9 steps for NIST compliance framework

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Did you know that 54 percent of businesses don’t have any cybersecurity plan? That’s a huge problem, especially if your company wants to handle government data of any kind. Suppose you plan on becoming a federal contractor or subcontractor. In that case, you need to understand how the NIST security standards affect you. Here are nine key steps to NIST compliance for any business handling federal data. 

1. Categorize your data

Categorize what data you hold and how you plan on protecting it. Ultimately, the more sensitive the data, the more secure processes you’ll need to keep the data safe, so assign a risk level to each data category and work from there.

2. Establish a baseline

Federal contractors must meet certain baseline levels of security, depending on the data they process and the level of clearance required. If you’re unsure which level applies to you, contact a managed services provider for advice.

3. Perform a risk assessment

Despite the persistent rise in cyber attacks and security incidents, 57 percent of businesses assume cybercriminals won’t target them. It would be best to assume that your company is vulnerable and perform an effective risk assessment. Determine whether the controls you have in place are sufficient to cover every eventuality.

4. Draft a written security plan

For NIST compliance, you must write up your security controls into a formal security plan. The plan should include, at a minimum:

  • A complete inventory of your assets
  • Details on your network connections
  • A record of all the information you process
  • Your baseline security controls

5. Deploy security controls

Choose sufficient security controls to protect the information you process. What’s sufficient varies from company to company, but the security controls you use might include network monitoring, data encryption, and firewalls. 

6. Monitor security performance

You should monitor your security processes 24/7 to ensure that you can identify and respond to potential security incidents immediately. Report any drops in performance and record what steps you take to remedy the situation. 

For NIST compliance purposes, you must also instruct an annual performance review to certify that your systems are secure.

7. Determine agency-level risk

Based on the security controls you’ve put in place, assess the impact of a security breach on your agency as a whole. 

Remember, data leaks and security incidents may cause federal agencies to take their contracts elsewhere. So don’t forget to assess how even just one data breach could affect every level of your company.

8. Authorize the information system for processing

This step is all about accountability. 

Essentially, you or a senior member of your company must decide if you’re happy to proceed with information processing based on the level of privacy and security risk you’ve identified.  

9. Establish routine monitoring

For the final stage of your NIST compliance framework, establish how you intend to monitor how your security controls are performing. Ensure there’s a procedure in place for responding to any cybersecurity concerns and that you record any security assessments you perform.

Improve your NIST compliance today

Even if you’re not a federal contractor, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework serves as an excellent template for building a robust security plan. However, if you plan on bidding on federal contracts or already a federal contractor and want to improve your NIST compliance, contact us today.