What Does NIST Mean for My Technology?

Your smartphone helps you keep in immediate communication with staff, vendors, customers, and even family. Your laptop computer means your office can be anywhere you need it to be located, with or without a desk. Both your smartphone and your computer – and much more – rely on technology to keep your business moving forward.

If any of this technology was inconsistent or irregular, that unreliability would compromise your business. You experience frustrations from time to time, like when your Internet connection runs slower than you prefer, or when your laptop has security updates requiring installation and a machine reboot.

What Is NIST?

With few controls or uniformity, technology would be absolute chaos. Fortunately, there’s NIST – the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and is tasked with oversight of technology standards. Technology has evolved with each passing moment, and NIST is the driving force behind this evolution, encouraging innovation and testing boundaries so the United States maintains a strong competitive edge among international economic rivals.

Your smartphone and laptop are just a fraction of the modern developments resulting from efforts by NIST to promote innovative technology.

How Does NIST 800-171 Apply to My Business?

NIST also establishes and reinforces cyber security and data standards. In response to several highly-publicized data breaches, special publication NIST 800-171 was released in 2015 detailing security protections to safeguard data. Many businesses find the processes to meet these data security guidelines challenging and have difficulty in approaching NIST 800-171 compliance.

NIST 800-171 addresses how to handle controlled unclassified information (CUI), specifically the protections that need to be applied regarding this information. Controlled unclassified information is the category of information that applies to data that is considered sensitive but isn’t classified. This is anything that is relative to the interests of the United States but isn’t restricted beyond practical means.

What Does Your Business Need to Do to Be NIST 800-171 Compliant?

Data security standards outlined in NIST 800-171 address four key areas of technology:

  • Data management procedures
  • IT systems and network monitoring
  • Controls for user access
  • Security protections for physical and digital locations

While data like CUI isn’t classified or restricted, it’s still considered sensitive and the security standards in NIST 800-171 add protection for any businesses that handle, store, access, and share this data.

Added security is never a bad thing – in fact, the added security required for businesses who store, access, and share CUI benefit from extra cyber security measures with a more secure total IT ecosystem.

To get started in the right direction, here are steps you can take:

  • Determine which of your stored data is CUI
  • Identify each physical and digital location where CUI is stored or accessed
  • Categorize your data and separate CUI
  • Encrypt all CUI
  • Log and monitor access to CUI

Where Do I Go From Here?

Compliance can be a tricky process, but it doesn’t have to be. If NIST 800-171 compliance and navigating the complex web of requirements If this sounds overwhelming, you’re not alone. Because so much is involved with becoming NIST 800-171 compliant, many businesses opt to consult with a team of IT professionals who simplify the steps and help make sure your path to compliance is as clear and stress-free as possible.