What Is NIST Compliance?

Does your business regularly deal with the United States government? If so, then you're probably already aware of the significance of protecting your sensitive information. Discover below why this vital standard is key to fortifying your network security.

What Is NIST Compliance?

Does your business regularly deal with the United States government? If so, then you’re probably already aware of the significance of protecting your sensitive information. Discover below why this vital standard is key to fortifying your network security.

As an organization under contract with the Federal Government, you probably have to conform to quite a few compliance standards. NIST 800-171 (also referred to as NIST SP 800-271, is a critical security standard for both federal contractors and subcontractors. However, even if your business doesn’t deal with any federal agency, NIST is still a useful security standard.

Watch this short video to get started on NIST Compliance:

 

We crafted this brief article to bring you up to speed on why NIST compliance is a crucial concern for your business. Let’s begin by first defining some key terms.

What Is Controlled Unclassified Information?

Because NIST primarily involves Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), we first need to define CUI. Simply put, CUI is information that is considered sensitive and of interest to the US government but isn’t classified. Each agency is responsible for creating a public registry of the types of data that it considers CUI, stating clear reasons for each.

What Is NIST? The National Institute of Standards and Technology is the body charged with developing standards and metrics to be applied to the science and technology Industries. NIST provides guidelines on matters related to technology; for example, how to protect information.

NIST Special Publication 800-171 governs controls and classified information in non-federal information systems and organizations. It was born out of a need to protect sensitive government information that can be easily targeted by hackers and other cybercriminals. In the wake of a string of well-documented data breaches, the government passed FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) to strengthen cybersecurity regulations. NIST quickly followed with NIST 800-53, then NIST 800-171.

Who Needs to Comply With NIST 800-171? While all businesses need to be actively concerned about network security, NIST compliance is aimed at organizations in business with the US government.

In a nutshell, you have to comply with NIST 800-171 standards if your business transmits, processes, or stores CUI for a federal or state agency. You also need to conform to lift standards if your organization deals with external government contractors.

Because we realize this can be incredibly confusing, here’s a rundown of organizations that have to become NIST compliant:

  • Contractors for the Department of Defense (DoD).
  • Contractors for General Services Administration (GSA).
  • Contractors for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • Universities and research institutions supported by federal grants.
  • Consulting companies with federal contracts.
  • Manufacturers and service organizations that provide goods and services to federal agencies.

Why Should You Comply? The primary objective of NIST compliance is the protection of sensitive information (CUI). However, non-compliance could lead to several frightening consequences, such as:

  • Loss of Business: A data breach could jeopardize your status as a federal contractor and cause you to lose several clients and future business.
  • A Severely Damaged Brand Image: Customers want to be confident that the companies they entrust their private data to have robust data security strategies in place to safeguard their information. NIST compliance plays a central role in presenting yourself to clients as a secure organization.
  • Reduced Productivity: Your organization’s productivity level could be severely impacted if you suffer a significant data breach. To mitigate the impact of an incident, you need to divert your resources to remedying and reporting it as soon as you detect it.
  • Lawsuits: Your business could face fines, breach-of-contract lawsuits, and criminal charges if it’s determined that your negligence caused a breach.

Ready to Leverage the Most Trusted NIST Compliance Support in West Michigan, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, South Bend, & Michiana?

Our experienced cybersecurity specialists at tca SynerTech are eager to help you become NIST compliant and safeguard your sensitive data.

Contact us now to get started!