The risks that come with cybersecurity can be overwhelming to many organizations. Building out a robust cybersecurity program is often complicated and difficult to conceptualize for any organization, regardless of size. It is this unwieldiness that makes frameworks so attractive for information security leaders and practitioners. Frameworks are not a new concept to cybersecurity professionals, and the benefits are immense – nor do they need to be complicated to be effective. Here we’ll dive into the benefits of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) and why it should be a cornerstone for your cybersecurity program.
Background of the NIST CSF
The National Institute of Standards and Technology developed the Framework for Protecting Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity in response to an executive order from President Obama. The first version of what would be later dubbed the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) was released in 2014. What was unique about the development of V1 was the decentralized and collaborative way it was developed. CyberSaint CEO George Wrenn was a contributor to the development of the Framework and recalls the process -
I can say that the team around the framework and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have more than just the baseline clout that you would hope for in a recognized group.
Having thousands of contributors with independence and the Framework being drawn from a decentralized sample of the population, making unique contributions (industry professionals and cybersecurity experts), account for the wide-reaching value it delivers.
Following the release of V1, the NIST CSF was adopted by more than critical infrastructure organizations - the flexible nature of the new gold-standard enabled businesses of all sizes, both public- and private sector, to adopt and implement the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.
Version 1.1 of the CSF was released in 2018, and further expanded the applicability of the Framework.
The Case for the CSF: Harnessing the Wisdom of Crowds
The internet age has enabled an exponential increase in diversity of thought and contribution. In the case of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, this enabled contributions from thousands of contributors and George expands on the value that brings as a practitioner -
Although I spent years consulting, when I took the role of a global CSO, I realized that rather than relying on the opinions or guidance of a small group of consultants – who would have similar corporate training and culture as my team. To determine the optimal set of cybersecurity controls for an organization, the wisdom of this larger crowd that pulls from different industries and organization structures and includes high-powered cybersecurity professionals who produced the NIST Cybersecurity Framework – wins over the small group of “experts.”
Those that had a hand in creating the framework knew the importance of creating a “framework to live by” – they shared the same vision. These individuals were sourced from different roles, industries, and had varying viewpoints and perspectives on cybersecurity and risk management. This crowd-sourcing methodology is precisely what makes the NIST Cybersecurity Framework so robust. It draws from every angle the priorities and use-cases of its creators, resulting in a framework that adds depth and breadth to your organization while being flexible enough to accommodate companies of any scale.
The Benefits of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework
As adoption of the NIST CSF continues to increase, explore the reasons you should join the host of businesses and cybersecurity leaders adopting this gold-standard framework:
- Superior and unbiased cybersecurity
- Enable long-term cybersecurity and risk management
- Ripple effects across supply chains and vendor lists
- Bridge the gap between technical and business side stakeholders
- Flexibility and adaptability of the Framework
- Built for future regulation and compliance requirements
Superior and Unbiased Cybersecurity
As we discussed with George, the NIST CSF represents the collective experience of thousands of information security professionals. It is widely recognized as industry best practice and the most comprehensive, in-depth set of controls of any framework. Shoring an organization up against cyber attacks is the top priority of any cybersecurity leader or practitioner, and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a necessary part of that mission.
Harnessing that crowd-based wisdom enables you to fill in blind spots you didn’t know you had as well as enables leaders to understand the perspectives of all members in their organization.
Enable long-term cybersecurity and risk management
The CSF takes your organization out of the ‘one-off’ audit compliance mindset, and into a more adaptive and responsive posture. Continuous compliance is a much stronger strategy in the long run. While this can seem daunting, the right tools enable a continuous compliance approach using the CSF with ease.
Ripple effects across supply chains and vendor lists
We have seen instances where partners or clients ask an organization: “Where are you on the Framework?” The response to this question can be a deal maker or a deal killer. Cybersecurity practices and posture is becoming a substantive selling point. Using a gold-standard like the CSF fosters trust between your partners and enables faster business growth while staying secure.
Bridge the gap between technical and business side stakeholders
The CSF comes out of a risk-based approach, which executives understand very well. This approach enables an integrated risk management approach to cybersecurity management aligned with business goals. The result is better communication and decision-making throughout your organization. Security budgets will be better justified and allocated. Adoption also fosters a shared security vocabulary for both business and technical stakeholders, which in turn facilitates improved communication throughout the organization from practitioners to the Board and CEO.
Flexibility and adaptability of the Framework
The CSF is by far the most flexible framework given its risk-based, outcomes-driven approach. Successfully adopted by many industries, from sizeable critical infrastructure firms in energy, transportation, and finance, to small and medium-sized enterprises. Being a voluntary framework, it is highly customizable. The Core Functions are intuitive and collectively with the Implementation Tiers, and Profiles make for an easy to grasp blueprint that speeds adoption and provides ongoing guidance.
Built for future regulation and compliance requirements
Organizations that implement the Framework are in a much better position as regulations and laws change, and new ones emerge. New regulations like NYDFS 23 NYCR 500 and the insurance industry’s Model Law use the CSF as a foundation for their compliance standards guidelines. This trend impacts private industry and not just in critical infrastructure. The compliance bar is rising, and that trend is likely to continue for all industries.
The great concern for many CISOs and security leaders is the rise in compliance requirements across industries and geographies. The NIST CSF is the most reliable foundation for building and iterating a cybersecurity program to prepare for new and updates to existing standards and regulations.
A Cornerstone for a Forward-Thinking Cybersecurity Program
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a powerful asset for cybersecurity practitioners. Given its flexibility and adaptability, it is a cost-effective way for organizations to approach cybersecurity and foster an enterprise-wide conversation around cyber risk and compliance. Managing cybersecurity today is rapidly escalating to a Board- and CEO-level issue, and information security leaders must be prepared to articulate their program effectively. Not only is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework an asset for practitioners, but it is also a critical part of the bridge between technical- and business-side stakeholders.