What Is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?
Storing information online has become the norm. More organizations are towing this part to stay relevant in this era of interconnectivity.
Leaving the systems storing your sensitive information unsecured is a recipe for disaster especially with the presence of cybercriminals.
Every bit of information saved online requires adequate cybersecurity, and adopting a framework that’s proven and tested is an effective way to keep attackers at arm’s length.
When looking to improve online security, many users look to the NIST framework. But what is it? Let’s find out.
What Does NIST Stand for in Cybersecurity?
NIST is an acronym for the National Institute of Standards and Technology—a government agency that specializes in cybersecurity risk management.
The absence of a standard for cybersecurity risk management in the past created a loophole in the security systems of organizations and cyber attackers took advantage of the gap to execute attacks.
Despite recognizing the need for cybersecurity risk management, some organizations lacked the expertise to implement it, thereby falling victims to cyberattacks.
The NIST cybersecurity framework cuts across different fields. Organizations in different industries can strengthen their security systems by implementing the framework with the use of intrusion detection systems and other practices.
The NIST framework consists of three components: core, implementation tiers, and profiles. Each component evaluates the impact of cybersecurity risk management on the operational and financial objectives of a business. The following sections will cover each of these.
The NIST Framework Core
The NIST framework core embodies a series of activities and guidelines that organizations can use to manage cybersecurity risks.
Practicality is the focus of the framework core. It outlines hands-on activities that organizations can implement to achieve specific outcomes. Given its practical approach, this component references real-life examples of organizations that have adopted the outlined practices to manage their cybersecurity risks.
There are five functions of the framework core:
To manage cybersecurity risks effectively, you need to know your critical systems and assets.
While all your assets may be important to your organization, some are more valuable than others. The core framework enables you to prioritize your risk management efforts. In the face of an attack, you give priority to your most valuable assets before going on to the others.
The identification function includes business environment, asset management, risk management, and governance.
This function helps you to streamline your cybersecurity efforts by being proactive in preventing threats from getting into your network.
Instead of running helter-skelter in the face of a cybersecurity attack, you put up defenses on the ground against possible attacks.
The protection function includes awareness and training, access control, and data security.
Identifying your most valuable assets and putting up defenses against threats is a good start but it’s not enough to prevent an attack. This function helps you to develop strategies to spot the threats that may exist, early enough before they escalate.
The detection function includes continuous monitoring, anomalies and events, and detection processes.
When you detect a cybersecurity threat, what do you do? This function guides you in developing an effective strategy that will help you nip the threat in the bud. Failure to respond effectively could lead to severe damages.
The response function includes planning, communications, mitigation, and improvements.
Even if you were able to manage a cybersecurity risk effectively, your system may not be exactly as it was before the threat or attack. You need to restore it to its original state with a series of activities, and put measures in place to prevent a reoccurrence.
The recovery function includes planning, communications, and improvements.
Framework Implementation Tiers
Bigger organizations may suffer advanced security risks compared to smaller organizations. This framework is designed to give organizations the flexibility to implement cybersecurity risk management in their capacities.
Ranging from tiers 1-4, the implementation tiers framework allows you to move at your own pace, based on your needs, to manage your assets and costs.
Tier 1: Partial
As the name implies, tier 1 is a partial approach to cybersecurity risk management. Instead of formalizing your entire security framework and being proactive beforehand, you are reactive by acting only when a security risk arises.
Cybersecurity awareness is limited at this level and the communication within your organization isn’t necessarily the best due to a lack of established processes.
Tier 2: Risk-Informed
This is where you begin to formalize your cybersecurity risk management. Your management team recognizes the need for a risk management framework and creates awareness about it across the organization. You equip your employees with the tools to execute cybersecurity activities but there is no structure for sharing information externally or collaborating with external sources.
Tier 3: Repeatable
At this level, your cybersecurity management is advanced. There’s a formal framework for risk management and cybersecurity practices. You prioritize your cybersecurity management and regularly update it in line with your business environment and needs.
There’s a high level of cybersecurity awareness across your organization and your employees are very knowledgeable about cybersecurity practices. Your organization also has a process for communications and collaborations with external sources.
Tier 4: Adaptive
This is the peak of cybersecurity risk management. At this level, you have mastered the art of picking up lessons from past security incidents and using those lessons to strengthen your current security system and making future predictions.
Your organization thrives on a healthy cybersecurity culture with employees being highly skilled in cybersecurity activities. It’s big on sharing information externally and makes positive strides in its collaborations with external sources.
The framework profiles help you to create a balance between your business needs, resources, and your capacity to manage cybersecurity risks.
Having profiled your organization, you are well-informed to adopt the best cybersecurity risk management practices for your business.
With a clear picture of your business strengths and weaknesses, you create processes to harness your strengths and address your weaknesses.
How Do I Use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?
Are you thinking of discarding your current cybersecurity framework for the NIST framework? Not so fast. The framework encourages organizations to consider their current cybersecurity condition before taking action.
1. Review Current Cybersecurity Practices
A good start for using the NIST framework is to review your current cybersecurity practices.
When you conduct a proper review, you will identify existing loopholes in your risk management practices and implement the various activities recommended by the framework to fix them.
2. Developing or Improving Cybersecurity Practices
Having reviewed your current cybersecurity practices, you may choose to improve them or develop new practices based on the results of your review.
You need to outline your business goals and create an effective cybersecurity environment that will bring your goals to fruition. If your existing practices don’t align with your goals, you need to create new ones. But if they have potential, you can work on improving them.
3. Communicating Cybersecurity Expectations With Stakeholders
Sharing your cybersecurity information with stakeholders gives you more insights into protecting your assets.
By reviewing the current state of your cybersecurity, you have a better understanding of where you are. Going forward, you can leverage the solutions proffered by the NIST cybersecurity framework to make predictions and communicate your expectations effectively with stakeholders and external bodies.
Giving Your Organization a Better Chance at Cybersecurity
The NIST framework has different facets that may seem complex to implement for many organizations. But it all boils down to being detailed and thorough.
When implemented effectively, the framework helps you to create an efficient cybersecurity framework for your business. You get to identify your most important assets, measure your risk management capacity, identify loopholes and take necessary measures to enhance your cybersecurity. In the end, your cybersecurity risk management will change for the better.
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September 7, 2021 at 07:03AM