NIST SP 800-53

What is the NIST SP 800-53 framework?

NIST SP 800-53 was created to provide federal agencies with standards and guidelines for protecting and managing their information security systems, as well as to ensure the security of citizens’ private data.

It applies to any federal organization (except national security agencies) and, to a lesser extent, to non-federal organizations.

The regulations apply to any component of an information system that stores, processes, or transmits federal data.

Centraleyes uses the NIST SP 800-53 as the backbone of its control inventory, creating the ability to share controls across multiple frameworks by advanced control mapping. 

NIST SP 800-53 divides the guidelines into 3 minimum security controls, spread across 18 different control families.

Minimum Security Controls:

  • High-Impact Baseline
  • Medium-Impact Baseline
  • Low-Impact Baseline

Control Families:

  • AC – Access Control
  • AU – Audit and Accountability
  • AT – Awareness and Training
  • CM – Configuration Management
  • CP – Contingency Planning
  • IA – Identification and Authentication
  • IR – Incident Response
  • MA – Maintenance
  • MP – Media Protection
  • PS – Personnel Security
  • PE – Physical and Environmental Protection
  • PL – Planning
  • PM – Program Management
  • RA – Risk Assessment
  • CA – Security Assessment and Authorization
  • SC – System and Communications Protection
  • SI – System and Information Integrity
  • SA – System and Services Acquisition

What are the requirements for NIST SP 800-53?

Compliance necessitates the application of the following fundamental data security principles:

  • Discover and categorize Sensitive Information: Locate and protect all sensitive data.
  • Map Data and Permissions: Determine the permissions of users, groups, folders, and files.
  • Manage Access Control: Manage user and group memberships
  • Monitor Data, File Activity, and User Behavior: Conduct audits, detect security vulnerabilities and remediate
  • Data, file activity, and user behavior should all be monitored: Conduct audits, identify security flaws, and remediate.

Private-sector businesses and organizations are also advised to adhere to NIST SP 800-53. It is widely regarded as a roadmap for all organizations seeking to develop, improve, and maintain their information security practices, as well as a solid guide for SMB enterprises.

Furthermore, compliance with NIST SP 800-53 aids in compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). This federal law establishes a framework for protecting government information, operations, and assets from natural and man-made threats such as cyber attacks. FISMA’s security controls are based on the controls outlined in NIST SP 800-53.

The Interaction of FISMA and NIST

The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is a federal law in the United States that establishes a comprehensive framework for protecting government information, operations, and assets from natural and man-made threats such as cyber attacks.

FISMA requires federal government agencies, state agencies with federal programs, and private-sector firms that support, sell to, or receive services from the government to develop, document, and implement risk-based information security controls based on NIST SP 800-53 controls.

Once organizations can demonstrate an effective information security program with established security and privacy controls they are awarded an Authority to Operate (ATO). The ATO must be reassessed on an annual basis.

Why should you be NIST 800-53 compliant?

According to Executive Order 13800, all federal agencies in the United States are required to follow the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. Private-sector organizations should also adhere to NIST SP 800-53.

The NIST framework is widely regarded as a road map for all organizations seeking to develop, improve, and sustain their information security practices, as well as a solid guide for SMB enterprises.

Complying with NIST SP 800-53 and other “best standards” within the Cybersecurity Framework will also assist organizations in improving compliance with other programs and regulations such as PCI DSS, GDPR, HIPAA, FISMA, FedRAMP, DFARS, CJIS, FedRAMP +, FedRAMP DoD, IL 2-6, and many others.

FISMA penalties

The penalties for failing to comply with FISMA vary depending on whether the government agency or a contractor failed the audit. If a government agency receives a low FISMA score, the penalties include censure and the loss of several agency employees’ jobs. If a partner (a private company) fails to comply, the most common penalties are loss of federal funding and exclusion from future government contracts.)

How to achieve compliance?

Implementing the above-mentioned basic data security principles as a first step toward NIST 800-53 compliance:

Discover and categorize Sensitive Information 

  • Locate and protect all sensitive data. 
  • Data should be classified in accordance with company policy.

Map Data and Permissions

  • Determine the permissions of users, groups, folders, and files.  
  • Determine who has access to what information.

Manage Access Control

  • Stale users should be identified and deactivated. 
  • Manage and maintain user and group memberships.                   
  • Global Access Groups should be removed.                                     
  • Use the least privilege model.

Keep track of data, file activity, and user behavior

  • File and event activity should be audited and reported on.
  • Keep an eye out for insider threats, malware, misconfigurations, and security flaws.
  • Identify and remediate security flaws

Centraleyes delivers streamlined, automated data collection and analysis, prioritized remediation guidance and real-time customized scoring to meet the NIST 800-53 framework for companies who chose to use this as a risk framework and for those who want to prepare for full compliance with NIST 800-53. Centraleyes has mapped NIST 800-53 back to its control inventory, allowing to share data across multiple frameworks through the platform, which creates time savings, money savings and more accurate data. It provides an integrated NIST 800-53 questionnaire with a straightforward possibility to answer the questions directly on the platform. After filling out the questions necessary to your organization, the platform automatically creates an actionable remediation plan for bridging the gaps in the relevant missing requirements, then gathering the data into a security posture report.

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