NIST Cybersecurity Risk Assessments and Compliance Assessments

Demonstrate Compliance with NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, and the NIST CSF

The National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) provides a structured set of measurements and standards for a variety of technical disciplines, including cybersecurity. The NIST cybersecurity framework (CSF) is designed to “facilitate and support the development of a voluntary, consensus-based, industry-led set of standards, guidelines, best practices, methodologies, procedures, and processes to cost-effectively reduce cyber risks;” individual NIST special publications 800-53 and 800-171 provide additional guidance for security and privacy controls for federal and non-federal information systems.

Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST CSF – formally known as the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Security – outlines a number of standards for handling controlled unclassified information (CUI), such as personnel records, general financial information, budgets, and sensitive personally identifiable information (PII). To protect this information from internal and external threats, the framework covers elements such as:

  • Inventory and control of hardware and software assets
  • Continuous vulnerability management
  • Controlled use of administrative privileges
  • Secure configuration for hardware and software on mobile devices, laptops, workstations, and servers
  • Maintenance, monitoring, and analysis of access logs
  • Email and web browser protections
  • Malware defenses
  • Limitation and control of network ports, protocols, and services
  • Data recovery capabilities
  • Secure configuration for network devices, including firewalls, routers, and switches
  • Boundary defense
  • Data protection
  • Controlled access
  • Wireless access control
  • Account monitoring and control
  • Security awareness and training programs
  • Application software security
  • Incident response and management
  • Penetration tests and red team exercises

The NIST cybersecurity framework is outcome-driven. It does not prescribe minimum standards for its elements; instead, it allows organizations to decide on their own risk-based implementations.

NIST CSF Core Functions, Implementation Tiers, and Profiles

The framework’s core functions – identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover – organize basic cybersecurity functions at their highest level. This in turn provides a strategic view of an organization’s cybersecurity efforts, in a format that’s easy to understand for both technical and non-technical stakeholders. Each of the framework’s major categories (such as governance, risk management, monitoring, and response planning) fall into one of the core functions:

Develop the organizational understanding to manage cybersecurity risk to systems, assets, data, and capabilities.

Categories:

Asset management; business environment; governance; risk assessment; risk management strategy; supply chain risk management

Develop and implement the appropriate safeguards to ensure delivery of critical infrastructure services.

Categories:

Identity management; authentication and access control; awareness and training; data security; info protection and procedures; maintenance; protective technology

Develop and implement the appropriate activities to identify the occurrence of a cybersecurity event.

Categories: 

Anomalies and events; continuous security monitoring; detection process

 

Develop and implement the appropriate activities to take action regarding a detected cybersecurity event.

Categories: 

Response planning; communications; analysis; mitigation; improvements

Develop and implement the appropriate activities to take action after responding to a cybersecurity event.

Categories:

Response planning; improvements; communications

The framework also includes implementation tiers, which help organizations understand how their current cybersecurity practices align with the NIST CSF. While similar to maturity levels, NIST implementation tiers are not quite as formal. Instead of striving for the highest possible maturity level, organizations should select the NIST tier that is most appropriate for their objectives, resources, and risk profile.

Similarly, NIST CSF profiles allow organizations to map their efforts to the framework’s core functions. Organizations can use profiles to identify opportunities for improvement by comparing their current profile to a desired “target” profile.

What Organizations are Required to be NIST-Compliant?

NIST CSF compliance is required for any organization that handles CUI on behalf of the federal government. This can include service providers, manufacturers, research organizations, contractors, and educational organizations – whether they’re a prime contractor or a sub-prime contractor. In order to bid on a federal contract, organizations must implement the controls set forth in the NIST cybersecurity framework, then maintain these controls throughout the duration of the contract. Organizations that do not maintain compliance will be removed from projects and removed from the federal government’s list of approved contractors.

Obtaining Proof of NIST Compliance

Unlike other NIST standards, the NIST CSF is not a formal certification or accreditation program. Federal contracts and RFPs often require organizations to “self-certify”, or attest that they are in compliance with the NIST cyber risk management framework. However, third-party validation of an organization’s controls can provide an additional level of assurance.

NIST Cybersecurity Assessments

As an independent, third-party cybersecurity and compliance firm, 360 Advanced can help you navigate the NIST CSF assessment process. With a deep understanding of the NIST cybersecurity framework, our auditors can guide you through a CSF risk assessment or a formal NIST security assessment.

NIST CSF Risk Assessments

A NIST risk assessment allows you to evaluate relevant threats to your organization, including both internal and external vulnerabilities. It also allows you to assess the potential impact an attack could have on your organization, as well as the likelihood of an event taking place.

360 Advanced can take you through a cybersecurity risk assessment at the organization level, the business process level, and/or the system (environment) level. Our auditors will assess your:

  • Cybersecurity leadership
  • Governance and societal responsibilities
  • Strategy development and implementation
  • Customer expectations and engagement
  • Measurement, analysis, and improvement of performance programs
  • Knowledge management process
  • Workforce environment and engagement
  • Work processes and operational effectiveness
  • Results (including procedural results, customer results, workforce results, leadership results, financial results, and strategic results)

The NIST cybersecurity framework allows organizations to complete a self-assessment of the above factors using the Baldridge Excellence Framework. However, an independent, third-party risk assessment allows you to go beyond a checklist to evaluate the true impact of your security programs.

At 360 Advanced, our team will work to identify where you are already in compliance with the NIST information security framework and where you need to update your policies and procedures to meet minimum standards. From there, we can assist in the development of a Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M).

NIST CSF Assessments

After your risk assessment (and any corresponding remediation actions), 360 Advanced can formally assess your organization for compliance with the NIST cybersecurity framework. Tailoring the assessment to the unique needs and risk profile of your organization (such as your use of cloud-based solutions), we’ll review your policies and procedures for storing, processing, and transmitting CUI, as well as your incident detection and monitoring programs.

Our team has a deep understanding of NIST cybersecurity assessment requirements, as well as the unique requirements of each associated industry. We have conducted NIST assessments for healthcare technology organizations, pre-employment screening firms, and other government contractors. Our goal isn’t just to ensure that you’re meeting the relevant NIST standards for privacy and security, but also the local, regional, and industry-specific requirements to which your organization is held.

NIST Assessments as Part of an Integrated Compliance Initiative

Our firm takes a 360-degree approach to compliance. That means integrating NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171 assessments with your other privacy, security, and information management initiatives. We can integrate your NIST CSF assessments with ISO certification efforts, FISMA certification efforts, DFARS (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement) compliance initiatives, and DOD CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification) initiatives. We can also integrate your NIST compliance efforts with healthcare-specific assessments, such as HIPAA and HITRUST, or other general security initiatives, such as SOC 1 or SOC 2 examinations.

Our integrated approach streamlines the process for your entire team, allowing you to reduce duplicative requests and interviews and lowering your overall cost of compliance. Our fixed-fee model lets you focus on your business, while allowing our team to provide unlimited support and guidance along the way.

Get in Touch With Our NIST Cybersecurity Assessors

Whether you’re planning a NIST vulnerability assessment, self-assessment, or cybersecurity audit, 360 Advanced can help you meet your contractual obligations and earn more work in the federal sector.