If your small business wants to do work for the US government, you need to be NIST compliant. Without it, your chance of getting those big government contract projects are nil.
So, what is NIST? And how do you achieve NIST compliance?
In today’s blog post, we’re going to answer all the common questions about NIST.
Before we begin, please read this:
If you want to gain NIST compliance, you HAVE to work with a security policy expert. Trust me, you do not want to do this alone. The stakes are too high.
Luckily, here at MRW Systems, we have experts in this field. So, let’s dive in.
What is NIST?
NIST stands for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. And it operates as a non-regulatory US government agency.
The goal of NIST is to improve standards within the tech and science industries. NIST also works to drive innovation and economic competitiveness within those industries.
Many technologies, from a microchip to a major power grid, rely on the framework outlined by NIST.
As part of this effort, NIST produces standards to help federal agencies meet the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Specifically, NIST created the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) in correspondence with FISMA.
But that’s not the only standards NIST has created.
There are multiple standards that an organization may need to gain compliance. We’ll cover more of that later in this blog post. For now, let’s continue with the basics.
Who is NIST Compliance for?
Arguably, you could say that any business or organization could benefit from using NIST compliance standards. But some businesses must adhere to NIST compliance standards. Those include, but are not limited to:
- Government staffing firms
- Research Institutions
- Universities & colleges
- Manufacturers that sell to the government
- Manufacturers that sell to government suppliers
- Consulting companies
- Service providers
The Benefits of NIST Compliance
There are many reasons why an organization would adopt NIST compliance standards. The number 1 reason is that the framework helps organizations protect their sensitive data.
It also works to help prioritize the actions an organization should take to protect data. IT teams can use the framework to identify their company’s vulnerabilities and fix them. You can think of the framework as a “How to Guide” for cybersecurity.
Likewise, NIST compliance works as a baseline for evaluating bids for federal government services. For instance, a non-compliant company may lose the ability to do business with government agencies.
NIST also lays the foundation for companies who wish to gain compliance with other regulations, like HIPAA or FISMA.
Please note, that NIST is not a complete assurance that your data is secure. But it is a great place to start when it comes to cybersecurity and policy. If you want a complete security package, you should check out our guide on Managed Security Providers.
The Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is the most widely referenced NIST standard. The purpose of the CSF is to evaluate security controls using five core areas for examination. These areas include:
Types of NIST Compliance Standards
Within each of CSF’s five core areas, there are subsections.
These subsections are made of standards, guidelines, and practices. And that is where all the different types of NIST compliance standards come into play.
To make things simple: The CSF framework is the master blueprint; it complies with federal and state government practices.
Within the CSF, there are additional publications for standards that cover specific industries. These standards include but aren’t limited to Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), NIST Special Publication 800-37, NIST Special Publication 800-53, Special Publication 800-171,
For today’s purposes, we’ll introduce the most common standards:
Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)
Guidelines for document processing and handling. Government agencies, contractors, and vendors use FIPS to manage data and encryption algorithms. FIPS is mandatory for all government computers.
NIST Special Publication 800-37
A standard that helps promote risk management through continuous monitoring of the security controls.
NIST Special Publication 800-53
Requires compliance by all subcontractors working within the federal supply chain.
NIST Special Publication 800-171
Applies to unclassified information for non-federal systems and organizations.
How to gain NIST Compliance?
First, there is no official NIST certification. Instead, vendors and organizations are to self-certify their security standards. This sounds a lot easier said than done.
The risks of non-compliance are high. Failure to meet compliance expectations could mean losing a high-profile government contract.
And in the worst case, your business could face criminal charges for failing to maintain standards specified in a contract.
Don’t cross your fingers and hope you’re NIST compliant. Compliance work is a full-time job. But some security experts can help your business through NIST frameworks.
And that’s where MRW Systems’ cybersecurity team, NetGarde, comes in.
The NetGarde team will help you meet your compliance requirements with confidence. With us, it’s not just about passing compliance audits, but also knowing you have optimized defenses against threats. To learn more, please visit our Compliance page.