Align Your Cybersecurity Program with NIST 800-53

3 minute read

June 2023

Aligning your cybersecurity program with NIST 800-53 involves mapping your controls and policies to the framework, implementing new controls to fill in the gaps and testing the effectiveness of those controls. With the help of cybersecurity risk management technology, you can optimize and automate key processes to make control implementation easier, faster and more effective. 

NIST covers the following five functions: 

Identify: Enumerating the assets and systems used by the organization, the controls currently in place to protect them, desired outcomes and plans for achieving those outcomes. 

Protect: Ensuring the continuation of service by reducing the impact of an attack, including access control, organizational awareness and training.  

Detect: Continuously monitoring assets, detecting events when they occur and making disclosures if necessary. 

Respond: Reducing the impact of a cyber event by developing incident response and mitigation plans.  

Recover: Implementing policies to achieve resilience in the face of cybersecurity events by developing recovery plans, identifying areas for improvement and communicating better to aid incident response.  

Achieving alignment means taking the time to develop, implement and evaluate policies that accomplish each of these functions. The steps to doing so are as follows: 

1. Map your existing controls to NIST 800-53 

Before implementing new policies or collecting evidence for your audit, you must determine how many NIST controls already map to the policies or controls you have in place. A pre-mapped framework like the Secure Controls Framework (SCF) can make this much more efficient by mapping the policies for you across various requirements, but the important thing is understanding the state of your control library. By the end of this process, you should know which of your policies correspond to NIST and how effective each of them is, as well as where you need to implement new policies to fill any gaps. 

2. Assess control maturity and effectiveness  

At this point, you should reach out to your control owners to request the relevant documentation for each policy, storing your findings in a database to streamline internal audits or future due diligence requests. It’s crucial that the evidence be readable and accurate, so you should spend time verifying that each piece of information provided corresponds to what’s being requested and that it’s up-to-date. 

3. Implement new controls 

No matter how thorough your security policies are, you will likely need to put some new controls in place to align with NIST 800-53. At this point, you should leverage the insights you uncovered in steps 1 and 2 to determine where you should focus your efforts to make the biggest impact on your program maturity. You also want to track the new policies and their respective control owners as you implement them and map them to NIST 800-53. 

As you can see, aligning with NIST 800-53 is a resource-intensive process that will likely involve coordinating multiple specialists and aggregating data from a variety of sources. For this reason, cybersecurity risk management software can be a critical tool for organizing your efforts and automating time-consuming tasks. ProcessUnity for Cybersecurity Risk Management helps organizations achieve NIST certification more efficiently by providing ready-to-use control mappings, control testing capabilities and automated evidence collection functionality.  

ProcessUnity can help with: 

Out-of-the-box control mapping: By quickly mapping your existing policies, procedures and controls to NIST domains and mapping the risks you face to the controls you have in place, ProcessUnity creates a centralized control set that can help you prove compliance across your requirements and mitigate risks.  

Improved control testing: By measuring your control maturity against target regulatory proficiency and presenting you with information to help calculate your proficiency percentage with NIST CSF, ProcessUnity for Cybersecurity Risk Management helps you determine which controls must be improved to achieve compliance and remedy gaps. 

Automated evidence collection: By sending automated escalation reminders to the appropriate control owners, ProcessUnity saves you the effort of chasing down responses and centralizes evidence collection to a single database. 

Click this link to learn more about using ProcessUnity for Cybersecurity Risk Management to implement NIST CSF. 

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