What Exactly Is NIST?

We have recently received several inquiries on NIST; what is it, and how can your business stay compliant? Here is our response:

What Exactly Is NIST?

We have recently received several inquiries on NIST; what is it, and how can your business stay compliant? Here is our response:

The National Institute of Standards and Technology — NIST — is a federal agency established by Congress in the 90s. It’s based in the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST’s primary objective is to ensure fair play in science and technology.

The agency has been vocal in its oversight role over the harnessing of scientific and technological resources to improve living standards. So, how are all these relevant to your organization?

Before we get to that, here’s a short introductory video:

Why Is NIST Compliance Important For Your New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut Business?

When it was apparent that the internet and computers were becoming an indispensable part of our daily interactions, the government sought to regulate their usage. It was necessary to develop standard best practices for creating, disseminating, and using these technologies. Congress appointed NIST as the authoritative body to oversee this process.

The agency has formulated more than 1300 Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) for private and public organizations. Our focus today is on NIST 800-171, a Standard that gives NIST authority over all Controlled Unclassified Information(CUI) held by non-governmental institutions. Quite often, we simply say NIST to mean NIST 800-171.

An extract from the official NIST website reads, “Congress has given NIST responsibility to disseminate consistent, clear, concise, and actionable resources to small businesses.” Essentially, every organization that works with the government, directly or indirectly, must be NIST 800-171 compliant. However, this does not mean that the concept is irrelevant to the other businesses that don’t work with the government.

How Can Your Business Stay NIST Compliant? Let’s begin by defining CUI — this is official government information that is not necessarily classified but is still considered relevant and sensitive. For instance, blueprints of government buildings or official sketches of projects like roads and railway lines. You can always request such information for your planning processes. NIST is the agency tasked with distributing these resources to small businesses on demand.

NIST 800-171 provides guidelines for how to prevent the CUI you’re entrusted with from landing in the wrong hands.

The Standard mandates you to:

  1. Identify, isolate, and categorize all the Controlled Unclassified Information in your custody.
  2. Have full control over who accesses the CUI within your organization. Where applicable, limit access to a need-to-know basis only.
  3. Deploy reliable monitoring systems for all your CUI databases. It should give you real-time visibility into all access attempts, both failed and successful. You must also maintain records of all logins, i.e., who accessed which CUI, what time, and what they used it for.
  4. Regularly train your staff on NIST 800-171 and how to safeguard the CUI in your possession.

Like most concepts in technology and information security, NIST is relatively complex. Most small and medium-sized businesses opt to list the services of seasoned NIST compliance service providers like Baroan Technologies.

How About Managing NIST Compliance Internally, Is This Possible?

We cannot expressly say that it’s impossible. Actually, most big businesses with established in-house IT teams handle NIST compliance internally. Even then, they often outsource our help to address sophisticated areas or issues identified by auditors. For a small or medium-sized business like yours, outsourcing this service is more cost-effective and guarantees better results.

Whether you want to manage NIST compliance internally or outsource help, Baroan Technologies always has your back. We’ve been helping businesses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut with NIST and other compliance issues since 1997. Call us now at (201) 796-0404 or send an email to info@baroan.com.

Information Technology Aligned With Your Business Goals?
Baroan is a complete IT services & IT support company working with organizations in Elmwood Park and across the United States of America.

Written by Guy Baroan