The National Institute of Standards and Technology developed the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, later dubbed the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), from a presidential executive order to support critical functions of our society in monitoring and remediating cybersecurity risks. Industrial control systems, like those involved in product production and distribution automation, have been urged to adopt the security framework to protect against cyber-attacks, reduce cyber vulnerability, and improve cybersecurity maturity. The use of the Framework has since expanded - adopted by businesses of all sizes across the spectrum of industries.
As voluntary guidance, the CSF is meant to be customized to fit the organization and, as a result, does not have controls baked into it as other standards do. Instead, the CSF helps security practitioners open a dialogue with stakeholders about the need for cybersecurity preparedness and investment in securing the business. Using the five functions of the Framework Core - Identify, Detect, Respond, and Recover - technical and non-technical stakeholders understand their strengths and weaknesses in their organization’s risk management and cybersecurity and where to invest time and effort. Implementing the Cybersecurity Framework begins with the benchmarking assessment - which, for most, merits a cyber assessment tool.
Now that you’ve decided to work with the CSF, selecting the right cybersecurity assessment tool to implement it is critical.
Critical Capabilities of a NIST Cybersecurity Framework Assessment Tool
Any CSF assessment tool must be built on the Framework itself, using the three main elements as guidance:
- Framework Profiles: Understand how the solution enables your team to implement Framework Profiles,
- Implementation Tiers: How it helps you articulate your Implementation Tier
- Framework Core: The solution clearly illustrates your strengths and weaknesses in the context of the Five Functions.
A Cybersecurity Framework Assessment tool should employ the NIST CSF Categories and Subcategories, allowing you and your organization to prioritize the most important based on risk assessment and business drivers. From the Categories and Subcategories assessed, you will need to be able to build out a Current State and Target State profile.
In the case of CyberStrong, the platform will automatically generate a current and target state profile as your team completes an assessment. These visualizations are valuable for your team to understand where they need to invest their time. It is also beneficial to take to your executive leadership to contextualize where financial investment needs to be made.
NIST stresses in the Framework documentation that the Implementation Tiers are not a maturity model. Instead, the tiers are a means to approach cyber risk management and bridge the gap between technical and business side stakeholders. For assessment tools, the Implementation Tiers can take multiple forms.
CyberStrong uses the implementation tiers in control scoring and rolls that data up to the reporting level to directors, the CEO, and the Board. This transparency allows contributors and stakeholders to see the Tiers at all levels of granularity - from the control to the assessment to the asset, and the entire organization.
The Five Functions
The Five Functions of the NIST CSF are the most known elements of the CSF. Another lens with which to assess cyber security and risk management, the Five Functions - Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover - enable stakeholders to contextualize their organization’s strengths and weaknesses from these five high-level buckets.
The CyberStrong platform automatically generates gap-analysis graphs using the Five Functions and can be seen in every assessment regardless of the framework (even assessments not using the NIST CSF). Having the Five Functions at arms reach no matter the assessment serves as a common thread to tie all assessments and assets together.
What to consider in a NIST Cybersecurity Framework Assessment Tool
Assertive communication for those involved is vital, with more business-side stakeholders, especially Boards and CEOs, relying more on information technology and security leaders to interpret cybersecurity and risk. Touted as the gold standard and the source material for many standards and regulations, the NIST CSF is the most robust foundation to build a forward-thinking cyber program. Ensure you select a tool, like CyberStrong, to enable organization-wide conversations around cybersecurity and risk.