Established in 2014, the NIST security framework came about in response to a IS governmental mandate to secure the country’s critical IT infrastructure. Columbia Business School informs us that the NIST framework’s most recent iteration was released in April 2018. The NIST framework was a game-changer for several reasons. It set in place a generic framework that could be adapted by any business requiring cybersecurity. Organizations ranging from IT departments to IoT manufacturers have utilized their guidelines and practices. Despite this, many companies still ask what is NIST security framework, and should their organization use it? This article will explore what the NIST framework is and how it can help a business manage its cybersecurity risk.

The Functions of the NIST Framework

The framework is divided up into a series of five functions, namely:

  • Identify: Businesses understand the risk to their systems in the context of their entire organization.
  • Protect: The organization develops and implements safeguards to ensure that its critical infrastructure remains safe from cyber attacks.
  • Detect: Departments set up monitoring to ensure that, if a threat becomes present on the network, they can detect its presence and deal with it.
  • Respond: If a threat has been detected, the organization implements countermeasures the ensure that the risk is dealt with.
  • Recover: After the attack, the organization’s systems must return to working order. These measures ensure that the time needed for recovery is minimal and that all data can be retrieved.

These functions are broad and can be further subdivided into categories and subcategories. An in-depth exploration of these comes with implementing the NIST framework within an organization’s IT infrastructure.

The Tier System

The framework divides up organizations into tiers, depending on how well they implement the suggestions put forward by the NIST. These tiers can be used as benchmarks to compare one institution’s compliance against another. They are similar to the levels that you would find in an ISO standards implementation. We covered the process for ISO certification in a previous post. The Tier system in the NIST security framework is as follows:

  • Tier 1 Partial: The organization demonstrates a limited awareness of cybersecurity risk. Management of this risk is usually ad hoc and reactive. 
  • Tier 2 Risk-Informed: The institution is aware of the potential risk that cybersecurity breaches can have on their organization. Management adopts a just-in0time approach, handling threats as they happen.
  • Tier 3 Repeatable: organizations at this tier demonstrate a well-defined and repeatable cybersecurity policy. This policy informs all risk management.
  • Tier 4: Adaptable: At this stage, organizations will adapt their risk management policies based on experience and analytics of both their and other comparable approaches. This adaptability usually requires the organization to be part of a network that also implements the NIST security framework.

How Can These Tiers be Useful?

The tier system, as established by the NIST, allows companies to compare themselves to the rest of the industry. It removes the guesswork in what needs to be improved and will enable companies to forge their own path forward. Because of the framework’s open-ended nature, these tiers can be applied to any industry that needs to be concerned about cybersecurity. Using a nationally defined and accepted standard, organizations can conform to industry best practices and learn from others’ implementation.

Cybersecurity is a crucial part of your business. It’s about time you ensured that you understood the threats to your data and how to deal with them. While a business’s final adoption is ultimately their decision, having a consultant explain “what is NIST security framework” can be crucial to achieving compliance. Sync Resource has years of experience in supporting our clients through compliance testing and certification. Let us help you to meet the standards of the NIST framework and rise up the tier ranks.