The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today released its Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework (PDF) to help critical infrastructure owners and operators reduce cybersecurity risks in industries such as power generation, transportation and telecommunications. In the coming days, NIST will open a 45-day public comment period on the Preliminary Framework and plans to release the official framework in February 2014, as called for in Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.
In February 2013, President Obama directed NIST to work with stakeholders to develop a voluntary framework for reducing cyber risks, recognizing that U.S. national and economic security depends on the reliable functioning of critical infrastructure. Through a request for information and a series of workshops held throughout 2013, NIST engaged with more than 3,000 individuals and organizations on standards, best practices and guidelines that can provide businesses, their suppliers, their customers and government agencies with a shared set of expected protections for critical information and IT infrastructure.
"Thanks to a tremendous amount of industry input, the voluntary framework provides a flexible, dynamic approach to matching business needs with improving cybersecurity," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "We encourage organizations to begin reviewing and testing the Preliminary Framework to better inform the version we plan to release in February."
The Preliminary Framework outlines a set of steps that can be customized to various sectors and adapted by both large and small organizations while providing a consistent approach to cybersecurity. It offers a common language and mechanism for organizations to determine and describe their current cybersecurity posture, as well as their target state for cybersecurity. The framework will help them to identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement within the context of risk management and to assess progress toward their goals.
The framework will foster communications among internal and external stakeholders and help organizations hold each other accountable for strong cyber protections while allowing flexibility for specific approaches tailored to each business' market and regulatory environment. Its integrated approach focuses on outcomes, rather than any particular technology, to encourage innovation.
"We want to turn today's best practices into common practices, and better equip organizations to understand that good cybersecurity risk management is good business," explained Gallagher. "The framework will be a living document that allows for continuous improvement as technologies and threats evolve. Industry now has the opportunity to create a more secure world by taking ownership of the framework and including cyber risks in overall risk management strategies."
While this framework is developed explicitly to respond to the February 2013 Executive Order and the importance of reducing risks to the critical infrastructure, it can be applied by other organizations to improve their readiness to deal with increasing cybersecurity risks in all industries.
NIST will hold a workshop to discuss the Preliminary Framework—including implementation and further governance—Nov. 14 and 15, 2013, at North Carolina State University. Visit the workshop site for more information and to register. The Preliminary Framework can be found at http://www.nist.gov/itl/cyberframework.cfm and an announcement of the opening of the official comment period will run in the Federal Register.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. To learn more about NIST, visit www.nist.gov.