NIST is the abbreviated name of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It’s one of many federal agencies under the U.S. Department of Commerce, and is one of the oldest physical science laboratories in the United States.

As a non-regulatory government agency, NIST was originally founded to enable greater industrial competitiveness in the United States. Its focus stems from the mantra, “One cannot manage what is not measured.”Over the years the agency has worked to develop and formalize a wide range of commercial and industrial standards. 

Today that means NIST develops technology and security policies that help drive innovation in science and technology-related industries; and better prepares those industries to meet the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

NIST compliance is particularly imperative for agencies within the federal government, such as the Defense Department, as well as the large and small businesses that are part of those agencies’ supply chains. 

NIST’s data protection standards help the agencies (and their service providers) to avoid cyber attacks, and to better protect sensitive data and federal information systems through cost-effective programs.

Benefits of NIST Compliance

The benefits of being NIST-compliant include:

  • Developing a standard process for addressing cybersecurity concerns across an organization
  • Establishing best practices for a range of cybersecurity issues
  • Reducing the risk of data breaches
  • Save money over the long term on information security and incident response
  • Compliance with various regulatory agencies

The Risks of Noncompliance With NIST

It’s important to understand that NIST itself only develops standards and frameworks. It is not a regulatory agency, and NIST never performs audits to assure that a business is complying with its standards. 

NIST standards, however, are instrumental for organizations to demonstrate that they are in compliance with other agencies’ regulations — including FISMA compliance, which is required by numerous agencies if a government contractor wants to provide cloud-based services to government customers. The cloud-based provider must follow NIST standards to demonstrate that it complies with FISMA, and therefore is eligible to bid on agency contracts. 

For example, those in cybersecurity are most familiar with several NIST publications such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), NIST 800-171, and ITL Bulletins.

These NIST standards provide a risk management framework that protects controlled unclassified information (CUI), critical infrastructure, and information technology. The standards provide a roadmap for private sector businesses and U.S. government agencies to implement effective security controls. 

Neglecting NIST guidelines can ultimately increase your exposure to cybersecurity breaches, jeopardize your ability to bid on government contracts, harm your corporate reputation, reduce productivity, and otherwise weaken your ability to do business. 

The 5 Fundamental Functions of NIST CSF

The five main functions of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework are:

  • Identify: The Identify function enables organizations to determine how they will manage cybersecurity risk and which systems, team members, resources, data, and capabilities are required. This allows the business to focus and prioritize their efforts in the best way.
  • Protect: The Protect function provides the appropriate safeguards to assure that an organization can continue to deliver critical services and contain the effects of a potential data security incident.
  • Detect: The Detect function outlines the protocols that should be in place to identify the occurrence of a computer security event. 
  • Respond: The Respond function outlines the requirements for taking action after a cybersecurity incident is detected. 
  • Recover: The Recover function identifies appropriate actions to take to maintain business continuity and begin disaster recovery of any capabilities or services that were disrupted during a cyber attack. 

The functions represent the highest degree of abstraction in the cybersecurity framework, upon which all other aspects are based. They support an organization in determining how to express and manage its cybersecurity risk. 

Reciprocity Has Your NIST Compliance Solution

There are a number of ways to manage and monitor NIST compliance, but automation is the most efficient and cost-effective.

With automation, the mapping, management, and monitoring of your governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) stance is a breeze!

ZenGRC’s automated compliance platform accomplishes NIST compliance faster and with more accuracy. ZenGRC performs the time-consuming drudge work so you don’t have to. Examples include:

  • Conducting a risk assessment of your information systems and your vendors to identify any gaps and how to fill them. 
  • Creating a plan of action for system security and displaying your progress in real-time on a user-friendly dashboard.
  • Mapping all your compliance efforts and frameworks, including HIPAA, ISO, DFARS, and more, so you can avoid duplication.
  • Providing continuous monitoring of your information systems, and alerting you to changes that could threaten your compliance stance.
  • Updating itself as soon as NIST changes occur.
  • Conducting automated self-audits and organizing your documentation in a “single source of truth” repository.

Worry-free NIST compliance is the Zen way. Why not contact our team for your free ZenGRC consultation today?

How to Upgrade Your Cyber Risk
Management Program with NIST