The NIST CSF, or the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework, is a set of guidelines, best practices, and standards designed to help organizations manage and improve their cybersecurity posture. It was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides a common language and methodology for organizations to assess and manage cybersecurity risk. It consists of five (5) functions as part of the Framework Core:

Framework Core

The core of the NIST CSF is a set of cybersecurity activities and outcomes organized into five functions:

  1. Identify: Understand and prioritize cybersecurity risks to systems, assets, data, and capabilities. In this function you must understand and categorize all of the items in your organization that need to be protected.
  2. Protect: Implement safeguards to prevent or mitigate the impact of cybersecurity events.  These are traditionally policies, processes and technical controls that should be implemented and operationalized in your organization to prevent damage or loss to the items listed in your identify function.
  3. Detect: Develop and implement capabilities to detect cybersecurity events in a timely manner.  As cyber attacks happen every day, there need to be tools in place to monitor your network and other infrastructure which would alert you to nefarious behavior.  This is usually performed by a 24/7/365 security operations center so you can quickly act upon any alerts that are raised.
  4. Respond: Take action to contain and mitigate the impact of cybersecurity incidents.  The tools that you have implemented as Protection controls should have functionalities that can be used in the event of an attack to help contain and isolate the nefarious behavior.  You should also have a written comprehensive Incident Response plan in place to help manage the activities that are taken during the Respond function.
  5. Recover: Restore capabilities or services that were impaired due to a cybersecurity incident.  During this function you bring your organization back to full operating status.  This is accomplished by performing remediation and in some cases restoring lost or corrupted data from backups.

Organizations can use the NIST CSF to assess their current cybersecurity posture, identify areas for improvement, and develop a roadmap for enhancing their cybersecurity capabilities. While the framework was initially developed for critical infrastructure sectors, it is widely adopted by organizations across various industries, including government agencies, healthcare providers, financial institutions, and manufacturing companies. The NIST CSF is voluntary and can be tailored to meet the unique needs and risk profiles of different organizations.