What Are the Five Elements of the NIST Compliance Framework

2020 was a terrible year for cybersecurity. According to Security Magazine, cyberattacks increased by 17% within the first three months of 2020, with more than 77% coming from targeted attacks. It’s clear that cybersecurity in America needs a complete reboot, especially because workers have started losing faith in their company’s data protection. In fact, 71% of Americans lack faith in their company’s cybersecurity measures, leading to more than 91% of companies increasing their cybersecurity budgets in 2021.

NIST framework

image credit: NIST.gov

With cyber compliance emerging as such a hot topic for businesses across the country, the National Institute of Standard and Technology’s Cyber Framework has emerged as a gold standard for cybersecurity. Initially created under a presidential executive order, NIST is now applicable to any business size and across any sector.

The core of the NIST Framework consists of five key functions: identity, protect, detect, respond, and recover. These functions work to form industry standards and guidelines that stretch across all levels of any organization – from IT to CEOs.

These functions consist of several categories meant to help businesses protect their online data.

NIST cybersecurity compliance framework

image credit: PCG


The first function of the NIST Compliance Framework challenges organizations to manage any and all cybersecurity risks. This function focuses on the business’s process in place for dealing with the following categories: asset management, business environment, governance, risk assessment, and risk management strategy.

This helps businesses determine the risks associated with their current level of cybersecurity. Successful implementation allows businesses to identify their current level of security and forge a clear path to the desired level.


This function helps businesses develop safeguards based on their desired level of cybersecurity. Successful implementation would allow businesses to use this function to limit or prevent cyberattacks. The “protect” function covers key categories including access control, awareness, and training.

While the “identify” framework gives businesses a more passive awareness of their cybersecurity measures, “protect” actively gives businesses the tools needed to prevent a cyberattack.


Once businesses understand the first two steps of the NIST Compliance Framework, they can move on to active implementation. “Detect” allows businesses to recognize a cyberattack in a timely and organized fashion.

There are a few key outcome categories for this function. The first is Anomalies and Events, where the implemented cyber-program can detect unusual activity or potential threats as soon as possible. When supported by the Security and Continuous Monitoring function, this function ensures that businesses are on high alert against potential threats. Successful implementation of this function involves a fully trained staff that can detect a cyberattack at any time.


Once a fully-trained team can accurately and immediately detect cyberattacks, the “respond” function can come into play. This function teaches businesses to appropriately and quickly subdue cyberattacks as soon as they arise. Once a business detects a threat, it should be able to contain the impact through strong response planning and communication. These key categories allow businesses to install a strong response plan once a cyberattack does occur.

Once finalized, the businesses’ response plan leads into a mitigation plan outlining appropriate steps once a cyberattack transpires.


Unfortunately, cyberattacks can never be truly prevented, even if your business has implemented the entire NIST Framework. Because of this, the final function outlines the categories for cyberattack recovery. The “recover” function assists businesses in restoring any communications, data, capabilities, or services impacted by a cyberattack. The recover categories allow businesses to mitigate any effect of a cyberattack as soon as possible.

This function impacts both internal communications, as well as the external perception of the business. Businesses need to show consumers that their data is secure and safe – even after a cyberattack. Outlining a recovery plan in advance of an attack ensures your business handles the event with strong communication and tact.


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