Get Familiar With NIST 800-53: Key Things To Know

Get Familiar With NIST 800-53

The world of compliance keeps evolving at a rapid pace, making it harder to keep up with all the different compliance frameworks. Meanwhile, ransomware, malware and new cybersecurity threats of all kinds assault every online organization. The more valuable the confidential data at risk, the more important it is to keep your systems secure. Being compliant with the security frameworks that are important to your industry is critical to maintaining credibility with your customers.

Today, we will acquaint you with the NIST 800-53 framework. It was first introduced in 2005 by the US federal government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with expert input from a working group of defense, intelligence, and civil government members, as well as cybersecurity specialists and organizations. With the publication of version 5 in late 2020, the framework was given a major overhaul.

In this blog, we will discuss what the NIST 800-53 framework is, who must comply with it, what data the NIST 800-53 framework protects, and what benefits it can bring to your organization.

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What is NIST 800-53?

NIST Special Publication 800-53 – generally known simply as NIST 800-53 – is a set of security rules that can be used to protect information systems against a variety of threats. It was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to strengthen US government information systems against known threats, and it lays out security and privacy controls that are intended to protect users’ privacy while also ensuring the continued operation of information systems.

NIST 800-53 is part of a larger set of guidelines published by NIST to assist federal agencies in meeting the objectives of the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA).

The security controls cover 20 different areas of focus. Access control, incident response, and configuration management are just a few of the subjects covered. They are part of NIST’s 800 series of Special Publications, which focuses on computer security and cybersecurity standards, controls, and reports.


The controls are intended to provide a uniform level of security across all federal information systems. These controls, when properly implemented, increase the integrity of information systems and secure the user data that is processed.

Who Must Comply with NIST 800-53?

NIST 800-53, which defines the security and privacy guidelines to protect government information systems, is a mandate for federal agencies. Federal agencies must be compliant with each new revision of NIST SP 800-53 within one year of its release, and any new systems must be compliant with the most recent revision at the time of deployment.

Furthermore, contractors who operate on or maintain federal government IT networks are likewise subject to NIST 800-53. Compliance criteria are included in their contract or service agreement. As a SaaS vendor, if you want to do business with the federal government and its agencies, you must comply with NIST 800-53.

Another publication in the NIST 800 series, NIST Special Publication 800-171, is meant to secure sensitive government data, known as Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), that resides on non-federal networks. US government contractors should be well-versed in this as well.

While NIST 800-53 was created for federal agencies and their suppliers, it can also be voluntarily used by private enterprises looking for security and privacy best practices. 

What Information Does NIST 800-53 Protect?

NIST 800-53 specifies privacy and security rules to safeguard information systems. The data on federal networks is diverse and may include sensitive material critical to the US government’s continued operation. It could also include sensitive information about users, such as personally identifiable information (PII), which is particularly important to protect.

NIST 800-53 outlines a method for securing a wide range of information and computing systems and goods. The following are examples of such systems:

  • Cloud computing platforms and services
  • Technical systems
  • Healthcare systems
  • IoT devices
  • Mobile systems
  • Industrial control systems
  • Supply chain systems

The most recent iteration of NIST 800-53, which is version 5, is designed to be broader in scope and be adaptable to an organization’s needs and environment. For example, a key new area of focus in this version is a Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) control family addressing national and international supply chains. To remain flexible for a diverse range of enterprises, most controls are technology or sector agnostic and can be selected as appropriate. The types of data that these criteria can assist in securing will vary according to the organization and the systems it uses.

Benefits of NIST 800-53

NIST 800-53’s major benefit is more secure information systems. NIST 800-53’s control families assist businesses in determining the proper security controls, policies, and procedures to ensure information security and privacy. 

NIST 800-53 also urges you to thoroughly examine each security and privacy control you choose to ensure that it is appropriate for your architecture and environment. This process of customized selection ensures not just security and compliance but also that compliance is tailored to fit the needs of the organization. In that way, the framework encourages the consistent and cost-effective use of controls across your IT infrastructure.

Finally, adhering to the NIST 800-53 principles lays a good foundation for additional security and privacy frameworks such as HIPAA, DFARS, PCI DSS, and GDPR.

Get NIST 800-53 Certified with Akitra!

Obtaining NIST 800-53 certification can be difficult and expensive with old-style manual compliance processes, but with Akitra’s Andromeda Compliance automation platform, it’s a breeze. It’s faster, less people-intensive, more reliable, more sustainable for the long-term – and more affordable.

Akitra provides a comprehensive suite of NIST 800-53 policies and controls to provide a solid compliance foundation. It also includes a risk assessment module to assess where you need to focus your compliance efforts to address any gaps. Akitra’s Compliance service automatically collects evidence from across the full range of systems and services used by your organization so that you can prove operational effectiveness to your auditors. Once compliant, our automated service helps you stay permanently compliant through continuous monitoring and gap detection.

Akitra supports many other frameworks such as SOC 1, SOC 2, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, and ISO 27001. Akitra’s compliance experts are also part of the service and will provide you with the guidance you need to confidently achieve compliance certification.

Choose Akitra TODAY — to book your FREE DEMO, contact us right here.

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