Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

The purpose of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework is to organize cybersecurity organization and set forth best practices and standards. Its five core functions are to Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover from cybersecurity attacks. NIST is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Relevant excerpts from the framework appears below:

To strengthen the resilience of this infrastructure, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 20142 (CEA) updated the role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to “facilitate and support the development of” cybersecurity risk frameworks. Through CEA, NIST must identify “a prioritized, flexible, repeatable, performance-based, and cost-effective approach, including information security measures and controls that may be voluntarily adopted by owners and operators of critical infrastructure to help them identify, assess, and manage cyber risks.” This formalized NIST’s previous work developing Framework Version 1.0 under Executive Order 13636, “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity,” issued in February 20133 , and provided guidance for future Framework evolution...

Due to the increasing pressures from external and internal threats, organizations responsible for critical infrastructure need to have a consistent and iterative approach to identifying, assessing, and managing cybersecurity risk. This approach is necessary regardless of an organization’s size, threat exposure, or cybersecurity sophistication today.

The critical infrastructure community includes public and private owners and operators, and other entities with a role in securing the Nation’s infrastructure. Members of each critical infrastructure sector perform functions that are supported by the broad category of technology, including information technology (IT), industrial control systems (ICS), cyber-physical systems (CPS), and connected devices more generally, including the Internet of Things (IoT). This reliance on technology, communication, and interconnectivity has changed and expanded the potential vulnerabilities and increased potential risk to operations. For example, as technology and the data it produces and processes are increasingly used to deliver critical services and support business/mission decisions, the potential impacts of a cybersecurity incident on an organization, the health and safety of individuals, the environment, communities, and the broader economy and society should be considered.

To manage cybersecurity risks, a clear understanding of the organization’s business drivers and security considerations specific to its use of technology is required. Because each organization’s risks, priorities, and systems are unique, the tools and methods used to achieve the outcomes described by the Framework will vary.

Recognizing the role that the protection of privacy and civil liberties plays in creating greater public trust, the Framework includes a methodology to protect individual privacy and civil liberties when critical infrastructure organizations conduct cybersecurity activities. Many organizations already have processes for addressing privacy and civil liberties. The methodology is designed to complement such processes and provide guidance to facilitate privacy risk management consistent with an organization’s approach to cybersecurity risk management. Integrating privacy and cybersecurity can benefit organizations by increasing customer confidence, enabling more standardized sharing of information, and simplifying operations across legal regimes.

The Framework remains effective and supports technical innovation because it is technology neutral, while also referencing a variety of existing standards, guidelines, and practices that evolve with technology. By relying on those global standards, guidelines, and practices developed, managed, and updated by industry, the tools and methods available to achieve the Framework outcomes will scale across borders, acknowledge the global nature of cybersecurity risks, and evolve with technological advances and business requirements. The use of existing and emerging standards will enable economies of scale and drive the development of effective products, services, and practices that meet identified market needs. Market competition also promotes faster diffusion of these technologies and practices and realization of many benefits by the stakeholders in these sectors.

Building from those standards, guidelines, and practices, the Framework provides a common taxonomy and mechanism for organizations to:

  1. Describe their current cybersecurity posture;
  2. Describe their target state for cybersecurity;
  3. Identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement within the context of a continuous and repeatable process;
  4. Assess progress toward the target state;
  5. Communicate among internal and external stakeholders about cybersecurity risk.

 

Document Details

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2018
Date of Document: 
Monday, April 16, 2018
Document Authors: 
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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