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What Is NIST and What Does It Mean for My Data?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) ensures the U.S. remains competitive among international economic rivals by encouraging modern ideas and emerging technologies. When NIST was formed more than 100 years ago, these international competitors included Germany and the U.K., but today there are dozens more on that list.

 

Hard to believe an organization that’s been around more than a hundred years can serve as the national foundation for technological progress, but NIST and its impact on science, industry, and the national economy have driven some of the most revolutionary developments in history – and the standards NIST has further defined continue to position the U.S. as a major international resource.

Modern innovations the world has enjoyed since NIST include:

  • X-Rays
  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
  • Space travel
  • Artificial Intelligence

Modern Technology and Security

Technology has come a long way in the last century. Advancements in technology have enabled incredible innovation for modern businesses, but with ever-increasing responsibilities – the greatest of which is cybersecurity.

NIST releases publications to outline standards and guidelines, and one of the most common special publications is NIST 800-171, which focuses on controlled unclassified information (CUI) in digital or physical capacity.

What Is NIST 800-171?

Commonly referred to as simply “NIST” by IT companies, this publication outlines how CUI needs to be protected. Information that is sensitive but not classified requires specific cybersecurity protocols to ensure data is securely stored, accessed, and shared.

Who Needs to Be Compliant with NIST 800-171?

Information that is sensitive to the interests of the United States – but isn’t classified – and the businesses who store this data must be compliant with NIST 800-171, regardless of the industry.

How Do NIST 800-171 Standards Protect My Data?

Compliance with NIST 800-171 standards improves data security, which was the driving factor behind the publication in 2015 due to multiple highly-publicized and large-scale data leaks.

NIST 800-171 data protection standards center around four categories:

  • Data management and security
  • Monitoring and managing IT systems
  • User access controls
  • Physical and technological security measures

These areas represent critical security concerns for businesses and CUI access, transmission, and storage.

How Does My Business Become NIST 800-171 Compliant?

Do you access or store CUI in at least one physical or digital location? All locations and copies of CUI must be secured and protected, and it’s better to categorize this information separately from your other, non-CUI data.

With this step, you can then outline security protocols for limiting access to CUI and establish uniform processes for how users will access CUI. Monitor and track all network access to CUI and reinforce consistent best practices through formal policies and training.

What Are the NIST 800-171 Compliance Benefits for My Business?

Increased security for your IT systems and environment can only benefit your business and your data. Protecting your network, controlling user access, and the other steps outlined above all serve to protect CUI and add layers of security to your total technology ecosystem.