What Exactly Is NIST?

As a business in the United States that operates in a particular industry, you must abide by specific guidelines and regulations. If you are working with the United States government, and cybersecurity is involved, compliance with these guidelines becomes more crucial.

Data security has always been a crucial aspect of fostering trust between your business and your clients. However, this criticality is amplified when the federal government shares confidential and sensitive data with your company. Sensitive federal data is often a target for cybercriminals; for this reason, the government demands the highest cybersecurity standards when it comes to storing its data.

To cater and rise to this demand, NIST has outlined several cybersecurity standards to enable businesses to protect federal data. But what exactly is NIST?

Check out our latest video to learn more about NIST:

YouTube video

What Is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

The National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory federal agency in the United States Department of Commerce. Founded in 1901, NIST is charged with establishing standards for technology. NIST also carries out extensive research to drive economic competitiveness and innovation for United States-based organizations.

What Role Does NIST Play? As part of its mandate, NIST is responsible for developing and publishing cybersecurity standards for federal information systems. These standards help national and commercial organizations meet the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). FISMA, passed in 2002,  is a federal law in the United States that made it compulsory for government agencies to develop, document, and implement information security programs to protect confidential and sensitive data.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework helps agencies manage cybersecurity risk by:

  • Assisting them to organize and categorize information.
  • Helping agencies make risk management decisions.
  • Addressing and managing cybersecurity threats.
  • Drawing learning points from previous cybersecurity mistakes.
  • Helping agencies know what security controls need to be implemented to ensure data security.

According to a report, 50% of companies are projected to use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework as their cybersecurity benchmark. Before NIST, different companies followed different procedures when processing, storing and discarding their data. These inconsistent and varying procedures posed a challenge and a potential data security threat for many organizations. NIST cybersecurity standards have created a level of uniformity for cybersecurity across all organizations.

What Is The NIST 800 Series? The NIST 800 Series publications entail all NIST-recommended procedures for monitoring and assessing risks and ensuring that all businesses contracted by the federal government meet the set IT security standards.

In May 2015, NIST released Special Publication 800-171, a publication that guides non-governmental organizations to store sensitive unclassified federal information in non-federal IT systems and protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). This document defines the role of these non-governmental organizations in cyberattack incidents. It also clarifies what data they are to protect and how to protect it.

What Is Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)? Controlled Unclassified Information is data that is sensitive, unclassified, and relevant to the interests of the United States. Although sensitive, the federal government does not strictly regulate this data.

What Is NIST 800-171? NIST 800-171 provides both non-federal and federal agencies with recommended guidelines for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) confidentiality. Developed after FISMA was passed in 2002, NIST 800-171 was designed to enhance cybersecurity after several well-documented data breaches in the previous years.

How Can Your Organization Ensure NIST 800-171 Compliance? Although every organization should be concerned about cybersecurity, NIST compliance is particularly crucial for companies that conduct business with the U.S. government, particularly the Department of Defense. Lack of compliance puts your business at risk of losing valuable government contracts.

Compliance may require you to dive deep into your systems to ensure appropriate security procedures are implemented. For this, you’ll need an expert.

Looking For A Reliable NIST 800-171 Compliance IT Partner In Minnesota?

Although the process of becoming NIST compliant may seem overwhelming, having the right IT company as a compliance partner will make the process easier.

At On-Site Computers Inc, we offer years of expertise and experience in helping businesses in Minnesota become NIST compliant.

Consult with us today, and let us help you keep your company compliant and your data safe.


Mike Bowe | Published on November 28, 2020