Free Cyber Risk Analysis: Your Top Cyber Risks in 3 Clicks

Get Started
Request Demo

What is NIST SP 800-53?


Has anyone ever been the victim of a data breach? I have, and it’s not a pleasant experience. For some, it’s as simple as getting a new credit or debit card, but for others, it can go much deeper. Your personal information and finances could be at risk or, even worse, your identity. This could also mean access to confidential business information like trade secrets or intellectual property. Imagine this breach happened to a federal organization handling vital information about the United States.

For organizations that haven’t experienced this, thank the E-Government Act of 2002 or, more specifically, the Federal Information Security Management Act or FISMA. Passed on December 17th, 2002, this act directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) regulatory agency to develop guidelines to heighten the security of information systems used within the federal government. Helping reduce the risk of cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure. Why is this important, you might ask? We now refer to these guidelines as the NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-53.

Data breaches have been an issue long before technology. A data breach refers to any confirmed incident in which sensitive, confidential, or otherwise protected data has been accessed or disclosed unauthorizedly. As the dependence on technology grew, so did the risk of data breaches. The early 2000s were plagued with breaches. In January of 2000, CD Universe, an online music store, was hacked, and 300,000 customer credit cards were compromised; 25,000 of the stolen credit card numbers were then posted online. had a massive breach in which 3.5 million users were affected. The hacker then held the company’s information for ransom and demanded $100,000. Later that year, AOL and Western Union were also victims of breaches.

With breaches and hackers becoming front-page news, action must be taken to protect and secure vital information. This prompted the passing of the E-Government Act, effectively creating the NIST 800-53. The NIST Special Publication 800-53, Security and Privacy Controls for Information Systems and Organizations, is a set of recommended security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations to help meet the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requirements. It aims to improve your organization’s information systems security program by providing sets of controls that support the development of secure and resilient federal information systems.

What is NIST 800-53?

NIST SP 800-53 provides a list of controls that support the development of secure and resilient federal information systems. These controls are the operational, technical, and management standards and guidelines information systems use to maintain confidentiality, integrity, and availability. The guidelines adopt a multi-tiered approach to risk management through control compliance. NIST 800-53 controls are broken into three classes: low, moderate, and high, and are based on impact. The controls are split into 18 security control families, allowing organizations to select only the most applicable to their requirements. NIST SP 800-53 introduces the concept of baselines as a starting point for the control selection process. This enables organizations to establish a baseline for developing secure organizational infrastructure.


All U.S. federal government agencies and contractors must comply with NIST SP 800‐53; however, many state and local governments and private organizations use NIST SP 800‐53 as their security controls framework.

Why wouldn't you if the federal government trusts NIST SP 800-53 to protect its critical data? The guidelines are revised following the evolving nature of managing information security and covering areas like mobile and cloud computing, insider threats, application security requirements, and supply chain security standards. This helps to future-proof you as technology evolves as well as your business.

Learn about NIST 800-53 Rev 5 here

NIST 800-171 vs. NIST 800-53

NIST 800-171 and NIST 800-53 are cybersecurity standards developed by NIST, but they serve different purposes and target different audiences.

NIST 800-171 focuses on protecting sensitive federal information in non-federal systems. It provides guidelines for safeguarding Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in these environments. On the other hand, NIST 800-53 offers a comprehensive framework of controls to secure federal information systems. This standard is broader in scope, encompassing a wide range of security and privacy controls intended for federal agencies and organizations that interact with federal systems. While NIST 800-171 is more prescriptive and tailored to specific data types, NIST 800-53 provides a more extensive and flexible set of controls adaptable to various information security needs.



What is the difference between NIST CSF and NIST 800-53?

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) provides a roadmap for managing cybersecurity risk, while NIST 800-53 offers specific tools to build secure systems. You can think of the NIST CSF as the "why" and the NIST 800-53 as the "how."

The NIST CSF provides a voluntary, high-level framework focusing on risk management. It offers a flexible approach that can be tailored to an organization's specific needs. Alternatively, NIST 800-53 lays out a more detailed and prescriptive set of security controls. Compliance with these controls is mandatory for federal agencies and their contractors.

  • NIST CSF: Can be used to align with various regulations and standards, including NIST 800-53.
  • NIST 800-53: Specifically designed to meet FISMA and FIPS requirements.

NIST 800-53 Summary 

Protect yourself and ensure the security of your organization’s critical information. At CyberSaint, we support numerous frameworks, such as the NIST SP 800-53, Top 18 CIS Controls, SOX, and many other gold-standard frameworks and controls. The NIST CSF establishes a fundamental baseline for developing secure organizational infrastructure, improving your organization’s information systems, and risk management in cybersecurity

The CyberStrong platform enables security and risk teams to evaluate their overall cyber posture across multiple risk assessments through a single pane of glass so that the organization is proactively secure and compliant. In an ever-changing world of technology, it is imperative to be protected. If you have any questions, click here to schedule a conversation.

You may also like

How to Create a Cyber Risk ...
on June 10, 2024

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, conducting a cyber risk assessment is crucial for organizations to safeguard their assets and maintain a robust security posture. A cyber ...

Critical Capabilities of ...
on June 4, 2024

Continuous Control Monitoring (CCM) is a critical component in today's cybersecurity landscape, providing organizations with the means to enhance their security posture and ...

on May 29, 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing numerous sectors, but its integration into cybersecurity is particularly transformative. AI enhances threat detection, automates ...

Critical Capabilities of Cyber ...
on May 20, 2024

In today's digital landscape, robust cybersecurity risk assessment tools are crucial for effectively identifying and mitigating cyber threats. These tools serve as the first line ...

A Practical Approach to FAIR Cyber ...
on May 10, 2024

In the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity, managing risk is no longer about simply setting up firewalls and antivirus software. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, ...

Unveiling the Best Cyber Security ...
on April 24, 2024

Considering the rollout of regulations like the SEC Cybersecurity Rule and updates to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework; governance and Board communication are rightfully ...