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NIST Cybersecurity Framework: Functions, Five Pillars

17th Jan, 2024
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    NIST Cybersecurity Framework: Functions, Five Pillars

    The U.S. Department of Commerce's NIST is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework assists companies of all sizes in comprehending, managing, and reducing their cybersecurity risk and safeguarding their networks and data. It provides a summary of the best practices for your company to use in making decisions about where to spend time and money on cybersecurity protection. Earn the best Cyber Security certifications and see yourself recruited by the top companies.

    What is NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

    NIST refers to the United States government's guidelines for cybersecurity risks. It was founded in 1901 as a non-regulatory agency and is now part of the United States Department of Commerce. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides and updates the standards, technology, and measurements used in every electronic device and instrument.

    The NIST cybersecurity framework is a useful, optional approach to assessing and mitigating cyber threats. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework can be used to confirm compliance with minimum cyber defense standards and to plan an ongoing strategy for increasing cyber proficiency.

    NIST Cybersecurity Capabilities

    NIST Cybersecurity Framework Types

    NIST has several cybersecurity frameworks to choose from, each tailored to a unique set of needs and resources. You can break down these frameworks into three broad categories; let us examine each one and the roles they play.

    Control Frameworks 

    A basic plan for the security team can be developed using such frameworks. It's useful for gauging the present state of technology and establishing a starting point for control systems. When it comes to security, most control frameworks will rank the order of importance of mapping NIST cybersecurity framework controls.

    Program Frameworks

    It is used in the evaluation of comprehensive security programs and the creation of comprehensive security policies. The standard method for accomplishing this framework is to conduct a comparative analysis of available security software.

    Risk Frameworks

    The NIST Risk Management Framework provides a full, flexible, repeatable, and measurable 7-step framework for managing information security and privacy risk. This framework is vital in properly identifying, characterizing, and controlling potential dangers.

    NIST Cybersecurity Framework Tools and Templates

    The Core, Implementation Tiers and Profiles are the three key parts of the new NIST cybersecurity framework template:

    1. The Core

    With a focus on utilizing already-existing cybersecurity and risk management tactics and technologies, it aids enterprises in managing and reducing security risks. This task is meant to help the company learn more about its present risk management procedures, most valuable possessions, and security measures.

    2. Implementation Tier

    Assist corporations in determining the appropriate "expertise" level required for their cybersecurity program. For instance, HIPAA-regulated firms will adhere to different rules than those that do not. The goal of this step is to lessen the severity of any potential cyberattack by giving top priority to the protection of the most important systems and assets.

    3. Profiles

    These assist in identifying and ranking areas for cybersecurity improvement within businesses. The last step involves formulating and enacting plans to fix any broken features or services caused by the cyberattack.

    NIST Cybersecurity Framework

    NIST Cybersecurity Framework Best Practices

    The latest NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides your business with easily customized and prioritized rules to best suit your organization's needs. It can assist business leaders and people in understanding the dangers posed by cybersecurity threats and deciding what steps to take to protect themselves. The following guidelines are some cybersecurity recommended practices when combined with NIST standards and FTC enforcement actions:

    1) Safety

    Security comes first. Avoid gathering personal data that is unnecessary. Only keep information on hand as long as you actually need it for your business. Useless usage of personal information should be avoided. Verify that your service providers take appropriate security precautions. Demand that relevant security requirements be included in your contracts, and ensure they are followed, for example by having third-party providers undergo cybersecurity audits.

    2) Identify

    To manage cybersecurity risks to networks, assets, data, and capabilities, develop organizational understanding. Understanding the organizations information systems and network, the personal information it gathers, potential system flaws, and the potential degree of harm that consumers might experience from the leak of their personal information are all part of this. An organization can focus and prioritize its cybersecurity activities with respect to risk management strategy and business requirements by being aware of and evaluating these risks.

    3) Protect

    Develop and place the necessary safeguards to ensure the provision of essential infrastructure services. This includes educating staff members about cybersecurity threats and safeguards, restricting access to assets, systems, and data, utilizing technology to secure data and upholding cybersecurity rules and procedures. Sensibly limit access to data and control access to sensitive info, impose restrictions on administrative access to private data. require strong passwords and authentication and insist on complex and one-of-a-kind passwords. This will protect against attacks using brute force. Passwords should be kept safe and not in plain text in personal email accounts, for example.

    4) Detect

    Create and put into action the necessary actions to determine when a cybersecurity event took place. This involves regularly checking information systems and testing procedures to find unusual activities. Use cybersecurity techniques that have been tried and tested in the business. Utilize an intrusion detection system, and keep an eye out for odd activity in the system logs. Check to see if your web application is susceptible to attacks involving SQL injection.

    5) Respond

    Develop and put into action the proper responses to a detected cybersecurity event. This entails carrying out the organization's response processes and procedures; coordinating and interacting with internal and external stakeholders concerning the cybersecurity incident, as well as with relevant law enforcement authorities; and controlling and preventing the cybersecurity incident in a timely manner.

    6) Recover

    Create and put into action the necessary actions to maintain resilience plans and to bring back any capabilities or services that were impacted by the cybersecurity attack. The objective is to minimize the impact of the cybersecurity incident on the business's internal and external stakeholders while also assisting an organization in a quick return to regular operations.

    Core Functions of NIST Cybersecurity Framework

    Core Functions of NIST Cybersecurity

    The NIST cybersecurity framework's core functions are a taxonomy of the five most important security-related tasks identified by NIST. These five components comprise a high-level overview of a company's cybersecurity risk management program, with each section reflecting an important stage in developing that program.


    Identifying the main goal establishes a solid foundation for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Some examples of controls that fall under this category are doing a risk assessment, taking stock of IT assets, and developing a complete risk management strategy.

    Controls can be properly set to secure your most important business operations and valuable data if you take the time to catalog potential hazards and the locations of sensitive data storage.


    Data protection is the responsibility of the protection function, which includes developing tools and procedures for that purpose. Some such safeguards are anti-virus software and physical access controls for restricted areas.


    It is crucial to identify potential cyber-attacks. Many businesses learn that they have been hacked only after sensitive consumer or internal data begins to appear for sale on the underground market. Controls implemented under the Detect phase of the NIST cybersecurity framework are meant to flag any suspicious activity as soon as it occurs.


    However well-prepared you are, cyberattacks will occur. The controls in the reaction function are designed to guarantee that your business can react quickly and effectively to a cyberattack. When a crisis comes, every second counts.


    It might be challenging to return to normalcy after a cyberattack. Taking care of your company's image, fixing broken IT components, and keeping your systems virus-free are all things you need to focus on. Lessons learned, pre-incident recovery planning, and process testing are all aspects of the Recover function's controls.

    NIST CSF Framework Implementation Tiers

    The NIST Cybersecurity Framework’s latest version has four implementation levels to aid private sector firms in tracking their progress toward full compliance.

    Tier 1: Partial

    There is an understanding of the NIST cybersecurity framework and possibly even some control implementation in certain parts of the infrastructure. Activities and protocols for cyber security have been implemented reactively rather than proactively. There is a lack of information security processes and resources and a lack of knowledge of the threats associated with cyberspace.

    Tier 2: Risk Informed

    The company better understands cybersecurity threats and more freely exchanges information about them. However, there isn't an established procedure for managing cybersecurity risks throughout the enterprise that can be followed reliably and proactively.

    Tier 3: Repeatable

    Cybersecurity is an issue that the company and its leadership have acknowledged and have built a system for managing cybersecurity risks that can be used across the enterprise. The cyber defense group has developed a strategy to keep tabs on cyber threats and counter them efficiently.

    Tier 4: Adaptive

    The company can now withstand cyberattacks because of the incorporation of lessons learned and predicted indicators. The cybersecurity team efficiently and effectively adapts to new threats and is committed to continuously improving organization's cybersecurity technologies and processes.

    Information security risk management is implemented company-wide through risk-informed decision-making, policies, procedures, and processes. Cybersecurity risk management is integral to adaptive firms' decision-making process and company culture.

    How to Get Started with NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

    To follow the framework, first list everything you do and assign each item one of the five labels that describe a certain function. Asset-tracking software, for example, will be housed in the Identify category. Firewalls and Crowdstrike will be included in Protect. However, depending on their capabilities, you may place them in Detect alongside your IDS and SIEM.

    Respond is where you keep all of your event response resources and playbooks. Recover includes all backup and restore options. If you find all these things overwhelming, then you doing an Ethical hacking course would help get on the right path.

    After finishing this assignment, you may notice that some of your buckets feel more empty and that the proper function description in the preceding image makes you anxious. You've discovered the flaws in your cybersecurity program.

    How to Choose NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

    Before selecting a cybersecurity reference framework, it is crucial to consider your industry and any relevant legal requirements. If this applies to you, you must employ the proper framework. However, experts advise using the NIST cybersecurity framework examples for most enterprises. It is thorough, easily understandable, and closely aligned with other standards and compliance needs. The below 5-area strategy is very logical:

    • Identifying what to protect.
    • Implementing measures to protect assets.
    • Detecting security gaps.
    • Responding according to the required measure to fill those gaps.
    • Recovering compromised assets.

    Uses of NIST Cybersecurity Framework

    Basic Review of Cybersecurity Practices

    The framework can evaluate how well a company is doing regarding recommended cybersecurity practices. The framework can also facilitate answers to important questions like "where are we now?" and "where are we going?". They will better decide where and when to implement additional cybersecurity measures.

    Improving a Cybersecurity Program

    Although it is not designed to stand alone as a framework for creating an information security program, it can be utilized as a jumping-off point for creating a comprehensive security strategy for an organization. The NIST framework offers a wealth of helpful resources that may be used to compile a comprehensive security program from various perspectives and sources.

    Communicating Cybersecurity Requirements with Stakeholders

    The framework establishes a standard vocabulary for coordinating requirements among the parties involved in providing critical infrastructure goods and services. Using an existing profile and target profile, an organization may effectively convey to key stakeholders the current and desired condition of its cybersecurity using the framework.

    Why is NIST Cybersecurity Framework Important?

    In this section, we will discuss why NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) should serve as the foundation of your cybersecurity strategy:

    • As far as control frameworks go, it has the most thorough and all-encompassing collection of regulations.
    • A company's cybersecurity policies and procedures may now be a major selling factor. Using the CSF as a benchmark can help build confidence with your business partners, allowing you to expand your company more quickly without compromising security.
    • The NIST framework facilitates a business-focused, risk-integrated approach to managing cybersecurity.
    • Since it is outcome- and risk-based, the NIST framework is the most adaptable option. Easily embraced by a wide range of businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to SMBs in a variety of sectors, including energy, transportation, and finance.

    NIST CSF has several advantages. It can help you in particular with the following:

    Develop Long Term Progressive Strategy for Company’s Cybersecurity 

    The NIST Framework establishes a cybersecurity posture that is more adaptable and responsive to developing threats than a culture of one-time audits. The way your organization approaches cybersecurity is changed into a state of continuous compliance if you use the widely accepted framework, which results in a stronger approach to securing your organization's information and assets.

    Assists Business in Achieving a High-level of Cybersecurity 

    The knowledge of many information security experts from around the world has been incorporated into the NIST Framework. It is widely regarded as industry best practice and has the most thorough set of controls of any framework, enabling your firm to solve any cybersecurity blind spots it could have overlooked.

    Allows for Quicker Business Growth 

    When it comes to interactions with customers, suppliers, and vendors, whether your firm has implemented the NIST Framework or not can be a deal breaker right away. Implementing a guideline like NIST helps your firm develop quicker through productive relationships with supply chains. Cybersecurity is soon becoming a key selling factor.

    Regardless of the Size and Nature of Organization, a Flexible and Adaptive Structure 

    NIST Framework is quite adaptable because it is intended to be a risk-based, outcome-driven approach to cybersecurity. Due to its optional character, which makes it simple to customize to your business's particular needs in terms of cybersecurity, the NIST framework is easily accepted by critical infrastructure companies in the energy and financial sectors as well as small and medium-sized businesses. Businesses can get the direction they require from the Core functions, Implementation tiers, and Profiles to develop a cybersecurity posture that meets international standards.

    A System that Simplifies Long-term Compliance 

    Organizations have a solid foundation for cybersecurity practice thanks to NIST Framework. Organizations that opt to use the NIST Framework are better capable of adapting to future compliance requirements, making long-term compliance simple. Regulations and laws change, and there is a potential that new ones will emerge.


    NIST architecture and recommendations for securing networks and preserving data benefit any firm looking to reduce cybersecurity risk and strengthen its security infrastructure. You can apply the complete framework or use it as a resource to address individual concerns to meet your organization's cybersecurity requirements. A basic understanding of cybersecurity architecture can significantly improve an organization's devices, information systems, and critical data. Take KnowledgeHut Cyber Security training and boost your chances of getting employed at the top companies.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What does NIST stand for in the NIST cybersecurity framework?

    NIST is the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST works to improve economic stability and the quality of life for all Americans by developing measurement science, standards, and technology. 

    2Does the NIST cybersecurity framework work?

    Even a collection of case studies back up the framework's usefulness. Businesses, universities, universities, and other organizations have effectively applied the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. 

    3How long does it take to put the NIST framework into practice?

    The cybersecurity resources, capacities, and requirements vary for each organization. Therefore, the time needed to adopt the Framework will differ between firms and can be anything from a few weeks to many years. However, you can opt for Knowledgehut Cyber Security Training to learn about the cybersecurity framework and its application.


    Vitesh Sharma

    Blog Author

    Vitesh Sharma, a distinguished Cyber Security expert with a wealth of experience exceeding 6 years in the Telecom & Networking Industry. Armed with a CCIE and CISA certification, Vitesh possesses expertise in MPLS, Wi-Fi Planning & Designing, High Availability, QoS, IPv6, and IP KPIs. With a robust background in evaluating and optimizing MPLS security for telecom giants, Vitesh has been instrumental in driving large service provider engagements, emphasizing planning, designing, assessment, and optimization. His experience spans prestigious organizations like Barclays, Protiviti, EY, PwC India, Tata Consultancy Services, and more. With a unique blend of technical prowess and management acumen, Vitesh remains at the forefront of ensuring secure and efficient networking solutions, solidifying his position as a notable figure in the cybersecurity landscape.

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