Your Complete Guide to NIST CSF Compliance
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework, commonly referred to as NIST CSF is a set of industry-recognized best practices for cybersecurity. Overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the CSF framework creates a foundation from which your organization can measure and manage your cybersecurity risk. Essentially, it’s a way to manage and mitigate cyber threats in a way that’s beneficial to your overall business goals.
NIST CSF is often used by organizations that operate critical infrastructure as well as other private-sector businesses, but the best practices are applicable to a range of organizations of varying sizes across all industries.
In this NIST CSF knowledgebase, we’ll help you better understand the framework, how it works, how you can put it to use within your organization, its history, and ways it works together with other existing controls you have in place now or want to add to your overall cybersecurity program in the future.
NIST CSF is a voluntary cybersecurity framework your organization can use to establish or mature a cybersecurity program.Learn More
Simplify your NIST CSF strategy with this CSF compliance guide that includes a framework overview and much moreLearn More
Organizations of all sizes can benefit from implementing best practices outlined within this voluntary cybersecurity framework.Learn More
NIST CSF’s five core functions align with the cybersecurity lifecycle: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.Learn More
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework has four implementation tiers that help determine where you are with total CSF compliance.Learn More
By understanding your current security profile, you can build an action plan to mature your program and evolve to your target profile.Learn More
There are 23 total CSF requirements, and fully compliant organizations can successfully implement all with a proactive approach to security.Learn More
While CSF compliance is voluntary, you can undergo a CSF assessment to determine which controls work as required and identify gaps.Learn More
There are increasing risks up and down your supply chain and that’s why supply chain management is part of CSF compliance.Learn More
In addition to CSF, your organization may need to implement other frameworks. How do you know which is right for you?Learn More
Have questions about the NIST Cybersecurity Framework? This FAQ is a great place to start.Learn More
Searching for tools, guidance, and assistance with NIST CSF compliance? Try the NIST CSF Marketplace in CyberXchange.Learn More
See how you can simplify and streamline all of your NIST CSF compliance needs for better security oversight and management with Apptega.Learn More
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed its NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) as a voluntary set of standards your organization can use to manage and mitigate cyber risks for your organization. The framework is made up of standards, guidelines, and other best practices. Because it is voluntary, compliance for your organization is not mandated, however, adopting the NIST CSF framework provides a great foundation to build, implement, manage, and mature your organization’s cybersecurity practices.
The first version of NIST CSF became public in 2014. It was the result of work NIST did with private-sector and government agencies in response to the 2013 Presidential Executive Order 13636, “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” to develop a cybersecurity framework. Response to the framework was widely positive and that same year Congress formally ratified the framework as part of NIST requirements in its Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014. This version remained in place through 2018 when, in April of that year, NIST released an update as version 1.1.
Among the many benefits of NIST CSF is that it not only helps your organization identify cyber risks, but it also helps you determine what you should do to address those risks as they relate specifically to your organization and business goals.
NIST CSF provides a common language so you can communicate your cyber risks both inside and outside of your organization to help establish and mature your cybersecurity posture. In its nature, the CSF framework is itself high-level, meaning your organization has a lot of flexibility when it comes to implementing CSF requirements. One set of controls may be applicable for your organization today, while another may be better for you in the future.
There are three main components of NIST CSF: its core, implementation tiers, and profiles. The NIST CSF core outlines activities and outcomes in a unified language that’s easy for internal and external stakeholders to understand. The implementation tiers provide a way that your organization can implement a cybersecurity framework and then mature it as your organization changes, and the profile helps align your organization’s specific requirements to your objectives, resources, and risk appetite.
One of the unique parts of this framework is how will it connects your cybersecurity risk activities with your business drivers and outcomes.
Implementing, managing and maturing a cybersecurity framework has never been easier than with Apptega’s cybersecurity framework management solution. With NIST, you can:
Learn how you can use Apptega to simplify and streamline control identification and management, enabling you to modify your frameworks as you need and adjust controls to meet the demands of today’s evolving threat landscape.
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework aligns with the cybersecurity lifecycle: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. As such, this voluntary set of cybersecurity standards makes it easy for your organization to set a foundation for your cybersecurity program and mature it in phases.
In our NIST CSF compliance guide, we break down the big picture of the CSF framework to help you understand its origins and intent so you can “Build a Successful NIST CSF Engagement Strategy to Secure Your Business.”
The guide walks you through the three core framework components: core, implementation tiers, and profiles. Then take a deeper dive into the lifecycle alignment with a breakdown of security functions, and summarizes the key 23 framework requirements, which is managed within Apptega through categories related to the framework core.
The guide is also an invaluable tool in helping your organization prepare for a CSF assessment, including a walkthrough of five basic steps your organization can take to ensure a successful framework implementation and adoption. You’ll also find a detailed resource guide to help connect your organization with any additional CSF support you may need.
All organizations, regardless of size or industry, can benefit from NIST CSF compliance. Although the framework consists of voluntary standards that are not legally bound to compliance, the framework serves as a solid foundation that any organization—even those with limited people, tools, resources, and financial support—can implement and then mature over time.
Because the NIST CSF framework has implementation tiers, it’s a great resource that can meet you where you are today in relation to your existing cybersecurity risks and business goals, and then provide a way to add additional layers of security to your program as your needs and objectives change, and the cyber risk landscape continues to evolve.
If you’re an organization that provides products and services to the federal government, there may be other NIST standards that your organization must comply with, for example, NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171. If you’re already using those frameworks, you can crosswalk those controls and map them to the NIST CSF framework, simplifying control management and giving you a better picture of all the ways your organization is committed to reducing cyber risks. If you have not yet implemented those standards, but are expected to do so, the NIST CSF framework can be a great place to start.
While the NIST CSF framework is a great starting point for developing a program to address cyber risks, many organizations quickly find that through various legal and compliance mandates, there are a range of other frameworks they are obligated to implement and manage. If your organization tries to manage all of these different controls and requirements through spreadsheets or GRC tools, you may be quickly overwhelmed and struggle to get the insight you need to efficiently manage your program. Those tools often leave your organization with gaps in visibility, causing duplicated work and the unnecessary use of manual, repetitive tasks.
Apptega’s Harmony tool makes streamlining your control and framework management a breeze. Through Harmony, you can crosswalk your existing frameworks and their controls to get instant, easy-to-understand insight into your current security posture, including where you have gaps, from the big picture of compliance, all the way down to a granular sub-control level.
Here are some of the other key benefits of Apptega’s Harmony:
The five core functions of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework directly align with the cybersecurity lifecycle: identify, protect, detect, respond, recover.
These five functions represent the five core pillars of the CSF framework. At the highest level, they can help your organization build a holistic cybersecurity program, one that can be matured as your needs evolve. These five core functions also help your organization implement a common language for communicating your program maturity both internally and externally.
Each function has related categories. There are 23 total requirements representing those categories and there are additional sub-categories related to the 23 core categories.
This function helps your organization understand how you can manage your cyber risks as they relate to your people, assets, data, systems, and other capabilities. The identification process helps your team better understand your cyber risks in actual business context, for example, by identifying your organization’s most critical functions and related assets and then homing in on cyber risks that can affect your organizational resilience.
Here is a quick look at some of the things your organization might tackle as part of the identify phase:
This function helps your organization identify necessary safeguards that ensure you’re able to deliver critical services, for example, during and after a cybersecurity event.
This may include steps such as:
This function helps your organization develop activities to determine when you’re experiencing a cybersecurity incident so you can quickly respond.
This may include steps such as:
This function helps your organization understand steps required to respond to a cybersecurity event. Your goal is to respond in a way that contains and mitigates the impact of the event.
This may include steps such as:
This function helps you determine which activities you need to take to recover from an incident and return to business as usual as quickly as possible, including restoration of your critical services and processes.
This may include steps such as:
There are four implementation tiers in the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. In simplest terms, the tiers determine how well your organization’s cybersecurity risk management practices meet requirements defined in the framework, not specifically your program’s maturity levels. The tiers range from partial all the way up to adaptive.
Cybersecurity activities aren’t directly informed by your risk objectives, business requirements, or threat landscape. Your activities are ad hoc and reactive.
Cybersecurity activities are directly informed by your risk objectives, business requirements, or threat landscape. Your activities are piecemealed with some risk awareness, but they are not proactive.
Cybersecurity activities are updated as you apply your risk management processes to your changing business requirements and threat landscape. You’ve implemented these activities throughout your company and they are repeatable so you can respond to cyber events.
Cybersecurity activities are built into your overall organizational culture and represent complete adoption of the NIST CSF framework. You can respond to cyber events and take proactive steps to detect issues and respond to them based on trends and other relevant risk information.
“With Apptega, we now have the visibility needed to know the true status of our program at any time.”
"I would absolutely recommend Apptega for anyone looking to elevate their compliance program from a static source to something that can be used to actively track and manage your compliance."
"I find Apptega amazingly easy to use. What I like best is the pre-built framework content covering topics like NIST CSF, CIS, GDPR, and CCPA. The reports are extremely valuable for reporting to executive and board stakeholders."
In the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, framework profiles help you align your organization’s goals, objectives, risk appetite, and available resources to the CSF core. Where you are now is your current profile. Where you want to go with your cybersecurity maturity is your target profile. You can use the CSF framework to build an action plan to move you from your current profile to your target profile.
You can use the framework’s profiles to find areas of improvement so you can improve your cybersecurity posture by essentially evaluating your organization’s objectives against the current threat landscape and your existing controls and then determining the profile you want to get to next.
Organizations often use the target profile as a way to plan for future improvements and program investments. For example, your organization might be comfortable implementing a specific set of controls and sub-controls in your first year, and from there you can build a plan to prioritize and implement additional controls and sub-controls in the coming months and years.
To become fully NIST CSF compliant at implementation tier 4, you’ll need to implement all of the framework’s controls and sub-controls, and demonstrate you can effectively respond to a cybersecurity event and are proactively and continuously seeking out risks and effectively remediating them even as your organization and threat landscape evolves and expands.
There are 23 total CSF requirements and each requirement grouping aligns with the cybersecurity lifecycle.
Although the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is voluntary and there are no legal requirements for compliance, undergoing a NIST CSF compliance assessment can help you better understand your current security posture and help your organization make plans to move to your target profile.
Whether you’re conducting an internal audit or having an external assessment, here are a few tips that can help ensure you’re on the journey to CSF compliance, regardless of your current implementation tier.
And, remember, this is not a set-it-and-forget-it process. Your cybersecurity processes and evaluations should be continuous to keep up with your rapidly change threat landscape.
Develop a governance agreement for your organization that defines your organization’s risk appetite. Use this time to set goals for your cybersecurity program including a budget related to CSF implementation and management, your implementation priorities and objectives, and outlining roles and responsibilities.
There are four tiers for NIST CSF implementation. Evaluate the current profile for your organization’s existing cybersecurity measures and then select the appropriate tier for implementation.
Conduct a risk assessment, possibly using an independent external party to solidify your current security posture and then develop goals related to your current security risks, including an inventory of your existing assets, vulnerabilities, and other security issues. Don’t forget to document.
Use your risk assessment to compare your current security posture scores against your target profile scores. Develop an action plan to address areas where you have gaps, including steps to improve your scores and close your gaps.
Next, implement your action plan, including documenting all of your processes. Consider developing training and education materials to help facilitate organizational-wide adoption as appropriate. Establish key metrics that will help you continue to assess the effectiveness of your cybersecurity program and help you meet expectations and requirements.
While the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a great resource for any organization looking to implement or improve a cybersecurity program, the reality today is that many organizations, because of various mandates, often find themselves balancing the implementation and management of multiple frameworks, often simultaneously. With so many frameworks in the market and getting attention, how do you know which framework is right for your organization? This blog takes a closer look at some of the most common frameworks, for example, SOC 2, CIS, ISO, PCI, and others, to help you identify what they’re used for and what they’re intended to do.Read Now
The lines that define cybersecurity and privacy have been distinct, but that’s rapidly changing. Today, because of evolving regulatory and compliance obligations, these lines are blurring and it’s becoming ever-more challenging to clearly discern who is responsible for what within your organization. It’s a situation further complicated by many organization’s cultures where old roles have been grandfathered down a chain over time, leaving some responsibilities not even within the department that should handle them. Check out this blog to learn more about how to clarify where there are questions, understand what got us to this point, and get tips to overcome common convergence challenges.Read Now
Supply chain risks are of increasing concern for all organizations, regardless of industry. For example, in the past year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a breakdown in several critical physical supply chain delivery channels and digital suppliers have experienced an increasing number of breaches, making every organization vulnerable to supply chain risks. So how can you effectively and efficiently manage cybersecurity risks up and down your supply chain, even beyond tier-1 vendors? This blog increasing supply chain risks caused by third-party vendors and offers actionable tips to help you prepare for and mitigate these risks, including using a cybersecurity framework that includes supply chain risks.Read More
There are more than 20 commonly used frameworks used today, with others popping up with increasing frequency. While some industries may mandate specific framework requirements, many modern organizations often face the common reality that they have to manage more than one. So how do you know which one (or combination of frameworks) you should use? Watch this webinar to learn more about common frameworks, including similarities and what sets them apart, and learn more about how you can use Apptega to help you manage your frameworks and meet your compliance requirements.Watch Now
As more and more organizations move to adopt cloud-based technologies, software as a services (SaaS) companies provide an increasingly important role in operational resilience. And those SaaS companies can’t overlook inherit cyber risks that may negatively affect their clients and customers, but some struggle with meeting cybersecurity requirements, especially when they’re associated with compliance mandates outside of their core industry. Watch this webinar to learn more about customer-driven cybersecurity, how to build your program with limited resources, and draw on real-world insight and advice to help you manage your program.Watch Now
Maybe you started your cybersecurity program with a compliance assessment based on the CSF framework and are now working towards maturing your program further with the addition of ISO. Or, you may be preparing for an audit. Watch this 3-minute video to see:
1. How to identify and address gaps in your CSF program
2. How you can eliminate redundancy with automatic crosswalking
3. How to monitor and report on combined or individual frameworks, and
4. The best way to streamline your audit process
Since having great cybersecurity is the foundation for protecting consumer data and privacy, you may be following a framework such as NIST CSF. But as you work towards maturing your privacy program, you may be looking to add frameworks such as CCPA or GDPR. Watch this 3-minute video to see:
1. An assessment of the current state of your NIST CSF and privacy compliance
2. How to gain an instant head-start on compliance with each new Privacy framework added
3. How to monitor and report on combined or individual frameworks
4. Automated reporting capabilities for executive visibility and your Board of Directors
The most current version of NIST CSF is v 1.1, which was released in 2018. You can find a complete copy here: https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/CSWP/NIST.CSWP.04162018.pdf.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, commonly referred to as NIST, oversees NIST CSF standards.
NIST Cybersecurity Framework compliance resources are in Apptega’s NIST CSF Marketplace. In the marketplace, you can quickly access products and services to help you with your FedRAMP authorization process, including access to consultants with expertise in your specific compliance areas.
See how you can simplify your NIST Cybersecurity Framework compliance journey with Apptega, ensuring you’re continually closing security gaps and improving your security postures.
Here are some of the benefits of using Apptega to help ensure you’re meeting all of your NIST CSF requirements:
Searching for guidance, assistance, or tools as you prepare for NIST CSF compliance?
The NIST CSF Marketplace in CyberXchange is mapped to all the controls defined within the NIST CSF framework. For each of your gaps or compliance deficiencies, you can instantly find solutions mapped to your specific needs. Guesswork is eliminated. The research is already done for you.
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