What Exactly Is NIST?

As part of its mandate, NIST is responsible for developing and documenting cybersecurity standards for federal information systems to help organizations meet the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

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What Exactly Is NIST?

Businesses in the United States that operate in a particular industry must comply with their respective governing bodies’ regulations and guidelines. If you are working with the United States government, and cybersecurity is involved, compliance with these regulations becomes more critical.

To protect its sensitive data from malicious actors, the government demands the highest standards of cybersecurity controls. NIST has outlined several cybersecurity standards to enable businesses to protect federal data from rising and catering to this demand. But what exactly is NIST?

Check out our latest video to learn more about NIST:


The National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory federal agency in the United States Department of Commerce. Founded in 1901, NIST was charged with driving industrial competitiveness and promoting innovation at United States-based organizations.

What Is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

As part of its mandate, NIST is responsible for developing and documenting cybersecurity standards for federal information systems to help organizations meet the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). FISMA, passed in 2002,  is a federal law in the United States that made it compulsory for government agencies to develop, document, and implement cybersecurity controls to protect confidential and sensitive data.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) provides guidance based on existing security practices.

CSF helps agencies manage cybersecurity risks by:

  • Assisting them in organizing data.
  • Making risk management decisions.
  • Tackling cybersecurity threats.
  • Learning from Previous Cybersecurity Mistakes.
  • Knowing what cybersecurity controls need to be implemented to ensure data security.

According to a report, 50% of companies are projected to use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework as their cybersecurity benchmark.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework core outlines five functions of a cybersecurity program;

  1. Identify cybersecurity risks.
  2. Protect critical infrastructure services.
  3. Detect threatening cybersecurity events.
  4. Respond to detected threat(s).
  5. Recover services that were impaired by cybersecurity incident(s).

What Is The NIST 800 Series? The NIST 800 Series publications entail all NIST-recommended procedures for monitoring and assessing risks and ensuring that all businesses contracted by the federal government meet the set cybersecurity standards.

In May 2015, NIST released Special Publication 800-171, a publication that guides how non-governmental organizations should store sensitive unclassified federal information in non-federal IT systems and protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). This document defines the role of these non-governmental organizations in cyberattack incidents. It also clarifies what data they are to safeguard and how to protect it.

  • What Is Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)? Controlled Unclassified Information is data that is sensitive, unclassified, and relevant to the interests of the United States. Although this data is sensitive, the federal government does not strictly regulate it.
  • What Is NIST 800-171? NIST 800-171 provides both federal and non-federal organizations with recommended guidelines for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) confidentiality. Developed after FISMA was passed in 2002, NIST 800-171 was designed to enhance data security after several well-documented data breaches.
  • How Can You Ensure NIST 800-171 Compliance? Every organization should be concerned about cybersecurity. NIST compliance is particularly vital for organizations that conduct business with the U.S. government, particularly the Department of Defense. Non-compliance not only makes your business vulnerable to cybersecurity risks but also puts your business at risk of losing valuable government contracts.

Enhanced cybersecurity has always been crucial when it comes to fostering trust between your clients and your business. However, when the federal government shares sensitive and confidential data with your business, its cruciality is amplified. Sensitive federal data is often a target for cybercriminals.

This data can be easily traded on the dark web and end up in the hands of terrorists or malicious actors. NIST’s compliance may require you to dive deep into your organization’s systems to ensure appropriate security controls are implemented. For this, you’ll need an expert.

Looking For Assistance With NIST Compliance?

Although the process of becoming compliant may seem overwhelming for your business, having the right IT company as a compliance partner will make the process easier.

At initial.IT, we offer years of expertise and experience in helping businesses in Denver to become NIST compliant.

Consult with us today, or call us on (303) 893-4350 and let us help you keep your company compliant and your data safe.