Mapping NIST CSF Controls: How to Get Started

Mapping NIST CSF Controls: How to Get Started

Control mapping is the process of bringing together two or more compliance domains or sets of business requirements to build a strategy that aligns to your unique needs. While the NIST CSF controls set the standards for information security, which controls you apply and how you apply them depends on your unique business environment. Important factors to consider are your appetite for risk, the nature of your technology infrastructure, and your industry.

There are countless NIST Cybersecurity Framework examples out there. However, while it is always a good idea to see what other businesses similar to yours are doing, no two information security environments look exactly the same. Thus, NIST Cybersecurity Framework mapping is ultimately something you need to do yourself, ideally under the guidance of a professional consultant and expert in the space.

What are the NIST CSF controls?

Before we start explaining how NIST CSF controls work, it is important to start at the top. At the top of the framework are the five key function areas: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. These function areas are then distilled down into categories, of which there are 23 in total. Then, there are the subcategories, of which there is a total of 108. For each of the subcategories, there is a set of informative references and controls. These are meant to serve as actionable guidelines for businesses looking for more precise solutions to their information security and compliance challenges.

There are many hundreds of possible controls, so mapping them to your unique requirements can be complicated. Moreover, the controls themselves tend to be highly technical in nature, pertaining to specific network protocols and operating systems. For example, a server running Red Hat Enterprise Linux will have a very different set of controls to one running Windows or Unix. NIST Cybersecurity Framework mapping is all about mapping such controls to the actual desired business outcomes listed in the framework’s categories and subcategories.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework mapping examples

Before you can start implementing NIST CSF controls, you first need to thoroughly evaluate your current environment. This will help identify areas in need of improvement and prioritize accordingly.

Let us take the Protect function area of the framework as an example. This function includes six categories, one of which is Data Security. In this case, control mapping should point to a full disk encryption solution. However, the encryption solution that should be deployed would depend on the device and operating system in question. For example, local hard drives might be encrypted using the native encryption method of the operating system that uses them, while removable media may need a different solution in order to ensure cross-platform compatibility.

In another example, we will refer to the Detect function area of the framework, which consists of three primary categories. One of these is Security Continuous Monitoring which, in turn, has seven subcategories. Fortunately, most, if not all, of these subcategories can be addressed in a single integrated solution, such as managed detection and response (MDR) or Security Incident and Event Monitoring (SIEM) software.

Why should businesses map their security and compliance controls?

Control mapping is all about using strategy to address business-specific requirements and to make sure that nothing important gets overlooked. It allows organizations to harmonize their security and compliance requirements across relevant regulations and standards, such as the NIST CSF. When getting ready for a security and compliance audit, mapping controls can also provide full visibility into your security environment. This is extremely useful for organizations preparing to earn their Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) for example.

In the end, control mapping gives organizations a cohesive and relevant way to ensure they meet the required business outcomes covered by the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. To get started with the process, you should obtain the help of an expert security and compliance consultant who will guide you through each stage and function area of the framework and offer advice and solutions tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of your business.

Charles IT is Connecticut’s premier compliance and information security expert. We can help your business seamlessly align with the industry-leading NIST Cybersecurity Framework and, in doing so, earn lucrative new clients. Get in touch today to find out more!