NIST CSF Profiles for Ransomware Risk Management

NIST CSF Profiles for Ransomware Risk Management

Ransomware is an ever-present risk these days, which is why businesses are constantly seeking ways to bolster their defenses. One excellent way of doing this is by using a robust cybersecurity framework to guide security strategies and deploy best practices. For an optimal cybersecurity boost, many organizations lean on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF).

What is NIST CSF?

NIST CSF is a security framework that lays out a prioritized, flexible, repeatable, performance-based, and cost-effective approach that individuals and organizations can voluntarily implement to boost their cybersecurity profile. It also helps owners and operators of critical information infrastructures identify, assess, and manage their cybersecurity risk.

NIST CSF Core Functions for Ransomware Risk Management

Below are the standard NIST CSF core functions as well as some ways in which you can configure them toward a ransomware risk management strategy:


NIST CSF helps in identifying processes and assets that require protection. This includes data repositories and network access points, which are critically essential in preventing ransomware attacks. 


NIST CSF also aims to protect your assets from cyberthreats through the implementation of appropriate safeguards. It outlines ransomware prevention best practices, including:

  • Whitelisting websites
  • Screening emails, and 
  • Educating users on how to spot signs of an impending ransomware attack.


Detection involves implementing mechanisms to reveal and identify the occurrence of ransomware attempts. This applies to cybersecurity events that are common precursors to ransomware attacks, such as the proliferation of spam emails or SMS messages carrying unknown website links. To nip any ransomware activity in the bud, consider deploying the following:


In the NIST Framework, responsiveness entails more than just readiness to respond, but also the ability to do so in a speedy manner. This is because, when it comes to ransomware attacks, time is of the essence. When a ransomware attacker gets ahold of a file or a system, it’s usually too late for your organization to thwart the threat. However, if you have the appropriate response tools and protocols in place, you can ensure that any effects of the attack can be mitigated to its fullest extent.


The key deployment for ransomware attack recovery is your backup system. A well-configured backup system will allow you to continue operating as usual, even while you deal with the ransomware attack. 

How to Apply NIST CSF to Improve Ransomware Readiness

Under the NIST Framework, ransomware readiness is best achieved by taking deliberate steps to achieve it. The following are steps that your organization can take to achieve ransomware readiness.

Step 1: Identify Priorities and Scope

Identify your mission or business objectives along with your high-level organizational priorities. Any cybersecurity strategy should be aligned with your overall mission to ensure that security implementations don’t impede your goals. Identifying your priorities and scope will also provide you insight on the different types of risk your organization faces.

Step 2: Orient Organization On Impending Changes

Once you establish the scope of your cybersecurity program, you can inform your organization of the systems, assets, regulatory requirements, and overall risk approach that will be involved in the program’s implementation. This is also a great time to consult with your IT provider to identify threats and vulnerabilities.

Step 3: Create a Current Cybersecurity Profile

Create a profile of your current cybersecurity strategy baselines by identifying which Category and Subcategory outcomes of the NIST CSF your organization is currently able to achieve. Also take note of outcomes that are in progress, or may be partially achieved, as these will help guide your future cybersecurity strategies.

Step 4: Conduct a Risk Assessment

Establish the likelihood of your organization facing certain cybersecurity events, as well as the impact that those events may have. Understanding the effects of cybersecurity events is critical, as it will help you prepare better for emerging risks.

Step 5: Develop a Target Profile

A target profile indicates improvements you must make on your current profile so that you can achieve your desired cybersecurity outcomes, including your target Categories and Subcategories situation. This will serve as the goal for your organization.

Step 6: Determine, Analyze, and Address Gaps

It’s not uncommon for platform transitions and updates to still have gaps, which is why this is a necessary step. Compare your current and target profiles to determine if there are any gaps you’ll need to address before implementation. Then, create prioritized action plans to address any gaps found. Make sure that these action plans fully account for mission drivers, costs and benefits, and risks. This way, you can work on determining which resources you will need to address the gaps in a cost-effective, targeted manner.

Step 7: Implement Action Plans

Implement your action plans with the goal of achieving your target profile. Follow the plan and adjust your current cybersecurity practices to get as close as possible to your ideal cybersecurity posture. You can also lean on sector-specific standards, guidelines, and practices for guidance.

Adopting the NIST CSF is a straightforward enough task, but in order to realize its true potential, it’s best to implement it with the guidance of a reputable cybersecurity provider like Charles IT. Get assessed and understand how you can properly use the NIST CSF for your business. Contact us today to learn more!

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