The 5 Elements of the NIST Framework Core

What are the principle elements of the NIST cybersecurity framework core? Find out with this infographic for a brief overview.

Blog Post

5 minutes

Jul 24, 2023

The NIST cybersecurity framework was created by the US government and published in 2014. It sets out a number of recommended standards which organizations in the public and private sector can follow to reinforce their cybersecurity profile.

There are five key functions of the NIST framework, which are identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

These five elements of the NIST cybersecurity framework add up to a “target profile”, which differs depending on the particular organization, as companies have varying needs—especially with regard to compliance. 

  1. Identify
  2. Protect
  3. Detect
  4. Respond
  5. Recover

Why Is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework Necessary?

Cyberattacks have been on the rise at an alarming rate in recent years, making it more vital than ever for organizations and businesses to start thinking about their current cybersecurity posture.  

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given how often data breaches and hacks make the news today, but the sophisticated, wide-scale social engineering attacks on SMBs and their propensity to cause enormous issues with smaller companies is proving to be a massive threat to modern businesses.

The NIST framework components aim to provide businesses with a cybersecurity guide that will help them mitigate some of these rising cyber risks of today.  

While data breaches for enterprise organizations can be devastating, for SMBs they can be fatal. One of the worst expenses an organization in today’s digital-first economy can incur is the cost of downtime. Downtime is exactly what it sounds like; the amount of time that an organization isn’t operational due to their core systems going offline.  

Downtime is a double-edged sword, too. Not only does downtime hinder your ability to make active sales and result in significant losses, but it also has the potential to hurt your reputation with your current consumers.

For small businesses, that number [cost of downtime per minute] drops to the lower-but-still-significant tune of $137 to $427 per minute. 

The COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse, with unprepared businesses shifting their operations to remote work without the security capabilities of dealing with such a workforce. This creates even more endpoints that need cybersecurity protections and gives even more credence to the necessity of the NIST cybersecurity framework.    

The cybersecurity landscape has developed significantly since the pandemic, and the lasting challenges and changes that have arisen because of it should not be understated.

Many of the technology implementations organizations have made to protect themselves since the pandemic will be essential for the future in terms of building a strategy that incorporates the components of the NIST framework.

Who’s the NIST Framework For?

The NIST framework was ostensibly established to provide guidance to companies that operate in supply chains for the federal government like prime contractors and subcontractors.

The standards, however, are applicable to all businesses. For those organizations that lack a cybersecurity strategy and need a jumping-off point, the NIST framework is a great way of getting one.  

Many managed security service providers (MSSPs) will use the NIST framework to determine what a business’ position is and what they need to do with their strategy going forward. 

Digging Into the 5 Elements of the NIST Framework

1. Identify

In the identification phase of the NIST framework, organizations need to conduct an audit and determine which of their systems are truly vital for their operations. Once this audit is completed and you have an idea of your most important core systems, it can inform your cybersecurity strategy to prioritize protecting these processes.

2. Protect

After identifying your core systems and writing out a strategy that prioritizes their defenses, it’s incredibly important to actually implement these cybersecurity safeguards and practices.  


3. Detect

A powerful cybersecurity strategy includes constant monitoring. Since cyberattacks are typically silent, you need systems and cybersecurity professionals in place who know where to look, and what to look for. By detecting cyber threats immediately, you have a much better chance at mitigating the potential damage.


4. Respond

If a cyber threat is detected, it’s also on the shoulders of the cybersecurity team to respond to the active threat. This involves communication, damage mitigation, isolation, and event analysis – the why and how behind the attack.  

Having a full team of cybersecurity professionals working to protect your organization, and your data, will prepare you to handle cyber threats now, and in the future.

5. Recover

Finally, the last component of the NIST framework is recovery. This involves a well-established business continuity strategy that should be written out as part of the larger, comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.  

Disaster recovery and business continuity plans will prepare you for the worst when it comes to cybersecurity, so have a thought-out action plan to follow in the case of a successful cyberattack against your business.

Wrapping Up on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework  

The infographic below gives a brief overview of the NIST framework and the five core components of which it’s comprised.

The 5 Elements of the NIST Framework Core infographic

If you need cybersecurity but are unsure where to start, consider having a risk audit done by Impact. Get in touch today to get the ball rolling on securing your future.


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