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What Exactly Is NIST?
What is NIST, and how can I stay NIST compliant? Our team has been receiving this question more frequently over the past few days. Allow us to give you some insight:
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a federal agency established by Congress in 1901. NIST’s primary mandate is to ensure fair play and healthy competition in the fields of science and technology. It resides in the U.S. Department of Commerce and oversees the harnessing of science and technology to promote better living standards.
You are probably wondering how this is relevant to you and your organization, right? We’ll get to that in a few. First, check out this introductory video:
How Does NIST Compliance Apply To Your Business?
As the internet and computers became part of our daily lives and great contributors to our economy, the federal government saw a need to control their use. Therefore, NIST was tasked to establish standards and best practices to govern the creation, usage, and dissemination of technology throughout the U.S. territory.
Our focus today is on the most common NIST standard — NIST 800-171. It gives the agency control over all unclassified federal information under the custody of nongovernmental institutions. Essentially, most people talk about NIST 800-171 whenever they mention NIST compliance.
An official statement on the NIST website says, “Congress has given NIST responsibility to disseminate consistent, clear, concise, and actionable resources to small businesses.” Well, going by the agency’s history and recent actions, we could as well interpret this to mean businesses of all sizes.
NIST compliance is mandatory for all organizations that work with the government, either directly or indirectly. Even if your business does not work with the government, NIST is a concept you should have at your fingertips.
How Can Your Buffalo Or Western New York Business Stay NIST Compliant? First, you must understand what Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) is. These are valuable government information that is not necessarily classified but is still relevant. A good example is census reports or drawings of projects like roads and railways. If your business is entrusted with such information, you must ensure the bad guys do not access them.
Here’s a detailed guide on how to achieve full NIST compliance:
Identify and classify all CUIs in the custody of your organization.
Encrypt the CUIs.
Control and limit access to the CUI to a ‘need-to-know’ only basis.
You must also have a reliable monitoring system that gives you full visibility into all CUI access attempts, both denied and successful. Besides monitoring, the system should also record user activities, i.e., who accessed what and at what time? Was any CUI copied, shared, or deleted?
Finally, regularly train your staff on NIST compliance and how to protect the CUI.
Like most concepts in technology and information security, NIST is as simple as it is sophisticated. Without the right level of subject-matter knowledge and experience, the process can be nerve-wracking. But it doesn’t have to be; you can list the services of seasoned NIST compliance experts like Buffalo Computer Help.
Can Your In-house I.T. Team Manage NIST Compliance?
Yes, they can, but at what cost? In business, time and money are of great essence. Unfortunately, managing NIST compliance is both time-consuming and costly if managed internally. Besides, your staff may not be as experienced in this concept as a seasoned service provider.
The truth is — Buffalo Computer Help can handle your NIST compliance issues more effectively and at just a fraction of your in-house IT budget. Even established IT departments often reach out to us to help with fixing problems identified by auditors. We also work with IT staff to streamline policies and procedures for full NIST compliance when they’re due for audits.