What is NIST Compliance?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a US government agency focused on innovation and business competitiveness. One of the roles of NIST is to develop standards and best practices for various fields, including cybersecurity. NIST standards, guidelines, and other publications can be invaluable to a corporate security compliance program.

NIST has developed several standards and best practices both for general cybersecurity and for certain areas of an organizational security policy. These standards and best practices have been adopted by various agencies in the US government to help comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

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NIST Compliance

NIST Standards and Best Practices

NIST has numerous standards and best practices. For cybersecurity, some of the major standards include Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), the 800 series of NIST standards, and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.

Federal Information Processing Standards

NIST standards are a combination of non-binding recommendations and standards that government agencies must follow for FISMA compliance. FIPS are mandatory requirements for federal government agencies.

NIST 800 Series Compliance

The 800 series is the set of NIST documents that are relevant to the computer security community. Over 200 NIST Special Publication (SP) 800 series standards exist, outlining best practices for access management, secure coding, use of encryption, and more.

Some of the most commonly used NIST guidelines include:

  • NIST SP 800-37: Promotes risk management via continuous monitoring
  • NIST SP 800-53: Guidelines for security controls for federal information systems
  • NIST SP 800-137: Use of automation for enterprise reporting and monitoring
  • NIST SP 800-171: Controls for protection of Confidential Unclassified Information (CUI)

Beyond these standards, organizations can also consult NIST standards for best practices and information on various aspects of cybersecurity.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is designed to improve the cybersecurity of the critical infrastructure sector. This framework provides recommendations to achieve five core cybersecurity functions:

  • Identify: Gain the understanding necessary to manage cybersecurity risk and use the NIST framework.
  • Protect: Implement controls to prevent or manage the impact of a cybersecurity incident.
  • Detect: Put processes and solutions in place to rapidly detect a potential cyberattack.
  • Respond: Take the necessary actions to manage a potential cybersecurity incident.
  • Recover: Implement plans for resilience and restoring operations after an incident has occurred.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides an overall outline for implementing a cybersecurity program. This, in combination with the 800 series standards, provides both broad and in-depth security guidance.

Why Your Organization Pursue NIST Compliance

For organizations working with the federal government, compliance with NIST standards may be mandatory. Companies working with US government agencies that have access to their systems and sensitive data may be contractually bound to meet the requirements of one or more NIST standards. As mentioned above, DIB contractors are an example of this. They are currently required to self-certify as compliant with NIST 800-171, and passing a Level CMMC audit will require full NIST 800-171 compliance plus additional security controls and processes.

Organizations for which NIST compliance is not mandatory may find it valuable for achieving compliance with other regulations. The NIST standards lay out a framework for building a mature cybersecurity program, and some NIST standards are designed specifically to help organizations meet other compliance requirements. Achieving NIST compliance can allow organizations to meet many of the requirements of other regulations in a logical, sustainable way and simplifies the process of meeting any regulation-specific requirements.

Preparing for NIST Compliance

NIST has published numerous standards and guidelines, including FIPS, the 800 Series, and the Cybersecurity Framework. Different standards are designed to meet the needs of different organizations, industries, specific cybersecurity challenges, etc.

Preparing for NIST compliance starts with identifying the guidelines and standards that best fit an organization’s security needs. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework and NIST SP 800-53 are good starting points for general cybersecurity guidance, while other standards – such as NIST SP 800-37, 800-137, and 800-171 – are intended for specific purposes.

How Check Point Can Help with NIST Compliance

Achieving compliance with an array of cybersecurity regulations can be complex. NIST’s standards and best practices help to simplify this process by providing a single framework for achieving security compliance.

Implementing the recommendations of the NIST cybersecurity standards requires a unified cybersecurity platform with support for an organization’s entire infrastructure, including private and public cloud environments.

Check Point solutions automate the process of testing and reporting on NIST compliance, making it easy for organizations to identify and close compliance gaps. To learn more, you’re welcome to request a free demo.

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