IT security is more important than ever before. Whether you’re concerned about preventing cybercrime or meeting vendor standards, having a strictly regulated approach to IT security is critical for protecting business continuity. In fact, countless regulatory bodies have instituted best practices that modern businesses are expected to uphold.

Using the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to Uphold Regulatory Compliance

How professionals can access NIST best practices and implement them in their IT infrastructure

Modern businesses are busier than ever before. Technological advancements and virtualization have made it easier than ever to take advantage of endless business opportunities. However, with this increased flexibility has come increased security risk and in turn, increased regulation.

In fact, businesses are required to uphold very strict IT best practices as set out by a number of federal and industry-specific regulatory bodies. Luckily, the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) has created a Cybersecurity Framework to help professionals achieve seamless compliance across all end-points.

Background & Basics: What Is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

Mandated by Presidents Obama and Trump alongside the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST), The Cybersecurity Framework is required for all Federal organizations and is becoming the baseline security standard for commercial organizations at all levels.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a policy framework of computer security guidelines for private sector organizations. The Cybersecurity Framework allows organizations to assess resources and improve their ability to prevent, detect and respond to cyber attacks.

The policy framework provides high-level analysis tools for cybersecurity outcomes and a procedure to best examine and manage those outcomes. Version 1.0 of the Cybersecurity Framework was published by NIST in 2014, originally designed for operators of critical infrastructure.

The Cybersecurity Framework is currently used by a wide range of business organizations to assist them in proactivity, risk management, and overall cyber security strategy. The Framework was designed to help business leaders better examine the risks they face to guide use of cybersecurity tools in a cost-effective way.

Breaking Down the Cybersecurity Framework: Core, Tiers, and Profile

The Framework was initially designed for federal organizations that are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. However, NIST strongly encourages other business organizations to review and consider the Framework as a helpful tool for managing cyber risks and upholding compliance in all areas. The Framework was developed strategically, for use by organizations that span large enterprises to the smallest of SMBs.

The Cybersecurity Framework is divided into three parts: Core, Tiers and Profile

  • CORE

The Framework Core includes a multitude of activities, outcomes, and references that analyze approaches to cybersecurity events and help business leaders make more strategic decisions and implementations regarding tech security.

  • TIERS

The Framework Implementation Tiers are included to help organizations clarify perceptions of specific internal and external cyber security risks. Additionally, the tiers offer standards of sophistication for developing cybersecurity strategies.

  • PROFILE

The Framework Profile is a list of outcomes that allows an organization to select specific cybersecurity categories and subcategories, based on its unique security needs and individual risk assessments.

The Framework Profile is also broken into two parts:

  • Organizations typically begin using the framework to develop a current profile that describes the organization’s current cybersecurity activities and what outcomes it is hoping to achieve.
  • Once that is determined, the organization can then establish a target profile, or adopt a baseline profile, that is customized to more accurately match its critical infrastructure.
  • After both profiles have been developed, the organization can then take steps to close the gaps between its current profile and its target profile.

Constantly Evolving: The 2017 Cybersecurity Framework Update

NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework was initially developed and released in 2014 under the Obama administration. In early 2017, however, NIST issued a draft update to the Cybersecurity Framework. The update included new details on managing cyber supply chain risks, clarifying key terms, and introducing strategic measurement methods for cybersecurity.

The updated Cybersecurity Framework aims to centralize NIST standards and help organizations continually reduce cyber risks. The Cybersecurity Framework update incorporates user-feedback and integrates comments from countless user organizations from the past few years.

The 2017 update specifically optimizes tools for cyber supply chain risk management.

For example, a small business selecting a cloud service provider may want guidance to make a strategic decision. With the Cybersecurity Framework update, the renamed and revised “Identity Management and Access Control” category, clarifies and expands upon the definitions of the terms “authentication” and “authorization.”

NIST also added and defines the related concept of “identity proofing.” All of these tools are designed specifically to help businesses make smarter cybersecurity decisions, across their service base, based on industry best practices.

Reaping the Benefits: How Can Organizations Access and Best Use the Cybersecurity Framework  

So, how can a business like yours take advantage of this strategic and nationwide Cybersecurity Framework? It’s simple. You can access the complete and updated Framework and all its supporting documentation here: www.nist.gov/cyberframework.

You might also be wondering some of the key requirements of the Cybersecurity Framework that help organizations stay vigilant, strategic and protected. Check out some of the central requirements of the Framework below:

  • Cybersecurity Framework Risk Assessment and Gap Assessment

As part of the Cybersecurity Framework, organizations are required to have a formal risk assessment completed, from a qualified 3rd party firm to ensure nothing has been overlooked.

  • Cybersecurity Framework Penetration Test

The Framework also requires organizations to undergo regular advanced penetration testing services for all web applications, databases and internal infrastructures needed to protect sensitive cardholder data.

  • Cybersecurity Framework Vendor Management Compliance

The Cybersecurity Framework outlines the critical importance of communicating cybersecurity standards and policies to all external service providers in the service supply chain.

Prioritizing Compliance: Why Adherence to Best Practices is Your Company’s Saving Grace

No matter what business you’re in, the Cybersecurity Framework from NIST serves as an organized and effective backdrop for improving your organization’s approach to cybersecurity. The cybercrime climate is only going to get worse, and having a framework of industry best practices that can be used and applied nationwide is a huge asset for business leaders in all industries.

By implementing these best practices in your office and emphasizing their importance to your team, you’ll be going a long way towards maintaining a strong and secure approach to cybersecurity and regulatory compliance. This offers unparalleled peace of mind and will allow you to assure clients and colleagues that your company network is proactively protected.

And hey, if you’re having trouble getting through the 41-page Cybersecurity Framework, we get it. If the policy talk is leaving your head spinning, you don’t have to miss out on taking advantage of the Cybersecurity Framework because you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Reach out to a strategic IT consultant for guidance and support. A managed IT services provider can work wonders to ensure you’re understanding and apply NIST best practices effectively. Sometimes the eye of an insider can make all the difference in your compliance effort.

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