What Is NIST?

Does your organization work within the federal supply chain? This brief overview shares what NIST is and why compliance with this standard’s latest release is vital to securing your network.

As a company that deals with the Federal Government, you probably have to conform to an extensive list of complex regulatory standards. Are you doing everything you’re required to do with regard to safeguarding the sensitive information your business holds?

To be fair, keeping track of all the countless rules and guidelines can quickly become a headache. However, there’s one crucial security standard you must comply with immediately: NIST 800-171. Why?

Before we get into that, let’s first bring you up to speed on what NIST is and why it’s a crucial concern for your business:

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What is Controlled Unclassified Information?

To understand what NIST is all about, you need to begin by defining CUI. Short for Controlled Unclassified Information, CUI refers to information that’s considered sensitive and of interest to the United States Government but doesn’t have a “classified” label. Individual agencies are tasked with creating public registries of the data types they consider CUI and providing precise reasons in each case.

What Exactly Is NIST? NIST is short for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is the body in charge of developing guidelines and metrics to be applied to the science and technology industries.

NIST Special Publication 800-171 (NIST SP 800-171) administers CUI held within non-federal information systems and environments. This standard was created to defend sensitive government data that, despite being unclassified, is still a prominent target for hackers and other cyber-criminals.

Following several high-profile data breaches, the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) was passed to reinforce cybersecurity regulations. Soon after, NIST followed suit with NIST 800-53, and then later on NIST 800-171.

Why Should You Be Concerned About NIST Compliance? Whether not your business deals with the Federal Government, looking for ways to fortify your network is always a good idea. However, NIST compliance primarily focuses on companies in the federal supply chain. That includes prime contractors, subcontractors as well as subcontractors working under other subcontractors. NIST compliance is mandatory if your business falls under any of the above categories.

To put it precisely, if your business transports, processes, or stores CUI for a federal or state agency, then you must conform to the standards outlined in NIST SP 800-171.

Still not sure if you need to be concerned about NIST compliance?

Here’s a quick rundown of the organizations that have to comply with NIST standards:

  • Contractors for the Department of Defense (DoD).
  • Contractors for General Services Administration (GSA).
  • Contractors for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • Universities and research institutions supported by federal grants.
  • Consulting companies with federal contracts.
  • Manufacturers and service providers that supply federal agencies.

Why Is NIST Important? Short answer, NIST compliance plays a crucial role in defending your sensitive business data from cybercriminals. On the other hand, non-compliance with NIST requirements exposes your business to the following potential risks:

  • Loss of Business: Have you considered the impact a data breach would have on your business? Apart from resulting in lost clients, a significant data breach could severely compromise your status as a federal contractor as well as your ability to secure future business.
  • Loss of Productivity:  A significant data breach will also have a massive negative impact on your company’s productivity. While data breaches cannot be avoided entirely, achieving NIST compliance is vital to mitigating the damage if an incident occurs.
  • Lawsuits/Criminal Charges: Should your organization suffer a data breach that’s determined to have been caused by your negligence, your company could face grave consequences. These include breach-of-contract lawsuits, fines, and criminal charges.

Looking for the Most Trusted NIST Compliance Support In Nashville?

Our team of experienced cybersecurity specialists at Kraft Technology Group is eager to deliver the technology solutions you need to achieve NIST compliance.

Contact us now to schedule your initial NIST compliance consultation!