When you work with the government, it’s expected that you’re going to handle a variety of data. That information can be unclassified to classified, depending on what you’re working on. Whatever information you’re given, the U.S. government expects your organization to have cybersecurity measures in place to keep it safe.
Originally, how this information was managed depended on the contractor. However, after the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) was created, that all changed. The NIST CSF standardized the way government contractors protect sensitive information.
The NIST’s mission is to develop standards, guidelines, best practices, and other resources to meet the needs of U.S. industries, federal agencies, and the broader public. On February 12, 2013, the NIST created the CSF to establish a structured collection of cyber risk fundamentals. These NIST compliance fundamentals are designed to be used when addressing key components of a cyber risk management program. The CSF is a tool to help you talk about high-level cybersecurity concepts in layman’s terms.
At its highest level, the CSF is organized into five functions your company needs to achieve to meet NIST compliance. These functions form a complete approach to your company’s cybersecurity management and include:
- Identify: What matters most to your business and what are the biggest threats facing it?
- Protect: What are the key measures your organization has taken to protect the data in its possession?
- Detect: Are you alert to threats and potential disruptions? If so, how alert is your organization?
- Respond: If an attack were to occur, how quickly would your team be able to react?
- Recover: Once you’ve experienced a cyberattack, how long would it take for your business to resume normal operations?
The NIST CSF dictates how executive agencies and federal government contractors protect controlled unclassified information (CUI). Compliance is mandatory for all entities that handle sensitive information from the government and enforced by the Department of Defense (DoD). However, instead of viewing compliance as something you’re forced to achieve, think of it as a way to better understand your cyber risks and how to defend against them.
Although CUI isn’t designated as classified, it’s not meant for public eyes either, as it can contain personal information or other sensitive data. CUI covers a wide range of information that is separated into 20 different categories. These categories range from critical infrastructure to transportation. If you’d like to see the full list, you can visit the National Archives website.
If you want to work with the government, you need to follow the NIST requirements. To achieve NIST certification, here are some helpful steps you can follow:
- Locate: Identify areas in your network that contain CUI. This may include files found in local storage, cloud storage, or even hard drives.
- Categorize: Separate files that contain CUI from files that don’t. This will streamline the process of proving compliance.
- Limit access: Limit who has access to files that contain CUI. Also, put expiration dates on folders and files that contain CUI so they can’t be accessed after a project is completed.
- Encrypt: Encryption is helpful because it adds an extra layer of security without disrupting an authorized user’s ability to transmit data through services like email.
- Monitor: NIST endpoint security requires contractors to make sure the actions of individual users can be traced so they can be held accountable. You can do this by monitoring who’s accessing your network at all times.
- Train: Employees who are properly trained in the fundamentals and best practices of compliance are more aware of security risks and less likely to succumb to cyberattacks that could result in data breaches.
- Assess: Conduct an assessment of your infrastructure. This can give you insight into any shortcomings in your network security.
Becoming NIST CSF compliant provides more than just the ability to work on government-related projects. It can also help you:
- Enhance your cybersecurity
- Establish long-term risk management practices
- Build trust with partners
- Prepare for future regulations
RCS Secure is a managed security provider that specializes in compliance. If you need help achieving NIST compliance, our team can help. Our consultants will identify flaws in your cybersecurity and work with you to develop a strategy that makes your company compliant with NIST standards.
Contact us today to learn more.
RCS Secure offers a full spectrum of cyber security safeguards and services. Our services combine compliance standards expertise with cutting-edge technology to identify risks, prioritize remediation, and ensure you are both secure and compliant.