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 the automation of product production and distribution, have been urged to adopt the security framework to protect against cyber attacks, equipment failure and to reduce cyber vulnerability. 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 across the organization about the need for cybersecurity 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 where their strengths and weaknesses lie in their organization’s risk management and cybersecurity and where to invest time and effort. Implementation of the Cybersecurity Framework begins with the benchmarking assessment - which for most merits an assessment tool.
Now that you’ve decided to work with the CSF, selecting the right 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: How clearly the solution 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 which are 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 not only valuable for your team to understand where they need to invest their time, but 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. Rather, 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 and the CEO and 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 element 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 framework (even assessments not using the NIST CSF). By having the Five Functions at arms reach no matter the assessment, they serve as a common thread to tie all assessments and assets together.
What to consider in a NIST Cybersecurity Framework Assessment Tool
With more business-side stakeholders, especially Boards and CEOs, relying more on information technology and security leaders to interpret cybersecurity and risk, strong communication for those involved is vital. 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 that you select a tool capable of enabling an organization-wide conversation around cybersecurity and risk.
To see the CyberStrong NIST CSF Assessment in action schedule a demo now.