NIST Framework Outlines Cybersecurity Best Practices
See how you can achieve NIST framework compliance and create a cybersecurity strategy for your business that's based on best practices.
- June 17, 2019
In 2014, the president signed an executive order for the creation of a voluntary framework outlining best practices for cybersecurity, to reduce risk to critical infrastructure on a federal level. The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Cybersecurity Framework was the direct result. It broke down established best practices into five simple stages and gave a general direction by which to implement these practices. The intent was to create an approach to cybersecurity strategy that could be customized to the needs, budget, resources, critical infrastructure and unique threats and vulnerabilities different organizations faced. Though the original intent of NIST was to better defend federal agencies, everyone is an equal target in the eyes of hackers, and the cybersecurity landscape is constantly expanding with new, emerging threats. Many non-federal groups across various industries have partnered with NIST to achieve framework compliance while developing their own cybersecurity programs — and seen significant improvement and reduction of risk because of it.
With more and more organizations embracing the NIST framework, it's worth exploring each of the five key stages, and how the Cybersecurity Framework might look when implemented for your business.
The first step is figuring out where your organization is most vulnerable to risk. This means analyzing each asset that supports daily operations. What are the systems, devices, users and platforms that you rely on to get work done? More importantly, where are each of these assets most vulnerable and which risks are most likely to impact them? This first stage of the framework is critical because it forms the foundation on which to build the rest of your cybersecurity strategy. By doing a full risk assessment of your organization and identifying assets and their vulnerabilities, you can start to prioritize areas of interest for your risk management team, set goals for improving network security and implement training to protect against data breaches and other forms of cybersecurity risk.
A company is nothing without its people. You need to be able to protect their information as well as the sensitive data that they handle and the business tools they interact with. Keeping your people protected can be as simple as installing a strong firewall, but that's only the beginning. Protecting your employees can be achieved through education (such as creating security education programs to teach cybersecurity policies), or sending out test simulations for them to participate in (including fake phishing, malware or ransomware attacks). These types of exercises and security software programs educate your people and re-enforce how to recognize different social engineering threats.
Once a threat has been detected, your ability to respond is crucial and makes all the difference in limiting and containing potential damage. Artificial intelligence can automate incident response to reduce the volume of threats. This leaves your risk management team free to run tested, coordinated response plans from the Protect stage of the framework to analyze and shut down more complex threats. Attacks are also an excellent opportunity to reexamine your security measures to see how they perform during a cybersecurity event, and to explore additional security services you can implement to create more effective defense strategies in the future.
Recovery is about more than simply eliminating the threat of a cyberattack. It's about the resilience of your network. Even when a threat or breach has been contained, the potential damage left during or after an attack can still significantly impact your business without a strategy in place. Backing up your critical information, files and accounts lets you restore services, critical infrastructure and data faster without losing work time, falling behind on goals and damaging the trust of stakeholders and customers. As with every other stage, the framework gives you the means to constantly refine your security strategy to see what works and what doesn't and why, and then to adjust accordingly in order to continue elevating your security knowledge.
Like technology, like the threat landscape itself, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is constantly evolving. NIST continues to research and redefine best practices for cybersecurity, further building out the framework and giving you more options for creating a culture of continuous risk assessment and adaptation. By creating an established protection and response strategy, you're empowering your business, reducing risk, protecting critical infrastructure and providing your users with peace of mind. Whether before, during or in the aftermath of an attack, you have a clear set of standards by which to define how security features are managed and what effective, successful cybersecurity looks like for your organization.