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Understanding The NIST Cybersecurity Framework

During the past three decades, since the advent of the internet, our technological evolution has witnessed dramatic development. This shift has permanently altered the landscape of our communication, economies, and business operations. Across this changing environment, businesses have consistently encountered cybersecurity threats.

And in this past year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, these cybersecurity threats have morphed once again. Much of the global focus has been on the biological threat of the virus. Still, businesses around the world have also been exposed to a heightened cybersecurity threat.

Our technological advancements have allowed us to respond to the challenges of the pandemic in ways never seen. Communication, business, and individual interactions have been able to move to digital alternatives, foregoing many of the negative impacts from the pandemic. However, these same transitions online have also presented newly found threats to our cybersecurity. It is a reality many experts have identified as a “cyber pandemic.” The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a 500% increase in cyberattacks in late April 2020 alone. Cybercriminals have been able to exploit the extraordinary shifts of people and processes to online resources.

In short, the need to prepare and respond to the advancing threats in the cyber world is pressing. Developing an understanding of the ongoing threats to your business has rarely been more critical. A step in the right direction is to assess better your business’s preparedness and ability to manage and reduce threats.

This article covers a vital resource for responding to cyber threats. We discuss an understanding of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the role it can play for your business.

What is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

NIST is an acronym for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Developed at the US Department of Commerce, this framework was designed to help public and private organizations better assess, manage, and minimize the risk of cybersecurity threats—protecting data and networks. The framework is a set of guidelines that assist organizations in determining how their focus is best suited and where to invest in protection for cybersecurity. Ultimately, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework supports organizations toward making proactive strategies to mitigate risk.

The purpose of the NIST framework

The US Congress passed the framework in 2014, and numerous organizations use it. Prominent corporations using the framework include Intel, Microsoft, and Boeing. Originally a US-based initiative, the use of the NIST framework is also gradually being adopted by international organizations to address cybersecurity threats that remain a global issue.

Regardless of where it is applied, the framework has a few common goals in mind. For one, it is intended to provide an integration of industry standards and best practices that assist various types of organizations in managing the risks associated with cybersecurity. Secondly, the framework is intended to offer a common language to promote general understanding amongst staff members. Third, NIST strives to provide a guide on diminishing cyber risks. And lastly, the framework aims to provide education on responding, recovering, and learning from a wide array of cyber occurrences.

Primary functions

To achieve its intended purposes, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework sets out five primary functions that the developers identify as the Framework Core. Each of these functions is proposed to co-occur, and they represent an overall cycle for security efforts. The five primary functions are labeled: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

Below are further explanations on each of the Framework Core’s areas of emphasis:

  • Identify: This first function of NIST is to take inventory of vital facets within an organization that could be at risk. Essential to this first step is recognizing current risks, existing digital assets, and critical roles within the organization. The primary function of this phase is to examine essential functions and management of sensitive information and capabilities, including risks to systems, assets, and data.
  • Protect: This second function is meant to define relevant safeguards towards developing strategic structures. Following the identification phase, an organization can institute structures of priority to assign the correct efforts. Overall, the effort is to minimize any potential impact from a cybersecurity occurrence.
  • Detect: NIST’s third function is the implementation of monitoring protocols. An organization will monitor computers for unauthorized access, company devices, and active software. The detection phase also involves a deep dive into any suspicious activity on the network and ensuring the network is clear of unauthorized users or connections.
  • Respond: The fourth function of NIST is to implement response strategies once cyber concerns are detected. Organizations will want to develop various plans for the response phase. Methods may include notifying customers, employees, and others with data at risk. Further responses may involve contacting law enforcement or other authorities while investigating the attack and containing it. And any response should concern itself with maintaining business operations during the assessment and response to a security incident.
  • Recover: As an extension of the Response phase, organizations should develop a strategy for restoring compromised operational capacities or data. Critical to this recovery phase is implementing improvements that can occur because of the education and review that is made following a cyber incident.

The Cybersecurity Framework is also comprised of Implementation Tiers and a Framework Profile. Implementation Tiers represent the degree to which an organization’s security practices are exhibited in the Framework Core. And the Framework Profile represents Categories and Subcategories within the core functions of the Framework. For in-depth reading on the Framework, you can visit NIST website.


The NIST Cybersecurity Framework has developed into a viable asset for numerous types and sizes of public and private organizations. However, it can be a complex system to understand or integrate into your operations.

Also, there are many factors to consider for the security and protection of your company’s data. An organization must determine what security measures will be optimally designed for your specific needs.

Network Coverage understands the reality and challenges facing today’s most vulnerable industries. This is why Network Coverage has assembled a set of technology and business solutions to support your organization in maneuvering through this complex and critical environment.

Set up a consultation with Network Coverage for experienced advice and support.


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