The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, has been a topic of conversation for a few years within the Defense Industrial Base (DIB). CMMC is a unified standard for implementing cybersecurity across the DIB, which includes over 300,000 companies in the supply chain. The CMMC is the DoD’s response to significant compromises of sensitive defense information located on contractors’ information systems. The US Department of Defense (DoD) released the much-anticipated Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) version 1.0•• on January 31, 2020. Since then, CMMC has undergone much scrutiny and discussion. Here is a timeline of CMMC:

September 2020: The CMMC program published by the DoD (now known as CMMC 1.0). This framework assesses a Defense Industrial Base (DIB) contractor’s compliance with a set of cybersecurity standards.

November 2020: A Presidential interim rule became effective, establishing a five-year phase-in period and requiring compliance with NIST 800-71 rules.

March 2021: The DoD announced an internal review of CMMC’s implementation.

November 2021: The DoD announced CMMC 2.0, and updated program and requirements designed to meet certain goals, including:

  • Protecting sensitive information to enable and protect the warfighter.
  • Dynamically enhance DIB cybersecurity to meet evolving threats.
  • Ensuring accountability while minimizing barriers to compliance with DoD requirements.
  • Contributing to a collaborative culture of cybersecurity and cyber resilience.
  • Maintaining public trust through high professional and ethical standards.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has established a set of security standards for businesses and organizations to protect their data and systems. Known as NIST compliance, these standards help organizations develop secure systems, networks, and processes that meet the specific needs of their industry.

This article will discuss the key requirements of NIST compliance, who it impacts, its types, and an implementation plan. Let’s jump right in.

What Is NIST Compliance?

NIST compliance is a rigorous set of guidelines for any organization or business dealing with sensitive data, such as personal and financial data, from unauthorized access and disclosure. This includes any company, government agency, healthcare provider, financial institution, or educational institution. NIST aims to promote measurement, testing, and technology standards to improve efficiency, reliability, and security across various industries.

Who Does NIST Compliance Impact?

Any organization that processes, stores, or transmits sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information (PII) or financial data, is subject to NIST compliance requirements. NIST compliance also affects companies that provide products or services to government agencies, as many government contracts require adherence to NIST standards. Failure to comply with NIST regulations can result in financial penalties, reputational damage, and loss of business opportunities. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to understand and implement NIST standards to ensure the security and protection of sensitive data.

Five NIST Requirements

The five key requirements outlined below must be met for organizations to become compliant. Doing so will give them greater peace of mind knowing that their data and systems are properly protected from potential threats or disasters.

1. Access Controls and System Monitoring

The first requirement of NIST compliance is regarding access controls and system usage monitoring. This involves implementing measures that allow only authorized users to access systems and data while restricting the specific actions they can take within those systems. Organizations should also monitor user activity to detect abnormal or suspicious behavior.

2. Comprehensive Risk Assessment Process

The second requirement focuses on the importance of having a comprehensive risk assessment process and incident response plans for addressing potential threats or incidents. Risk assessments help organizations identify their vulnerabilities and possible areas of improvement regarding data security. At the same time, incident response plans provide an actionable course of action for responding to an incident promptly.

3. Contingency Planning

The third requirement of NIST compliance involves contingency planning and business continuity strategies. Organizations must have detailed plans for how they will recover from an incident or disaster should one occur so that operations can resume quickly without too much disruption.

4. Security Awareness Training

The fourth requirement is security awareness training for all employees. All personnel must be aware of their company’s security policies as well as best practices when it comes to managing information securely. Everyone must understand the consequences if these policies are not followed. This can put the entire organization at risk if individuals do not responsibly handle sensitive data or access systems.

5. Physical Security Policies

The final requirement is physical security policies and procedures, which include securing office buildings with locks and alarms and controlling who has access to certain areas within these locations, such as server rooms or other restricted spaces where sensitive information may be stored.

Interested in implementing an NIST compliance framework for your business today? Check out our services to see how we can help.

Cybersecurity Compliance Services

Types of NIST Compliance

Organizations may be required or choose to comply with several types of NIST compliance. These include:

  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF): The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a voluntary set of guidelines and best practices for managing and reducing cybersecurity risks. It was developed through a collaborative effort between industry, academia, and government agencies, and it provides a flexible and scalable approach to cybersecurity. The CSF comprises five core functions: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.
  • NIST Special Publication 800-53: NIST SP 800-53 provides a catalog of security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations that operate them. It covers various security and privacy requirements, including access control, incident response, risk assessment, and system and information integrity. SP 800-53 is often used as a baseline for compliance frameworks, such as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).
  • NIST 800-171 Special Publication: NIST SP 800-171 outlines the security requirements for protecting controlled unclassified information (CUI) in non-federal information systems and organizations. The standard includes 14 families of security requirements, including access control, incident response, and media protection. Compliance with SP 800-171 is required for contractors and subcontractors who handle CUI on behalf of the federal government.
  • NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF): The NIST RMF is a structured process for managing risks to organizational operations, assets, individuals, and other entities. It is based on a six-step process that includes categorizing information systems, selecting security controls, implementing the controls, assessing the controls, authorizing the system, and monitoring the system. Federal agencies and their contractors use the RMF to manage cybersecurity risks.
  • NIST Privacy Framework: The NIST Privacy Framework is a voluntary tool for managing privacy risks in an organization. It is designed to help organizations identify and manage privacy risks and comply with privacy laws and regulations. The framework is organized around these core functions: identify, prioritize, govern, control, communicate, and manage.

How To Implement an NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Providers like Braxton-Grant Technologies can implement an NIST cybersecurity framework through the following steps:

  1. Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities, and risks to the organization’s information systems.
  2. Develop and implement policies and procedures that address the identified risks and comply with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) guidelines.
  3. Establish and maintain an inventory of information assets, including hardware, software, and data to better understand and manage the risks to those assets.
  4. Implement access controls, including authentication, authorization, and monitoring to ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive data and systems.
  5. Implement network and system security controls, including firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), and antivirus software to protect against external and internal threats.
  6. Implement data protection measures, including encryption, backup, and recovery procedures to ensure sensitive data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
  7. Train employees and contractors on cybersecurity best practices and their roles and responsibilities in protecting the organization’s information systems.
  8. Regularly monitor and assess the effectiveness of the NIST compliance program and make necessary adjustments to address new threats and vulnerabilities.

Braxton-Grant Technologies: Your Source for NIST Compliance

Adopting NIST compliance helps companies secure their data from malicious cyberattacks and keep up with the ever-changing regulations. By utilizing suitable solutions and assistance from a trusted IT partner like Braxton-Grant, enterprises can rest assured that an ironclad IT security system safeguards their information. Contact our experts today to get started.