US NIST recommends ways businesses can improve cybersecurity

A new version of NIST's cybersecurity framework aims to help businesses assess their readiness

Businesses that want to improve their cybersecurity posture can take a number of steps, including conducting a risk assessment and prioritizing ways to address gaps in their security, a U.S. agency said in recommendations released Tuesday.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework calls on businesses to assess their current cybersecurity practices and aim for a higher level of sophistication in defending against cyberattacks.

Compliance with the framework is voluntary for U.S. businesses, and many of the ideas in the document are drawn from existing best practices. But most businesses should be able to improve their cybersecurity efforts by adopting some of the recommendations, said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.

"There is absolutely no question that cyberthreats are increasing to critical infrastructure businesses and, indeed, the entire business community clearly needs strong, tested ways to officially protect their data and their assets," Gallagher said during a press briefing. "We believe cybersecurity is good business."

The framework can help businesses that work together to hold each other accountable, help businesses "gauge the maturity" of their cybersecurity efforts and help them set security goals, he said. The framework should help businesses improve both their security and their "bottom line," Gallagher said.

"What the framework does not do is provide threat-proofing," Gallagher said. "There is not a magic bullet here. This is not about eliminating cyber-risk. The framework is about managing [risks] effectively."

Many of the recommendations may seem nonspecific in nature in an effort to keep them flexible enough for adoption by a variety of businesses, but the document references a number of standards from NIST, the International Society of Automation, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and other organizations, Gallagher noted. Those standards cover "almost every aspect of information security management," he said.

"The real objective here was not to add something brand new, but it was designed to provide something that was useable, adaptable and scalable," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama directed NIST to create the set of voluntary cybersecurity standards in the framework in an executive order released in February. The NIST guidelines released Tuesday are an update to a document released last August, and the agency is scheduled to release an official version of the framework next February.

The framework includes recommendations for the steps businesses should take to implement a cybersecurity program or improve an existing one. The document also defines four tiers of cybersecurity readiness, with the lowest tier defined as a business with risk management practices that are "not formalized."

In the lowest tier, "risk is managed in an ad hoc and sometimes reactive manner," the framework said. "Prioritization of cybersecurity activities may not be directly informed by organizational risk objectives, the threat environment, or business/mission requirements."

At the other end of the cybersecurity spectrum, businesses with adaptive cybersecurity practices base their efforts on "lessons learned and predictive indicators derived from previous cybersecurity activities," the framework said. "Through a process of continuous improvement, the organization actively adapts to a changing cybersecurity landscape."

More than 3,000 people have engaged with NIST during the creation of the framework, Gallagher said. NIST will host a workshop on the framework Nov. 14 and 15 at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and Gallagher expects the framework to evolve even after the official release next February.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags regulationsecurityPatrick GallaghergovernmentBarack ObamaU.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?