NIST Cybersecurity Framework Components Explained

Cybersecurity starts with understanding your organization’s mission and risk tolerance. In that respect, a thorough strategy is necessary for effectively protecting against cyber risks. Information security frameworks are developed to solve this issue. For that reason, we at Swiss Cyber Forum thought it might help to delve a little deeper into the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework components and their importance.


What is an information security framework?

The world has changed, and information has become the most crucial asset to any organization. This has obviously necessitated organizations focusing more on securing their information.

Because the threat environment is advancing with each passing day, security experts have to keep an eye on the latest technology trends. Apart from technology, organizations must also ensure that they have relevant policies and cybersecurity framework in place. For that purpose, organizations should consider implementing a thorough information security framework.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework Components Explained

An information security framework is a well-designed plan for the implementation of the tools and practices essential to safeguard your organization’s data and systems.

The main reason for conducting an information security framework is to minimize cyber risks primarily. Also, it will highlight the components of security that you may not have taken into account. In that way, you can develop a structured security policy to secure your organization against security incidents.


NIST cybersecurity framework components

Similar to financial risks, cybersecurity risks affect an organization’s bottom line. Cybersecurity can be an amplifying element of an organization’s overall risk management. To effectively tackle these risks, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014 revised the role of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to include developing cybersecurity risk frameworks.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework Components were developed based on the existing standards and best security practices already established in the government and various important industry sectors.

Before going any further, we would like to stress that the NIST Framework isn’t a detailed checklist to follow and mark off at each stage of completion. It’s rather a guide for how to assess risk, and how to consider resolving security issues.


Structure of the NIST cybersecurity framework

NIST Cybersecurity Framework consists of 3 parts. These parts must work jointly to assist organizations to build a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework Components Explained

The first framework component of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is framework core. The framework core mostly contains guidance information and cybersecurity activities. In other words, it presents industry standards in a way that helps organizations to tackle cyber risks.

The implementation tier framework component serves as a way for the organization to evaluate its current cybersecurity posture. Simply put, implementation tiers help organizations assess what level of standards are best for their cybersecurity program.

Finally, the framework profile component enables your organization to develop a blueprint for minimizing the cyber risks that are aligned with organizational goals. Organizations may focus on more than one profile to detect weak spots as well as opportunities for improving cybersecurity posture.


The framework’s 5 functions

The NIST cybersecurity framework is divided into 5 main functions. These functions are identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. They support an organization in expressing its management of cybersecurity risk by addressing threats and developing by learning from past activities.

NIST cybersecurity framework components and functions intend to provide an assessment mechanism for organizations. Therefore, organizations can determine their current cybersecurity capabilities and develop a strategic plan.

It’s important to understand that these functions must be carried out concurrently and continuously to form an operational culture that addresses the cyber risk.


1. Identify

This function entails determining an organization’s critical functions and what cybersecurity risks could disrupt those functions. Additionally, detecting current risks, existing digital assets, and organizational roles are all essential elements of this step. This function’s purpose is to establish an organizational understanding of the management of cyber risks to an organization’s sensitive information and capabilities.

2. Protect

The next function, protect, defines the relevant safeguards required to deliver critical infrastructure services. As soon as critical functions are identified, the organization can prioritize them and prioritize their cybersecurity efforts accordingly. Simply put, this function reinforces the organization’s capability to minimize any effect resulting from a cybersecurity incident.

3. Detect

The organization must have the relevant measures in place to be able to promptly identify cyber risks and other incidents. This function mainly includes continuous monitoring and threat hunting to timely identify any unusual activity or anomalies.

4. Respond

This function is about implementing relevant measures concerning a detected cybersecurity incident and aids an organization’s ability to accommodate its impact. For example, response planning, analysis, mitigation are some of the techniques that can contain impacts of cyber incidents.

5. Recover

Finally, an organization needs a strategic plan to restore any capabilities or services that were damaged as a consequence of a cybersecurity incident. According to NIST, the examples of outcome categories within this function entail:

  • Making sure the organization implements recovery planning procedures to restore systems or assets damaged by cybersecurity incidents;
  • Implementing improvements based on lessons learned and reviews of existing strategies.


How to use the NIST cybersecurity framework components?

The NIST cybersecurity framework components leverage and integrate industry-leading cybersecurity practices that have been developed by organizations like National Institute of Standards and Technology.

How to use the NIST cybersecurity framework components

An organization can use NIST framework as a vital element of its systematic process for detecting, evaluating, and managing cybersecurity risk. You must keep in mind that this framework isn’t developed to substitute existing processes.

The first thing the organization must do before using the NIST framework is to define its own organizational objectives. Because defining goals enables the organization to develop a scope for its security efforts, and prioritize where steps are the most important ones.

The next step is to assess the organization’s current position. Carrying out a risk assessment will help the organization to determine its cybersecurity position.

Once the information is gathered, the next step is going to be identifying the weak points. Finally, it is time to put the plan into practice.

Cybersecurity framework is an ongoing process and you must give it the adequate focus it demands. It means that as your business evolves, you should reconsider and update your efforts as clearly as possible.


NIST cybersecurity framework in action: University of Chicago

The Biological Sciences Division under the University of Chicago implemented the NIST cybersecurity framework. The goal was to define a comprehensive cybersecurity program across all of its 23 departments. IT resources within these departments resulted in security challenges such as gaps in security controls and increased spending on security. Following the successful implementation of the NIST framework, the university has successfully prioritized security goals.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework Components Explained


Final words

Information is the most important asset. To secure this information, the organization should have a comprehensive cybersecurity framework in place. Properly implemented, NIST cybersecurity framework can help your organization tackle cyber incidents.

If you want to secure your confidential information from intruders, it is advisable to this framework in your day-to-day operations. In addition to what has been said within this blog, NIST provides other materials on implementing the framework.

By keeping an eye on our content, webinars, and other opportunities, you can get everything you need to tackle any security challenge. Swiss Cyber Forum is a leading Cyber Security community in Switzerland that aims to improve the digital security of society through education, research, and events. Join now and get membership benefits!

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