.
- Computers, other devices, and even software are monitored.
- The network is scanned for the presence of unauthorized users.
Based on the detected cybersecurity events, appropriate actions are taken as a response to it and work towards containing the impact of the incident.
Essentially activities that come under response are:
- Ensuring that there is a well-set response plan in place.
- Ensure the execution of the response plan before and after the cyber incident.
- Managed communication with various stakeholders.
- Incident analysis to ensure that appropriate response and recovery activities have taken place to determine the impact.
- Incorporation of takeaways from the previous detections.
- Repair and restore affected areas like networks and computers.
Appropriate plans are taken and implemented to take a stance against cybersecurity events.
Activities in recovery include:
- Recovering and restoring parts of the assets that faced the damages i.e. networks and computers.
- Employees and customers are highly aware of response and recovery activities.
What Is NIST Cybersecurity Framework Certification?
NIST Cybersecurity Framework certification is a document that authenticates the procedures and processes followed by your organization for cybersecurity after a thorough assessment. It basically tests the ability of your company to implement the best practices and standards recommended by NIST.
There is no expiry date set for NIST certification, however, it is prudent to get it re-certified or re-calibrated after a year. NIST CSF certification sets a cybersecurity practitioner from others in terms of reliability, efficiency, and assurance of cybersecurity
How To Use NIST Cybersecurity Framework?
Since this is a voluntary framework that is highly flexible in its implementation style, a variety of observations has been made about how the NIST CSF controls have been put to use:
- To assess your organization’s current cybersecurity posture and identify any gaps or vulnerabilities.
- As vocabulary for usage by leaders in the cybersecurity field.
- For starting conversations regarding cyber security risks.
- To determine how the framework can be applied to a company’s specific needs and resources.
- In the development of an action plan for implementing the framework.
- For the identification of specific controls and safeguards to be implemented.
- In order to continuously monitor and regularly assess your organization’s cybersecurity posture to ensure that it remains effective and up-to-date.
- Usage of framework Tiers to determine optimal levels of risk management.
- For the creation of profiles to understand one’s current cybersecurity standing.
- Used in cybersecurity budgeting since profiling and implementation plans help in cybersecurity risk prioritization.
Is NIST Cybersecurity Framework A Compliance Standard?
NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a voluntary framework and not a compliance standard. It guides organizations in managing cybersecurity risks and threats. NIST controls are useful for organizations that are subject to regulatory requirements or industry
The flexible and adaptable framework aids a wide range of organizations, including government agencies, private companies, non-profit organizations, and industries. The NIST CSF does not prescribe specific requirements or regulations.
Some organizations use the framework as a basis for their cybersecurity compliance programs, and it has been integrated into a number of industry-specific regulations and guidelines, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
NIST cybersecurity framework is a cardinal rulebook that helps keep most companies as secure as possible. It provides a structured framework customizable according to one’s needs without compromising on any aspect of cybersecurity if followed correctly.
This article has provided detailed information regarding NIST cybersecurity framework, its categories, and subcategories as well as the benefits one reaps from implementing or using NIST framework.