Cyber Security Standards

Cyber Security Standards

Cyber-security standards are constantly evolving as new threats are found and guarded against. They involve policies, capabilities, and practices aimed at minimizing the risk of a successful cyber-attack. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published their cyber security Framework in 2014, and it has been widely adopted by businesses and organizations. There are other standard agencies with their own published frameworks and handbooks such as the ISO/IEC 27000 standard.

ISO/IEC 27000:2013 is a standard jointly published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). There are 45 publications in total in the series and each one touches on a different aspect of cyber-security. The publications include best practices for telecommunications, information security economics, cloud storage and much more. Companies seeking to achieve an ISO 27002 Certification must submit their company to an audit by an approved auditing company. Once the company has achieved their certification they have it for the next three years. During that three year period there may be additional audits performed by the auditing company, to insure that the certified company is maintaining the standard.

RFC 2196 a Site Security Handbook is another published standard and guide. Although it was published in 1997 the handbook focuses on day-to-day operations and practical advice. The handbook includes its own set of definitions, written in plain English for ease-of-access.  It includes a step-by-step process for coming up with a security policy that will help keep your network secure. It makes the excellent point that information breaches can occur from within your network, and thus any security policy must account for that as well. Disgruntled employees can pose a major security risk, especially if they were the only ones with access to a system, helped design it or are the system administrator.

The NIST Cyber Security Framework is extremely comprehensive, and requires a large investment of time and money from any company seeking to use it. The framework has a series of publications, each covering a different aspect. Special Publication 800-39 provides guidance on information security risks at three distinct levels: Organizational; Mission/Business; and Information Systems. The framework recommends a comprehensive risk assessment, so that the business can understand what would at least be adequate security. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework established the minimum requirements for federal information and information systems, and it applies to every component of the systems. It applies to the means of storage, transmission and processing every last bit and byte of data.


The process given by the NIST Cybersecurity Framework for the Risk Assesment portion is

  • Categorize: List all assets (hardware, peripherals, etc.) and information systems (FIPS 800-60)
  • Select: Choose which security protocols will be implemented (SP 800-53)
  • Implement: Design and enable those cybersecurity protocols (SP 800-160)
  • Assess: Test and update the security protocols to insure their effectiveness (SP 800-53A)
  • Authorize: Allow those control to apply to the assets and systems (SP 800-37)
  • Monitor: Regular tests and evaluations to keep systems safe (SP 800-137)


Federal regulations require that any independent organization or contractor that is process, stores or transmits federal data comply with the same regulations as a federal agency. This means that any security framework used must protect against external and internal threats. NIST Special Publication 800-53r4 recommends another level of evaluation for systems: low, moderate and high. The more impact the system has on everyday operations, the greater the level of protection it requires.