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Why NIST 800-171 Is The Trusted Cybersecurity Standard for Businesses In Every Industry

It’s been a pretty unpredictable year, to say the least. If one good thing has come from the shutdowns this year, it’s that many organizational leaders have had a chance to take a breath and reflect on the IT tools and strategies they have in place to keep business moving even in uncertain times.

Specifically, we’ve been getting more and more calls from organizations looking to get a bit more serious about cybersecurity. As more teams transition to working online, professional leaders hope to ensure that their new and constantly changing operational arrangements will remain secure.

As a cybersecurity professionals team, we’re experienced in helping organizations establish baseline cybersecurity standards to keep business data secure – both in transit and at rest. This means no matter how, when, or why organizations need to access, share, or store data online, we pride ourselves in making sure they have baseline cybersecurity standards in place.

Here’s our secret: nine times out of ten, when we help organizations implement cybersecurity standards, we’re following guidelines set out by NIST. However, we’ve come to realize that many of our existing or potential clients might not know what NIST is. So, we’ve created a brief guide to help you understand where our cybersecurity standards come from and why we trust NIST to provide a reliable cybersecurity baseline for business.

NIST Explained: Understanding NIST Standards & Why They Matter

NIST stands for the National Institute of Standards & Technology. Founded in 1901, NIST was established by Congress to remove major challenges to US industrial competitiveness. Our IT professionals team is constantly referring NIST when we’re working on cybersecurity strategy for business clients. Most specifically, we’re usually referring to NIST 800-171.

NIST 800-171 was developed after the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) was passed in 2003. FISMA resulted in developing several wide-sweeping standards and guidelines designed to improve cybersecurity after a series of well-documented breaches.

NIST 800-171 is a specific protocol designed as the common standard for organizational cybersecurity protections. NIST 800-171 governs controlled unclassified information (CUI) in the information systems of non-federal organizations. CUI includes any sensitive data and relative to the United States’ interests but is not strictly regulated by the federal government.

Basically, NIST 800-171 consists of standards that define how to safeguard and distribute material and information deemed sensitive but not classified. To put it simply, ever since NIST 800-171 was developed, it has become the common cybersecurity standard that companies large and small should be striving to achieve.

Here’s Why NIST 800-171 Is The Cybersecurity Standard We Set For Every Client

Okay, so all that talk of FISMA and NIST 800-171 might be enough policy jargon to leave your head spinning. But don’t worry – that’s why we’re here. Our IT security team has tonnes of experience in stripping away the confusing language and working with professionals to make sure their organizations are up to NIST standards.

We trust NIST 800-171 as a baseline cybersecurity standard for our clients because of its thorough protocol. When it comes to storing, sharing, and accessing sensitive information, NIST 800-171 includes clear guidelines and standards to ensure organizations are covering themselves from end-to-end. What does this mean? It means that no matter when, where, or how you store, access, or share business data, you have tools and proactive policies in place to keep it secure.

NIST 800-171 is designed to help organizations develop cybersecurity policies that cover:

  • Access control – who is authorized to access data, and from where?
  • Awareness & training – are teams properly trained on how to deal with sensitive data?
  • Auditing & accountability – are records of data access being kept, and can unauthorized access be detected?
  • Configuration management – how have your networks and cybersecurity protocols been designed, built-up, and documented?
  • Identification & authentication – what users are approved to access sensitive information, and how are these people trained and verified?
  • Incident response – in the face of a data breach, what are the proper response and notification protocols?
  • Maintenance – how often is routine maintenance performed on your network, and who is responsible for this task?
  • Data protection – how are electronic and hard-copy records stored and backed-up, and who has access to this data?
  • Physical protection – who has access to organizational information systems, including hardware and equipment storage areas?
  • Team security – are team members properly screened and informed before they are awarded access to sensitive data?
  • Risk assessment & mitigation – are cybersecurity tools and strategies being tested and individuals being verified regularly?
  • Security assessments – are organizational cybersecurity strategies and policies still effective or out-of-date and in need of improvement?
  • System & communications protection – is data being regularly monitored and controlled, both in transit and at rest?
  • Threat detection integrity – how quickly and accurately are possible threats detected, identified, and corrected?

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to cybersecurity, there’s a lot to think about. Luckily, NIST 800-171 covers it all, and that’s why we recommend these guidelines to every client we work with. By relying on specific guidelines, you’ll have a better way of measuring and managing your cybersecurity efforts. When you use the standards set out under NIST 800-171, you’ll rest assured that you’ve done what it takes to keep business data secure no matter how you use, store, or share it.

If there’s one piece of advice we can offer, it’s that your organization should reach out to a team of cybersecurity professionals for consultation if you’re trying to get up to NIST standards. Trying to work through and implement the standards alone could leave you ready to throw in the towel on cybersecurity altogether. But with the right team of professionals to guide you, you’ll realize that meeting NIST 800-171 standards is well within reach and more than worth your time.

Let’s get your organization up to NIST cybersecurity standards. Give us a call anytime at (617) 402-5180, drop us a line at info@bostonhelpdesk.com, or visit our website at www.bostonhelpdesk.com to chat with a live agent to book a cybersecurity consultation.

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