Incorporating IT into your business goals

Technology Is Not Always Good


One of the downsides of technological advancements is that they open up a larger domain for cybercriminals to attack, exploit flaws, and make off with sensitive information or financial assets. To put it another way, the more technology is employed, the greater the number of opportunities for crime to occur.

As a result, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed many protocols to assist organizations in data security. Maintaining compliance with these protocols is essential if you want to keep your sensitive information safe from being stolen.

Keep reading to find out more about this important topic.


What Is NIST?

Those letters stand for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. However, although this government institution is not a regulatory body, the standards it develops are used by regulating government bodies in the creation of rules and legislation.

The NIST 800-171 standard is the most important of all, and compliance with these requirements is essentially good cybersecurity practices that will benefit you in the long term. The National Institute of Standards and Technology 800-171 imposes regulations on businesses that work with regulated unclassified information.

Those regulations are intended to assist in keeping that information safe and out of the hands of cybercriminals. They help establish a high level of security so that data breaches become less common.


What Is NIST Compliance?

Because NIST establishes standards to ensure consistency in cybersecurity measures, organizations that do business with the United States government or its agencies should pay particular attention to these rules. Why are these standards critical for certain organizations in particular? Government organizations and their contractors handle extremely sensitive data that hackers might readily attack.


NIST’s cybersecurity recommendations aim to assist businesses in complying with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). NIST provides a variety of materials to assist businesses in adhering to cybersecurity requirements while also managing costs. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s information technology guidelines enable businesses to meet government requirements while successfully protecting their data.


Who Should Comply?

Although cybersecurity should be a priority for all organizations, companies doing business with the United States government should pay particular attention to NIST compliance. This could refer to departments within the federal government or to private companies that supply goods and services to the federal government. It’s possible that even subcontractors, those companies that interact with federal contractors, may have to meet NIST criteria. In some cases, you may have to meet NIST standards as a condition of your contract.


Why NIST 800-171 Is So Important?

This standard and subsequent regulations have become so important because cybercrime is on the rise. Technology may have made life easier for businesses and individuals but it also has made criminal life easier. The criminal now has more ways to steal, blackmail, or extort money from unsuspecting businesses and individuals than ever before.

There are more and more businesses, organizations, and individuals who store information on the Cloud, use data analytics and mobile phones to improve connectivity and infrastructure that the attack area has become very broad and hard to defend.

The results of these cybercrimes can be seen in a variety of areas including but not limited to physical damage, facility downtime, and breaches of customer data and intellectual property. These attacks vary in purpose and targets. Here are just a few of those targets and types of attacks:

  1. Data Theft– Criminals are seeking to steal data or information that will help them in a variety of ways. It could be to get more money, product information, technology designs, blueprints, secret formulas, and so on.
  2. Destruction Of Data– This can be done through malware and malicious codes that do not steal information. Rather they destroy it and it could come from a competitor looking to trim the field of competition.
  3. Phishing– This effort looks to steal credentials that help make access to your data systems a lot easier and a lot harder to detect. Traditionally, these attempts target 3rd party vendors, etc., and not employees directly.

Depending on the type of attack, your damage may be severe and take hundreds of hours to restore your systems, or it may take days to restore proper communications with branch offices.

Defending against these attacks and protecting the people and businesses, etc., is the prime goal of NIST 800-171. Part of their standard helps manufacturing organizations reduce their vulnerability to cyber-attacks and keeps them aligned with industry goals by directing them to the best practices.


Consequences Of Failure To Comply With NIST

Both productivity and reputational damage can be caused by non-compliance with data security policies. Not adhering to NIST standards has the following consequences:

Loss Of Business – Your status as a federal contractor may be in peril if your data is exposed. You may lose a large number of customers and revenue in the future if you don’t act quickly.

Criminal Charges – Criminal charges or lawsuits may be brought against you if it is found that your conduct contributed to a cybersecurity breach or that you willfully exposed sensitive data. There’s a chance your company will be hit with penalties and possibly litigation for breach of contract.

Reputational Damage – Customers are reluctant to entrust their private information to a business with a history of lax data security measures. Your company’s reputation could be severely tarnished if you don’t adhere to NIST guidelines.

Impact On Productivity – The productivity of your firm could be adversely affected by a big data breach. Once an event is discovered, it is imperative to be remedied and reported. While other duties should be prioritized, the resources needed to deal with the breach are being diverted.


Working For The Government

If your manufacturing company wants to obtain government contracts, you need to be compliant with the NIST standards and practices as well as the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement clause 252.204.7012.

This has been a requirement since 2018 and requires you to be compliant with NIST SP 800-171 security guidelines. Those areas you need to be compliant in are as follows:


  1. Processing of information, etc.
  2. Storage of controlled unclassified information
  3. The transmission of the controlled unclassified information

Your cybersecurity systems must be top-level or you will not be able to get any government defense contracts.


How Do I Comply With NIST’s Requirements?

It’s time to look at the measures you can take to make NIST compliance a reality as by now you know what NIST is and why you should comply with it.


3 Cybersecurity Protocols

The purpose of cyber security can be divided into 3 distinct categories but with the same basic purpose. They are to protect the data, then detect when there is a breach or attempted breach of the system, and finally recover the lost data or from the breach as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What NIST 800-171 does is provide guidelines to provide top-level security tools to make sure those 3 purposes are met. Inside of these 3 categories is 14 more guidelines that specifically address the issue of protecting your data.

1. Protect


  1. Access control– This protection guideline helps you filter design protocols for access to the information and who can access it. Only those with top permission gets access to all the information.
  2. Awareness & Training– Help users understand the dangers, regulations, standards, and processes, as well as providing instructions on how to train your staff.
  3. Configuration Management– This sets up a system to control your baseline system as well as sets up tracking, controlling, analyzing, etc. any changes that take place.
  4. Identification And Authentication– As it sounds, this helps you set up a system that identifies users and authenticates their credentials and permissions. It adds in passwords and other procedures to help do this.
  5. Maintenance– Maintenance personnel also need to be monitored and controlled. This section guides you in important steps to take to handle this issue. Plus, it talks about sanitizing your equipment before it is moved off-site for whatever reason you have.
  6. Media Protection– To ensure that any system media that contains restricted unclassified information are protected, limited in access and sanitized or destroyed, Media Protection is mandated.
  7. Personnel Security– Provides insight on screening potential users prior to their getting access to your information as well as limiting their use during personnel transfers and termination problems.
  8. Physical Protection– Provides guidelines that focus on limiting access to the data by employees and visitors, as well as monitors their activities and so on.
  9. Security Assessment– Helps you set up regular reviews of your security controls and documentation as well as maintain a plan of action when a problem is detected.
  10. System & Communication Protection– Covers topics like the communication and transfer of controlled unclassified information. Also provides advice on monitoring, controlling, and protecting those communications and transfers covering both. This section also covers good security practices.


2. Detect

  1. Audit & Accountability– This section talks about monitoring the system and user actions including who logged in so that their activities can be traced, analyzed, investigated, and reported if there is unauthorized activity.
  2. Risk Assessment– This scans the system and creates reports on the risk potential to your business. Plus, it helps look for vulnerabilities and remedies to fix those vulnerable spots.
  3. System & Information Integrity– Create a report showing the need for anti-virus and malware protection. Then it also monitors the system looking for indicators that show a potential attack may be coming.


3. Recover


  1. Incident response – This generates a report that describes how well your system can recover from an incident, and if it has the capability to recover. It also sends reports to the appropriate people inside and outside the organization.

These 3 protocols demonstrate how important NIST standards are as they provide overwhelming and all-encompassing protection for your systems. The manufacturing industry is one of the most targeted industries by cybercriminals.

This reality makes it essential to have top security protocols in place to help defend against these attacks and protect your data.


How To Know If Your Cyber Security Systems Are Compliant

If your IT department is not up to the task, there are many companies out there that will audit your systems to make sure they are compliant with all current regulations and NIST standards and practices.

The audits are important as many companies who thought their cyber security was top-notch, found out that their systems were filled with errors. Having the right protections in place protects your reputation and helps you avoid any severe penalties the government may apply.

Also, without these security systems compliant with the regulations, you are making the country a little less secure. The drawback to the NIST etc. regulations is that some of the 110 controls are very complicated and it can be difficult to provide your employees with all the proper training needed to understand as well as work them.

These same companies that do the audit for you, can also provide the right training classes so that your employees are up to speed and capable of meeting all the regulations you need to be compliant with.

All you have to do is contact the right one to make sure you are getting the right information and the right help.


Some Final Words

In today’s technological era, it is vital that you protect your data from those people who make crime their way of life. Criminals are tech-savvy and remain up-to-date on all the latest technology so they can find ways around the security protocols you implement.

That is why your business and IT department needs to stay up-to-date on technology and security measures. Protecting your controlled unclassified information can save you a lot of money, time and protect you from a loss of reputation. Check out the NIST document and run an audit to make sure you do not have errors in your system.