What Exactly Is NIST?

Whether your organization is in Nederland, Beaumont, Port Arthur, or East Texas, you must have encountered the term ‘NIST.’ So, what is it, and how does it impact your business?

Like many concepts in IT and cybersecurity, NIST is both sophisticated and simple. It is sophisticated because you must first have some background to understand it fully, after which it becomes quite simple and easy to grasp.

Here’s a short video to get you started with the basics of NIST:

What’s The Meaning And Origin Of NIST?

NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technology, is a federal agency found in the U.S. Department of Commerce. It was established by Congress back in 1901 to foster and uphold healthy competition in Science and Technology across the U.S. territory. Congress also mandated the agency to oversee the harnessing of science and technology to stimulate better living standards.

How Is NIST Related To Your Business? As computers and the internet became an integral part of our economy and daily interactions, the government saw the need to control their use by defining best practices. NIST was the authoritative body mandated to establish standards for creating, using, and disseminating technology.

A passage from the NIST website reads, “Congress has given NIST responsibility to disseminate consistent, clear, concise, and actionable resources to small businesses.”… this essentially applies to establishments of all scopes and industries.

While technology regulation is a vast concept, the agency is well-known for its enforcement of NIST 800-171. This standard gives NIST authority over CUIs — Controlled Unclassified Information stored or handled by non-government organizations. The Standard defines CUI as any unclassified information that’s still relevant to the federal government. They could be architectural drawings of government projects, budgets, or financial plans, and so on. These credentials may not necessarily be ‘classified,’ but they are still government property. Therefore, any organization trusted with them must ensure that they don’t land in the wrong hands.

How Can You Become & Stay NIST Compliant? For starters, it’s a requirement for any firm working directly or indirectly with the federal government to comply with NIST 800-171. Even if you are not doing business with the government, there is no harm in knowing NIST basics.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to achieving full NIST compliance:

  • Identify all CUIs in your organization and their respective locations, and classify them.
  • Encrypt all the CUIs and limit access to them.
  • Next, implement an efficient monitoring system that records and gives you control and visibility into all attempts to access the CUI. Note that it should document all registered logins and logon activities, i.e., did the user copy, delete, or share any information from the database?
  • Train your employees on CUI and the requirements of NIST 800-171.

The truth is just this is just the tip of the iceberg. This procedure is often lengthy, and the list could go on and on. However, when you’re working with an experienced team with the right level of subject-matter expertise, NIST compliance should be a no-brainer.

Must You Outsource Help To Manage NIST Compliance?

The simple answer is No; you don’t have to. However, it’s often the best and most cost-effective option, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Even some multinational corporations seek external help when they are due for compliance auditing.

Like we said earlier, NIST compliance may be quite sophisticated and nerve-wracking for inexperienced personnel. When you outsource help from a reliable IT company like Discovery I.T., you access our deep bench of specialists who have experience in helping many businesses like yours stay NIST compliant. We specialize in assisting organizations in remediating any issues flagged in compliance reports.

Are you having trouble staying NIST compliant? Call us now at (409) 240-0686 or send an email to Info@discoveryit.com and let us help you fix those problematic issues.

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