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9 October, 2019

NIST Cybersecurity Framework Compliance

The first version of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework was published in 2014, and it was updated for the first time in April 2018. Although there have not been any substantial changes, however, there are a few new additions and clarifications. Appendix A of this framework is often called the Framework Core, and it is a twenty-page document that lists five functions – Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.  They consist of various categories and sub-categories. Here, it must be noted that Appendix A is a knight in shining armor if utilized correctly while implementing this framework. 

As per NIST, this framework guides the decisionmakers to take the lead on cybersecurity activities and consider cybersecurity risks as a part of their organization’s overall risk management process. It is clear that NIST does not expect all the organizations to comply with all the contents of the framework. Instead, it expects that organizations will consider their business requirements and material risks before taking a well-informed and reasonable decision. 

One of the most significant additions in version 1.1 of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a section titled “Self-assessing Cybersecurity Risk with the Framework.” Under this section, the organizations are encouraged to perform either internal or external risk assessments using the framework. To lead this exercise, the individuals responsible must possess sufficient expertise so that they can inform the decision-makers of the organization’s existing risk profile, initiate vital discussions, and agree on a targeted risk profile. These activities must drive an organization’s adoption, implementation, and execution of a remediation plan for addressing the gaps between what an organization has and what it needs to improve its security posture. 

Cybersecurity Process 

The process diagram given below illustrates how the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is implemented as a cybersecurity process. 

Figure 1: Process diagram for the implementation of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (Source: NIST)

Core Controls 

Apart from the five functions of this framework stated previously, the controls given in this framework are classified into the following categories – 

Category  Explanation 
Asset Management (ID.AM) 
  • Inventory of devices, systems, software, applications, and external information systems 
  • Mapping data flows and communications within the organization 
  • Resource prioritization 
  • Defining cybersecurity roles and responsibilities 
Business Environment (ID.BE) 
  • Role in critical infrastructure and supply chain management 
  • Defining mission priorities and resilience requirements 
  • Dependencies on other services 
  • Understanding and managing legal and regulatory requirements 
  • Implementing processes for governance and risk management 
Risk Assessment (ID.RA) 
  • Identifying vulnerabilities and threats 
  • Documenting, communicating, and evaluating the impact and likelihood of vulnerabilities 
  • Identifying and prioritizing responses 
Risk Management Strategy (ID.RM) 
  • Identifying processes and their risk tolerance 
  • Considering critical infrastructure 
Access Control (PR.AC) 
  • Managing identities and credentials for authorized devices and users 
  • Controlling physical access 
  • Managing remote access 
  • Managing permissions and exceptions 
  • Protecting network integrity 
Awareness and Training (PR.AT) 
  • Awareness and training 
  • Privileged user awareness 
  • Third-party awareness 
  • Executive awareness 
  • Physical and information security roles training and awareness 
Data Security (PR.DS) 
  • Protecting data-at-rest 
  • Protecting data-in-transit 
  • Formal asset management and disposal 
  • Capacity and availability management 
  • Protection against data leaks 
  • Integrity checking 
  • Separating development and testing from production 
Information Protection Processes and Procedures (PR.IP) 
  • Complying with policy and regulations 
  • Data destruction 
  • Continuous improvement 
  • Information sharing 
  • Resource planning 
  • Response and recovery testing 
  • HR processes including deprovisioning and personnel screening 
  • Vulnerability management 
Maintenance (PR.MA) 
  • Timely maintenance 
  • Control and monitor remote maintenance activities 
Protective Technology (PR.PT) 
  • Log collection and analytics 
  • Remove media usage and controls 
  • Controlled access to systems and assets 
  • Protecting communications and control networks 
Anomalies and Events (DE.AE) 
  • Establishing baselines 
  • Analyzing detected events 
  • Aggregating and correlating data from multiple sources 
  • Impact determination 
  • Defining incident alert thresholds 
Security Continuous Monitoring (DE.CM) 
  • Roles and responsibilities 
  • Activities, testing, dissemination, and continuous improvement 
Resource Planning (RS.RP) 
  • Response plan maintenance and execution 
Communications (RS.CO) 
  • Personnel roles 
  • Event reporting 
  • Information sharing 
  • Coordinating with stakeholders 
  • Voluntary information sharing for situational awareness 
Analysis (RS.AN) 
  • Investigation of notifications 
  • Impact analysis 
  • Forensics investigations 
  • Incident categorization 
Mitigation (RS.MI) 
  • Containment, mitigation, and documentation of acceptable risks 
Improvements (RS.IM) 
  • Incorporating lessons learned into response strategy 
  • Updating response strategies 
Recovery Planning (RC.RP) 
  • Execution of the recovery plan 
Improvements (RC.IM) 
  • Incorporating lessons learned into recovery plans and recovery strategies 
Communications (RC.CO) 
  • Public relations management 
  • Reputation repair 
  • Communication of recovery activities to internal stakeholders, executives, and management teams 

Why should an organization adopt the NIST Cybersecurity Framework? 

According to our experts, this framework is one of the most flexible yet efficient frameworks available, and it can be adopted by any organization, irrespective of its size and industry. This framework assists an organization in understanding, structuring, managing, and reducing cybersecurity risks. In the ever-evolving cyberspace, cybersecurity loopholes are capable of causing substantial financial losses, damaged reputation, or outages that can permanently affect an organization’s position in the market. 

The framework helps organizations in identifying the most critical activities to assure a level of security maturity in businesscritical operations and service delivery. Further, it provides a common language, inside as well as outside the organization, for cybersecurity and risk management. As of now, the framework implementation is voluntary. It is entirely based on well-known industry standards and practices. However, every organization must identify its special themes and topics to pay particular attention to – depending upon an organization’s business context and relevant cybersecurity risks. 

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