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How to Achieve Security Compliance with NIST Penetration Testing?

Updated on: September 21, 2022

How to Achieve Security Compliance with NIST Penetration Testing?

What is NIST Penetration Testing?

NIST penetration testing refers to the security testing carried out to find out whether an organization is following the cybersecurity framework prescribed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These tests are conducted according to the NIST penetration testing framework.

Penetration testing (pen testing) evaluates the security of a computer system or network by simulating an attack from malicious hackers. Penetration testing is also referred to as ethical hacking. Penetration testing is often confused with vulnerability scanning. The difference is that penetration testing simulates an attack using tools and techniques similar to malicious hackers. 

On the other hand, vulnerability scanning uses automated tools to search for specific vulnerabilities and report them to the user. Penetration testing is a broader test and provides a better representation of the risks a network faces. 

Penetration testing is a highly technical process requiring professional security skills and knowledge. Penetration testers look for vulnerabilities in the software or network, which hackers can exploit. 

Vulnerabilities can include weak passwords, weak firewall rules, and other issues that expose your network to malicious attacks. A penetration test can help your company decide what to prioritize and how to make the most of the security you already have in place.

Image: NIST Penetration Testing Methodology

Data is the backbone of every business, and so is data compliance. Data compliance is not merely a legal obligation, it is a necessity for businesses to stay competitive in the global market. Data compliance helps enterprises to remain secure and avoid unnecessary local fines and penalties. In today’s world, the focus on data compliance is growing, and businesses are trying to stay ahead of the curve for data protection and information governance.


Compliance is an old buzzword in the world of business. Many companies are ensuring that they are compliant with the laws and regulations required to run their businesses according to the industry they belong to. Why? Because failing to be compliant can result in a hefty fine for a violation. In the world of e-commerce, it can be a very big deal to make sure that your website is compliant with your industry’s regulations. One such way is to become NIST compliant. In this NIST penetration testing guide, you’ll learn all about it.

NIST 800-171 is a widely adopted compliance, and one of the key pillars to achieve this is Penetration Testing, which most people refer to as NIST penetration testing.

What is NIST, and Who needs to adhere to it?

NIST is a non-regulatory governmental agency that develops technology, metrics, and standards to assist businesses and individuals in the science and technology industry by helping them reach their highest potential. NIST is in charge of creating technology and helping businesses to further develop it. They have developed a cybersecurity framework known as NIST Cyber Security Framework that businesses and governments use to secure their data and networks.

If you are a company developing, implementing or operating critical IT infrastructure, you will need to adhere to the NIST compliance framework. The framework is a set of standards created in 2013 and updated in 2016 to address new threats and vulnerabilities in the cybersecurity industry. 

Also Read: API Penetration Testing: What You Need To Know

The framework is built around five critical components: 

  1. Identify
  2. Protect
  3. Detect
  4. Respond 
  5. Recover

NIST helps businesses securely supply, operate, and own their critical infrastructure. It is a framework developed by the people, collaborating with businesses, academia, and federal agencies. The framework can be used by anyone in any industry that manages or operates critical infrastructure.

Also Read: A Complete Guide to Cloud Security Testing | 11 Top Penetration Testing Tools/Software of 2022

NIST Methodology
Image: NIST CSF Methodology

Understanding NIST Cyber-Security Framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technologies Cyber Security Framework (NIST CSF) is a set of standards to help companies improve their overall cybersecurity posture.

The NIST CSF defines a set of best practices that enables IT organizations to more effectively manage cybersecurity risks. The NIST CSF is made up of five core functions, or sets of activities, that can be used to manage cybersecurity risks.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a unified way of thinking about cybersecurity. It has five pillars, which you can see here, but in essence, it is a list of best practices that will allow businesses to be proactive in the face of cyberattacks, rather than just being reactive. 

Well-known security firms have already started to adopt this framework, and the government is in the process of doing the same, making it easier for businesses to comply with their regulations.

It is one small security loophole v/s your entire website or web application

Get your web app audited with Astra’s Continuous Pentest Solution

Also Read: Continuous Penetration Testing: The Best Tool You’ll Find in 2022 | Why Firewall Penetration Testing is Essential to Your Security Strategy

What is NIST 800-171?

NIST 800-171 is the national standard for unclassified information developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It covers compliance within federal civilian departments and agencies, as well as non-federal country organizations that are operating in accordance with the law.

NIST 800-171 is a set of standards that helps to protect classified information from leaking out of a computer system.

The publication was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help companies, organizations, and even government agencies protect CUI from unauthorized disclosure.

Why is NIST Framework important?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, better known as NIST, plays a major role in protecting our nation’s information systems. NIST is responsible for developing standards, guidelines, and associated methods and techniques to strengthen the security and privacy of all U.S. Federal computer systems, including those used by the Defense Department, the intelligence community, and the judiciary. 

The organization is also responsible for developing standards that all federal agencies can secure their information systems.

The NIST Framework aims to help organizations secure their data and network. It is an internationally accepted cybersecurity standard that is used by many countries in the world.

Some of the most common benefits to comply with NIST are:

1) Keeping the customer’s data safe and secure from cyber-attacks

2) Having the edge over the market with a better reputation and customer trust.

3) Protecting company data and network

4) Getting in line for government projects or contracts.

Image: Benefits of NIST

Checkout Astra’s Sample Penetration Testing Report (VAPT Report)

How important is Penetration Testing for NIST?

According to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), vulnerability scanning of systems and devices needs to be conducted to ensure that systems are safe and secure.

Let’s understand the NIST penetration testing requirements. According to NIST 800-171, 3.11.2 and 3.11.3 are compliance requirements that need NIST penetration testing.

3.11.2: Scan for vulnerabilities in organizational systems and applications periodically and when new vulnerabilities affecting those systems and applications are identified.

According to 3.11.2, organizations that need to comply with NIST need to make sure that the software. Applications and the systems of the organization are very well tested. Companies opt for NIST penetration testing to ensure that everything is tested well and that there are no security risks in any organization’s assets.

Security analysis while NIST penetration testing may also require different approaches such as:

  • Static Analysis
  • Dynamic Analysis
  • Binary Analysis
  • Hybrid Analysis

3.11.3: Remediate vulnerabilities in accordance with risk assessments.

According to 3.11.3, all the vulnerabilities found while NIST penetration testing needs to be remediated considering the related risk assessment. 

Related Article: NIST Security Audit | 10 Best Cyber Security Audit Companies [Features and Services Explained]

How Astra’s Pentest can help you achieve NIST?

Astra is a leading provider of penetration testing services. We provide organizations with the tools they need to achieve compliance, optimize risk management, and protect their networks from internal and external threats.

As a trusted partner of leading organizations, we have the skills and expertise to seamlessly integrate penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and security management into your existing processes. Astra’s penetration testing is completely compliance-friendly, be it NIST, PCI DSS, or any other.

Reading Guide: The Penetration Testing Company You’ve Been Looking For – Astra Security

Easy collaboration in Astra Pentest

Benefits of using Astra’s Compliance Friendly Pentest:

  • Automated Scanner with more than 2600+ tests to keep your application safe.
  • Manual scanning along with scanner to make sure no security risk is left.
  • Easy, accessible reports that you can interpret at a glance with the dashboard.
  • Get detailed steps on bug fixing tailored to your issues and know exactly how to reproduce vulnerabilities with video Proof of Concepts (PoCs).
  • Why keep your security status private? Showcase Astra’s Publicly verifiable certificate.
  • A post penetration test, Astra shows a potential loss in $$$ for each vulnerability, making it easier for everyone to understand the impact. 
  • For each vulnerability, Astra gives an intelligently calculated risk score.

Check out how amazing Astra’s Penetration Testing Dashboard is:

Astra's NIST Penetration Testing Dashboard
Image: Astra’s NIST Penetration Testing Dashboard


Whether it’s a security audit or an assessment of your overall security posture, penetration testing is an important part of the NIST cybersecurity framework. Contact the amazing team of penetration testers at UI today to learn more about how we can help your organization.


1. What is the timeline for NIST penetration testing?

It takes 4-5 days to perform penetration testing and assess the vulnerabilities. Businesses have up to 30 days after the initial test completion to fix the vulnerabilities and achieve NIST compliance. Also, learn about SOC2 compliance.

2. How much does NIST penetration testing cost?

Penetration testing for NIST compliance can cost between $490 and $999 per scan based on your plan. Learn more about penetration testing costs.

3. Why choose Astra Pentest for NIST compliance?

Astra’s penetration testing is completely compliance-friendly, be it NIST, PCI DSS, or any other. It fits into your existing processes smoothly and leads you to fast and hassle-free NIST compliance.

4. Do I also get rescans after a vulnerability is fixed?

Yes, you get 2-3 rescans depending on the plan you are on. You can use the rescans within a period of 30 days from initial scan completion even after a vulnerability is fixed.

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Keshav Malik

Meet Keshav Malik, a highly skilled and enthusiastic Security Engineer. Keshav has a passion for automation, hacking, and exploring different tools and technologies. With a love for finding innovative solutions to complex problems, Keshav is constantly seeking new opportunities to grow and improve as a professional. He is dedicated to staying ahead of the curve and is always on the lookout for the latest and greatest tools and technologies.

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1 year ago

is there any basic difference between NIST compliance and penetration testing of NIST?

Nivedita James
1 year ago
Reply to  Jauns

Hey, so NIST is a framework with a set of requirements that help companies uphold an internationally accepted cybersecurity posture. Penetration testing of NIST is one of the requirements that need to be followed to find any vulnerabilities and fix them to ensure compliance with the NIST framework. Hope this clears it up for you.

11 months ago

How NIST SP 800-115 informs information security practices?

Nivedita James
11 months ago
Reply to  Lewis

Hey Lewis, so NIST information security practices are a set of standards that when followed by companies ensure its smooth functioning and continued compliance. The practices include NIST penetration testing, security assessments, and other strategies that help increase the dependability of organizations.

Psst! Hi there. We’re Astra.

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