NIST Cybersecurity Framework – The Guide to Building a Mature Cybersecurity Program

Cybersecurity risks have been prevalent ever since technologies started playing a crucial role in running a business. And with the ever-increasing complexity of business operations, companies are focused on building robust cybersecurity strategies for risk mitigation. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), as mentioned in our previous article in this series, provides a systematic approach to risk assessment for enterprises to safeguard their systems and data proactively. The core guidelines of the NIST framework cover the entire lifecycle of a company’s cybersecurity management process, from identifying to recovering from a cyber-attack.

NIST CSF Functions: Key Objectives and Guidelines

The NIST CSF Framework is critical in setting standards and making recommendations to protect businesses from unexpected risks. Here are the five core cybersecurity functions of the NIST framework:

Functions of NIST CSF

1. Identify - Comprehensive Self-Assessment/NIST CSF Audit

The first function under the NIST cybersecurity guidelines focuses on getting an overall understanding of the business. The data, assets, and processes, which need to be protected, should be categorized based on criticalities. Some data must be sensitive and/or is protected under other laws and regulations (like HIPAA, etc.). Identifying how your business services are connected to relevant IT components is crucial. This also includes identifying the vulnerabilities or weak access points of a company’s assets. Without a proper understanding of the business assets, the location of the data, and the current security posture, the company may not be able to know what to protect and how to protect.

2. Protect - Proactive Safeguarding

Once the “identify” function is incorporated, the next function in the NIST framework is protecting the data and processes that the company has identified. Enterprises should have clarity on how they plan to protect their confidential data and systems. They need to make sure that the company’s facilities are accessible only to authorized users. This can include deploying properly configured firewalls and Intrusion Protection Systems (IPS) to prevent unauthorized access. Implementing specific software or modern solutions to identify application code vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and threats takes the security posture of the enterprise to the next level. In addition, enterprises must ensure that every employee is aware of the importance of keeping a watchful eye on the security aspects of the company.

3. Detect - Non-Stop Observation

The ‘Detect’ function in the NIST framework focuses on continuously monitoring cybersecurity threats. Deploying modern solutions that leverage automation can be instrumental in enhancing the company’s monitoring capabilities – enabling accurate real-time observations. Monitoring the performance of security controls helps identify the effectiveness and areas of improvement. This would also include conducting continuous risk assessments throughout business processes. 

4. Respond - Incident Containment

The next core function in the NIST cybersecurity framework – Respond – concentrates on how efficiently an enterprise caters to a cybersecurity incident and how to resolve it. Implementing solutions that can help reduce the time taken to respond to security incidents can be beneficial. The technical team should ensure that the cybersecurity incidents are communicated to the stakeholders depending on the severity of the situation. When there is a huge loss to be borne by the company due to the incident, the stakeholders should be made aware of it to be able to allocate the required resources carefully. 

5. Recover - Resilience Plan

The ‘Recover’ function is the final core function of the NIST cybersecurity framework. Cybersecurity incidents may cause broken business processes, and the enterprise should focus on restoring its capabilities. Whether it is recovering lost data or fixing applications, companies should make sure that the recovery process is quick. When the recovery takes time, it can bog down clients and cause attrition. NIST stresses the importance of learning from the flaws in the system with each cybersecurity incident to expedite the recovery process.

Laying the Foundation with NIST CSF Audit

Self-assessments are mandatory to understand the cybersecurity status of a business. The NIST CSF assessment enables companies to start with a high-level analysis of their cybersecurity posture and further dig down to the critical part of business operations. Once the NIST CSF assessment is complete, the company is asked, under relevant categories, to provide an understanding of where they stand with their cybersecurity practices. To know more about the NIST CSF assessment, read our next blog post in the series.

The Way Forward

Building a strong cybersecurity plan should be an inevitable part of a company’s operational strategy. The NIST CSF aims to help enterprises assess and implement the appropriate cybersecurity practices through its core guidelines. 

At KANINI, the focus has always been on helping organizations embrace a security-first mindset. Click here to know more about KANINI and how we help organizations in their cybersecurity transformation journeys. 

Author

Joshua Smith

Joshua is a process improvement thought leader and digital transformation expert at KANINI. Over the past 15 years, his focus has always been on achieving organizational maturity and enhancing business processes through implementing tools and workflows to drive transformation initiatives. With experience in multiple verticals from – manufacturing to healthcare, Joshua brings a practitioner’s perspective when working on business solutions and goals to allow him to advise and guide on industry and process best practices.