The National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) updated Cybersecurity Framework, scheduled for release later this year, should provide some welcome new advice for organizations struggling to manage cyber-risk in the current threat environment.
The key areas where the framework will provide guidance is about supply chain risks, identity management and cybersecurity risk assessment and measurement. NIST released two draft framework updates containing the changes last year - the second in December 2017. It is currently reviewing public comments and will release a finalized version in the spring.
A De Facto Standard
First published in Feb 2014, the Cybersecurity Framework was originally developed to help critical infrastructure operators assess cyber risk and implement business-appropriate countermeasures for dealing with those risks. Over the years, the framework has been adopted by critical infrastructure organizations along with other industries of all sizes. It's most important contribution has been to create a common vocabulary for identifying, protecting, detecting, responding and recovering from cyber threats. The guidelines in the framework have become a standard for cyber-risk management for many enterprises and, since last May, a mandated requirement for US federal agencies.
The updates in version 1.1, according to NIST, are designed to amplify the framework's value and make it easier to use. Here are some key features:
Descriptions, Definitions & Processes
The new version of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework will introduce simple descriptions and definitions for identifying all the stakeholders and associated cyber-risks in an organizational supply chain. It will also highlight methods for identifying security gaps within the supply chain itself, and other management processes .
Risk-assessment is another area where organizations can expect to find fresh insight. There is now a revised section on measuring and demonstrating cybersecurity effectiveness, along with a new section on self-assessing cyber-risk. The section will highlight how organizations can identify, measure and manage cyber-risk to support their broader business goals and outcomes. The updated framework will also provide a basis for organizations to not only assess their current cybersecurity risk but to convey it in a standard way to suppliers, partners and other stakeholders in order to reduce the chances of miscommunication.
Identity & Access Control
This section has been revised to provide more clarity around concepts like user authentication, authorization and identity-proofing. The goal is to help organizations identify the best processes for ensuring access in the face of exploding cloud, mobile technologies and other computing paradigms.
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework was, and continues to be, completely voluntary. Except for federal agencies, no organization is required to follow any of the implementation practices contained in the framework. But considering how widely the framework is used these days, smart organizations will want to consider the distinct possibility that someday their security practices will be assessed against it.