What is a Cybersecurity Framework?

3 minute read

January 2021

A cybersecurity framework is the foundation on which your program is built. It documents the standards, guidelines, and best practices you should use to manage the risks that threaten your organization. Adherence to a framework such as reduces your exposure to vulnerabilities and helps you protect your high-value assets.

The practices your organization follows, the policies you set, and the processes you implement should all stem from and support your chosen cybersecurity framework.

Frameworks are becoming increasingly essential to businesses of all sizes, across all industries. For many industries, cybersecurity frameworks are required due to government regulations (healthcare, banking and finance) or industry standards (manufacturing, retail).

Companies that fail to adopt a framework leave themselves vulnerable to both cyberattacks and litigation from harmed partners and clients when inevitable attacks come and succeed. But those who apply a cybersecurity framework properly are better equipped to manage cyber risk.

Benefits of a Cybersecurity Framework

Your cybersecurity framework serves as your company’s point of origination from which everything related to cybersecurity flows, and it provides the foundational rules to allow for your organization to move from security concepts to implementation and execution.

Frameworks enable decision-makers to manage cyber risk more intelligently. Selecting and implementing a framework allows your organization to have a calculated, thoughtful approach to identifying risk, developing a robust security strategy and allocating cybersecurity resources.

With a cybersecurity framework, you can establish a baseline to be measured against which enables your company to:

  • Help identify security gaps
  • Define and develop measurable improvement plans
  • Track progress towards goals
  • Implement a comprehensive cybersecurity program
  • Compare to yourself to other organizations and industry standards

And by sharing the cybersecurity framework’s standards, guidelines, and best practices across your organization, communications are better understood and more clearly communicated which leads to greater employee engagement, accountability and program adoption.

Types of Cybersecurity Frameworks

Dozens of frameworks exist—available for organizations big and small, some used across various business types, and others tailored to specific industries such as PCI DSS for credit card handling and HIPAA for safeguarding health information or localized standards like GDPR, NYDFS, CCPA and more. There are options for every company, and with a little research and insight, your organization can select a security framework that best helps achieve its goals.

Cybersecurity Framework Flexibility

Like people, businesses are unique, and exclusively using a single framework is often not the best solution. To resolve this, many businesses use a cybersecurity framework that works best (even if not a perfect fit) as their primary model and then incorporate elements from other standards to fulfill their specific needs.

Common Cybersecurity Frameworks

There are cybersecurity frameworks dedicated entirely to information security and parts of larger frameworks that have specific security sections. Some of the common frameworks used are:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): Drives best practices.  The NIST Cybersecurity Framework has 5 functional areas: Identity, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover that represent the five primary pillars for a successful and holistic cybersecurity program. NIST 800-53 is commonly used for federal information systems.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO): Internationally agreed upon standards related to privacy, confidentiality, and best practices in information security. Helps organizations address risks with appropriate controls. In particular, ISO 27002 covers not only your organization’s information but that of your third parties too.

Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT): A framework developed by ISACA that defines a set of processes for IT Management to focus on risk reduction. Originally designed for financial audit, it is now used widely across many industries and government sectors to help align business goals and break down IT silos.

Secure Controls Framework (SCF): A framework of frameworks – meta frameworks for internal controls. Defined by the SFC Council, the SCF is a “comprehensive catalog of controls” that was created “to enable companies to design, build and maintain secure processes, systems and applications.” It covers both cybersecurity and privacy and includes nearly 750 controls.

Cybersecurity Frameworks are Now Essential

Because of the availability of numerous frameworks, there are fewer reasons every day for a company to avoid choosing and implementing one. Mitigating against cyber threats is now a required corporate responsibility. Adopting a framework to serve the foundation to your cybersecurity program is a key first step to cybersecurity accountability.

To understand more about other critical steps to getting started with Cybersecurity Program Management, download our white paper; From Technical Analyst to Business Enabler: What CISOs Must Have to Lead the Company.

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ProcessUnity is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for risk and compliance management. The company’s software as a service (SaaS) platform gives organizations the control to assess, measure, and mitigate risk and to ensure the optimal performance of key business processes. ProcessUnity’s flagship solution, ProcessUnity Vendor Risk Management, protects companies and their brands by reducing risks from third-party vendors and suppliers. ProcessUnity helps customers effectively and efficiently assess and monitor both new and existing vendors – from initial due diligence and onboarding through termination. Headquartered outside of Boston, Massachusetts, ProcessUnity is used by the world’s leading financial service firms and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit www.processunity.com.