A Framework for Improving Cybersecurity: Infrastructure Considerations from NIST

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. NIST’s Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity may be helpful for organizations seeking to apply the principles and best practices of risk management to improve security and resilience.

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Editor’s Note: Published by NIST in April of 2018, Version 1.1. of the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity is a useful tool that may be helpful to organizations – regardless of size, degree of cybersecurity risk, or cybersecurity sophistication – seeking apply the principles and best practices of risk management to improve security and resilience. The Framework is a living document and version 1.1 is the latest iteration of a document that will continue to be updated and improved based on industry feedback.

Extract from NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

Critical infrastructure is defined in the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001 as “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.” 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.

Overview of the Framework

The Framework is a risk-based approach to managing cybersecurity risk, and is composed of three parts: the Framework Core, the Framework Implementation Tiers, and the Framework Profiles. Each Framework component reinforces the connection between business/mission drivers and cybersecurity activities. These components are explained below.

  • The Framework Core is a set of cybersecurity activities, desired outcomes, and applicable references that are common across critical infrastructure sectors. The Core presents industry standards, guidelines, and practices in a manner that allows for communication of cybersecurity activities and outcomes across the organization from the executive level to the implementation/operations level. The Framework Core consists of five concurrent and continuous Functions—Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover. When considered together, these Functions provide a high-level, strategic view of the lifecycle of an organization’s management of cybersecurity risk. The Framework Core then identifies underlying key Categories and Subcategories – which are discrete outcomes – for each Function, and matches them with example Informative References such as existing standards, guidelines, and practices for each Subcategory.
  • Framework Implementation Tiers (“Tiers”) provide context on how an organization views cybersecurity risk and the processes in place to manage that risk. Tiers describe the degree to which an organization’s cybersecurity risk management practices exhibit the characteristics defined in the Framework (e.g., risk and threat aware, repeatable, and adaptive). The Tiers characterize an organization’s practices over a range, from Partial (Tier 1) to Adaptive (Tier 4). These Tiers reflect a progression from informal, reactive responses to approaches that are agile and risk-informed. During the Tier selection process, an organization should consider its current risk management practices, threat environment, legal and regulatory requirements, business/mission objectives, and organizational constraints.
  • A Framework Profile (“Profile”) represents the outcomes based on business needs that an organization has selected from the Framework Categories and Subcategories. The Profile can be characterized as the alignment of standards, guidelines, and practices to the Framework Core in a particular implementation scenario. Profiles can be used to identify opportunities for improving cybersecurity posture by comparing a “Current” Profile (the “as is” state) with a “Target” Profile (the “to be” state). To develop a Profile, an organization can review all of the Categories and Subcategories and, based on business/mission drivers and a risk assessment, determine which are most important; it can add Categories and Subcategories as needed to address the organization’s risks. The Current Profile can then be used to support prioritization and measurement of progress toward the Target Profile, while factoring in other business needs including cost-effectiveness and innovation. Profiles can be used to conduct self-assessments and communicate within an organization or between organizations.

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Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

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Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

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