What Is NIST?
Business leaders typically field advice from a variety of sources when making decisions about cybersecurity investments. The common problem many encounter is that there seems to be an overwhelming number of deterrents and protections. Making the right choice for your organization can feel uncertain.
Should you improve the firewalls? Is multi-factor authentication for network access the best choice? How about the Cloud. How do you protect data not housed on in-house computers? One of the ways companies of all sizes are overcoming cybersecurity uncertainty is by adopting the robust cybersecurity outlined in NIST, an acronym for the “National Institute of Standards and Technology.”
As a non-regulatory body, NIST sets the standards and publishes guidelines that help national agencies comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). NIST also publishes the 800-171 standard for non-federal organizations that house or transmit Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). All that probably sounds like yet another cybersecurity item to mull over. But NIST, and or more specifically NIST 800-171 compliance, can be the lynchpin that brings all your digital defenses together.
What Is NIST & What Are the Risks of Not Complying?
This overarching cybersecurity guideline ranks among the industry-leading standards in protecting CUI and business systems at large. It evolved after FISMA was passed in 2003 on the heels of several massive data breaches. More recently, NIST has been integrated into the requirements for the Department of Defense contractors and supply chain outfits under the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). In essence, it delivers a secure level of consistency when effectively implemented and maintained.
At this juncture, a lengthy list of NIST benefits could be laid out. And although a case can certainly be made for the pros, let’s look at this in reverse. If your organization continues a mish-mosh of unrelated cybersecurity measures, these are some of the disastrous results you can anticipate.
- Lost Revenue: If your company wants to earn revenue by working with the DoD and enjoy other federally funded contracts, you won’t be allowed to store CUIs without first complying.
- Diminished Reputation: Hackers that penetrate business networks look for ways to cross-infiltrate. Given that your outfit is not NIST compliant, others in your orbit will remain hesitant to work across digital platforms. Basically, your non-compliance creates a clear and present danger.
- Civil Lawsuits: In the event digital thieves breach your system and compromise employee records, client information, and sensitive personal data, you could be staring at civil litigation. When corporations fail to meet industry standards such as NIST, they may be held liable for damages.
- High Fines: Organizations that do not meet NIST or other cybersecurity standards can be fined for failure to protect confidential and sensitive data under federal and state laws.
According to a CNBC report, cyber-attacks routinely cost businesses an average of $200,000 in losses, and 43 percent target small businesses. A Zogby Analytics report commissioned by the National Cyber Security Alliance indicates that 10 percent of companies shuttered after a breach, and at least 25 percent were forced to file bankruptcy.
How To Earn NIST Compliance
By implementing a federally recognized standard of excellence, it’s highly likely you will also be checking off the regulatory mandates that can otherwise land you in hot water. Most importantly, your organization will possess the consistent and hardened defenses required to defend against sophisticated hacking schemes.
Compliance typically requires working with a third-party cybersecurity firm that possesses the expertise to review your current network protections and apply the NIST framework. This process usually calls for the following.
- Identifying data and system vulnerabilities that require enhanced protection
- Implement protocols and technology to protect CUI and other digital assets
- Craft policies and leverage tools to detect and deter imminent threats
- Create a cyber-attack response to rebuff hackers
- Ensure your ability to recover digital assets and restore operational integrity
Whether you plan to bid on government contracts or just need a cohesive cybersecurity strategy that meets regulatory guidelines, NIST ranks among the most widely recognized and respected standards. If you want consistent cybersecurity that positions you as an industry leader, consider a NIST consultation.