Why NIST-800 171 Compliance is Important

Why NIST-800 171 Compliance is Important

As your business continues to grow, you may find the United States government is interested in working with you in some shape or form. A government contract can be highly valuable information to acquire, and that means you need to keep your data as safe as possible. Whether you are cooperating with federal agencies or creating devices for the Department of Defense (DoD), it’s important that you understand the compliances and standards your company should uphold when performing business with them.

What is NIST 800-171 Compliance?

To help these businesses, the United States government has a non-regulated agency called the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help private-sector companies reach their standards. One of the main jobs they perform is helping businesses enforce various standards and regulations that they may not be aware of. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a security framework that is designed for small businesses looking to work on government contracts. It provides a set of guidelines for corporate IT professionals and best practices for small businesses looking to work on government contracts. This set of guidelines required for government contracts is NIST 800-171.

NIST 800-171 is intended to help organizations that handle controlled unclassified information (CUI) to protect that information from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction.

The key to successful implementation of NIST 800-171 is the establishment of process and practices that help personnel understand the policies and procedures related to security, as well as their roles and responsibilities. The NIST 800-171 document was updated in October 2014 to fully align with its predecessor documents, the current version is “800-171R2.”

For example, performing business with the DoD typically requires you to follow the Federal Information Security Act (FISMA), as contracts for artillery, vehicles and other data you may store digitally can contain highly sensitive information about how it is utilized. NIST has laid out these 9 steps to follow FISMA and working with the DoD.

How to Meet FISMA Compliance in 9 Steps:

  1. Categorize the information to be protected.
  2. Select minimum baseline controls.
  3. Refine controls using a risk assessment procedure.
  4. Document the controls in the system security plan.
  5. Implement security controls in appropriate information systems.
  6. Assess the effectiveness of the security controls once they have been implemented.
  7. Determine agency-level risk to the mission or business case.
  8. Authorize the information system for processing.
  9. Monitor the security controls on a continuous basis.

Rather than having to sift through various legal documents and files before even beginning to protect your data, you will have an idea of what you will have to do next before getting into the nitty-gritty of the various policies you have to follow. In fact, you may already be following many of the NIST’s recommendations just by being precautious about your data and digital security.

5 Basic Components of NIST Framework

  1. Identify: Understand your organization’s information security risk
  2. Protect: Implement cost-effective security controls
  3. Detect: Monitor and detect anomalies in network traffic or system behavior
  4. Respond: Recover from incidents when they occur
  5. Recover: Restore normal operations after an incident

Why Businesses Should Be NIST 800-171 Compliant

Compliance with NIST 800-171 is important for an organization’s cybersecurity because it helps to ensure that the organization’s systems and processes are secure enough to protect sensitive information from cyber threats. This can help to prevent data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents that could compromise the organization’s operations and reputation, and potentially result in financial losses and legal liabilities.

Following these types of procedures will help you in the long run, especially as using their standards can hold some influence over the types of contractors picked up by the U.S. government. Avoiding or not following these guidelines, however, can have various negative effects on your business.

By risking possible data breaches to your company’s digital files, you are risking any potential future projects your company would otherwise acquire through the U.S. government. Even if you are signed on now and don’t follow the rules and regulations, you are going to impact your bottom line as this could be a factor in not renewing your contract. In addition, you could be held liable for any damages and losses sustained by your company if it is shown you disregarded these regulations and rules, which can damage both your reputation with clients and potentially lead to legal issues in the future.

What Industries are Required to be NIST 800-171 Compliant?

NIST 800-171 applies to organizations that handle controlled unclassified information, which is defined as “information that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls pursuant to and consistent with applicable law, regulations, and government-wide policies.”

Many different industries may handle CUI and therefore be subject to the NIST 800-171 guidelines. Some examples include:

  • Defense and military contractors and subcontractors

  • Healthcare organizations

  • Financial institutions

  • Energy and utility companies

  • Educational institutions

  • State and local government agencies

Generally speaking, any organization that has a contract with the federal government and is handling CUI would be subject to NIST 800-171 compliance requirements.

It’s important to note that not all organizations will be required to implement all of the guidelines set forth in NIST 800-171, as the specific requirements will depend on the nature and scope of the organization’s operations, the type of CUI that is handled, and the specific terms of the organization’s contracts with the federal government.

Keeping Your Data Safe

Utilizing NIST’s advice and practices can help your data stay safer because it understands the types of issues that are common in data breaches, analyzes how your brand operates and will help you find the regulations you need to follow beyond their initial recommendations. 

Data security is quickly becoming one of the highest priorities inside of a workplace, as billions of digital records being stolen from companies every year. Data breaches have caused embarrassment and massive amounts of identity fraud; with insufficient protection towards your data. 

Control families covered in the Special Publication 800-171 Revision 1 publication:

  • Access Control
  • Audit and Accountability
  • Awareness and Training
  • Configuration Management
  • Ransomware Backups
  • Identification and Authentication
  • Maintenance
  • Media Protection
  • Personnel Security
  • Physical and Environmental Protection
  • System and Communications Protection
  • System and Information Integrity

Working With NIST 800-171 Compliant MSPs

As of Q1 of 2020, CorCystems Managed IT Services became NIST 800-171 compliant. Working within the NIST’s regulations will not only help your bottom line by opening up opportunities in your business, but it can also develop the strategy you use when handling cybersecurity. While NIST is great guidance for businesses of all sizes to use for improved cybersecurity management and reduced cybersecurity risk, we believe a company’s compliance earns them trust in their industry. Whether it’s maintaining FFIEC cybersecurity compliance in the financial industry or HIPAA compliance solutions in the healthcare world, CorCystems can provide you the services you need to keep your customers and their data safe. To learn more about NIST, please contact us to see how we can help you meet your compliance: (203) 431-1341.