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The Two-Minute NIST 800-53 Adoption Guide


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the U.S. Commerce Department’s non-regulatory agency responsible for developing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. Under its special publication regulations lies NIST Special Publication (SP) 800 53, a set of security regulations for the federal government and federal agencies’ information systems except those related to national security. Additionally, these controls can be used alongside the NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF) detailed in NIST SP 800 37. These security standards are essential to protecting organizational operations and addressing security concerns of assets, individuals, other organizations, and the nation. Here we will detail the recommended security and privacy controls for organizations looking to adopt NIST 800 53.

NIST SP 800-53 is composed of 18 control families, which each control split into high, medium, and low priority:

  • AC - Access Control
  • AU - Audit and Accountability
  • AT - Awareness and Training
  • CM - Configuration Management
  • CP - Contingency Planning
  • IA - Identification and Authentication
  • IR - Incident Response
  • MA - Maintenance
  • MP - Media Protection
  • PS - Personnel Security
  • PE - Physical and Environmental Protection
  • PL - Planning
  • PM - Program Management
  • RA - Risk Assessment
  • CA - Security Assessment and Authorization
  • SC - System and Communications Protection
  • SI - System and Information Integrity
  • SA - System and Services Acquisition

Maintain Continuous Risk Assessment Best Practices

Keeping an organization secure should always be a repeatable and scalable process, as regulations frequently change with the market and society’s needs. Using integrated risk management and running risk assessments can enable organizations to establish operational baselines and prevent unwarranted access by identifying vulnerabilities and gaps within an organization. Additionally, IRM enables companies to adjust to new standards and guidelines as they are introduced in a scalable way.

Keep a Log of Authorized and Unauthorized Devices

Maintaining an inventory of authorized and unauthorized assets in an organization will provide visibility and allow entities to eliminate blind spots within. Additionally, this allows for mapping across multiple assets when using an integrated risk management solution in tandem with an organization's Special Publication 800-53 compliance efforts.

Boundary Defense

Knowing the perimeter of an organization's network security is paramount to understanding the scope of what needs to be protected. This includes remote access, external information system services, information system monitoring and internal system connections.

Ensure IoT Devices have Secure Configuration

Making sure an organization’s IoT devices are secure is rudimentary to staying compliant with NIST SP 800 53. This includes keeping proper configuration settings, system interconnections, change control, and keeping information system inventory. CyberSaint has developed a series of NIST CSF controls deemed vital to any sized organization’s operation, deemed the CyberSaint PowerControls. Utilizing these recommended security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations in our Integrated Risk Management (IRM) solution, CyberStrong, can help streamline and automate an organization’s NIST SP 800 53 compliance efforts.

Incident Remediation Management

Having an incident response plan that is kept up to date can give an organization increased visibility and less downtime during a cybersecurity event. Keeping an incident response plan in compliance with NIST SP 800 53 requires organizational training, testing, monitoring, and reporting.

Maintain, Log, and Backup Audits Regularly

Keeping audit logs backed up and regularly updated can help provide a track record of compliance evidence based on previous audits as well as allow for optimizations when identifying rules based on real-world events.

For a more in-depth, explicit look at the catalog of security and privacy controls we deemed necessary in becoming compliant with NIST SP 800 53 and the NIST CSF, take a look at the CyberSaint PowerControls. If you have any questions about NIST SP 800 53, how IRM is enabling cybersecurity teams to scale their risk and compliance efforts, or how CyberStrong is innovating cybersecurity teams in 2021, click here to schedule a conversation.

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