Any organization that handles sensitive data can benefit from the critical infrastructure cybersecurity protections offered by the NIST CSF and the HITRUST CSF. Both frameworks provide robust controls to manage a variety of cybersecurity risks. Read our blog to learn more about the NIST CSF and HITRUST CSF.
Breakdown of Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity – NIST CSF vs. HITRUST CSF
NIST CSF and HITRUST CSF are security frameworks organizations frequently use to manage infrastructure cybersecurity. To compare NIST CSF vs. HITRUST CSF, this blog will dive into:
- An overview of the NIST cybersecurity framework
- An overview of the HITRUST CSF framework
- Similarities and differences between NIST CSF and HITRUST CSF
Safeguarding critical infrastructure in cybersecurity helps keep services available to stakeholders and minimizes data privacy and security risks. Optimizing your infrastructure cybersecurity controls works best when partnering with a HITRUST compliance advisor.
What is the NIST CSF?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is responsible for developing standards that support technological innovation and enable cybersecurity implementation.
In the United States, a significant portion of the economy and other critical systems (e.g., health and public safety) depends on whether these systems remain active and available to the public. Any unaddressed gaps in critical infrastructure cybersecurity can impact the overall livelihoods of US citizens. NIST developed the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (CSF) to streamline cybersecurity risk management across industries without imposing additional regulatory compliance requirements.
More importantly, the NIST CSF can be tailored to the unique security requirements of each organization. By understanding how the framework’s controls address various threats and vulnerabilities, organizations are well-positioned to achieve robust long-term risk management.
The NIST CSF comprises three main components that inform cybersecurity risk management:
The NIST CSF framework core details standards that define specific practices and activities to enable the implementation of risk management controls. At its core, the NIST CSF comprises five key functions for cybersecurity risk management. These are not necessarily requirements for organizations to check off but rather guidelines for optimizing infrastructure cybersecurity.
These five core functions include:
- Identify – An organization should develop processes to detect risk factors impacting critical assets and infrastructure. These processes may include:
- Managing assets and business environments
- Promoting effective governance
- Conducting risk assessments
- Protect – Organizations are expected to protect critical infrastructure to help maximize service uptime and reduce the impact of potential cybersecurity risks. Activities within the Protection function may include:
- Managing identity and access controls
- Implementing data security
- Increasing employee security awareness training
- Detect – Prompt detection of cybersecurity incidents helps prevent them from spreading to other areas of your infrastructure and impacting critical assets. Detection of these events may involve:
- Continuous security monitoring
- Optimized threat detection
- Respond – If a cybersecurity incident occurs, an appropriate response must be initiated to prevent the event from becoming a serious threat to business operations and data security. A robust cybersecurity response may require:
- Planning response protocols
- Communicating with stakeholders
- Mitigating potential threats
- Recover – Following a cybersecurity incident, damage to assets should be identified and critical service losses from the incident restored. Activities necessary to restore the system to its original state include:
- Planning recovery processes
- Communicating about recovery efforts with stakeholders
By implementing these infrastructure cybersecurity functions recommended by the NIST CSF, your organization will effectively manage security risks.
Framework Implementation Tiers
The framework implementation tiers describe the various levels at which organizations can align their cybersecurity risk management practices with the framework’s core standards. The tiering system is based on the level of risk management an organization anticipates. The higher the tier, the greater the risk impact on cybersecurity and overall business continuity.
The NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity comprises four tiers:
- Tier 1 – The lowest tier involves partial risk management and applies to organizations that may be unsure of the types of risks they face. Tier 1 organizations will most likely:
- Implement informal, ad hoc risk management processes
- Have limited awareness of formal risk management
- Be unaware of the types of external security risks and risk management opportunities
- Tier 2 – Organizations are more informed about risk management and will often:
- Implement more defined risk management processes
- Share information about risk management informally
- Start to partner with external entities on risk management
- Tier 3 – Once controls have been implemented at tiers 1 and 2, tier 3 applies to organizations that are implementing repeatable processes such as:
- Formally approved risk management processes
- Robust management of cybersecurity risks
- Increased external engagement regarding cybersecurity risk management
- Tier 4 – Organizations are well-positioned to handle security risks based on:
- Continuous improvements to the risk management program
- Integrated management of risks from different functions
- Well-defined partnerships with vendors
The tier-based system enables organizations to manage cybersecurity risks at each tier without compromising business continuity.
The NIST CSF framework profile addresses the intended outcomes for specific risk management and implementation scenarios.
Based on these outcomes, your organization can develop a roadmap that will help you:
- Comply with the requirements of regulatory frameworks
- Develop industry best practices
- Align and re-align risk management priorities to the broader mission-specific objectives
The NIST CSF framework profile also helps you determine which processes may be required to mitigate risks and gaps in security controls. By optimizing the controls recommended by the CSF, you will have better chances of mitigating a range of infrastructure cybersecurity risks.
What is the HITRUST CSF?
The HITRUST CSF is a comprehensive, risk-based security framework initially designed to help organizations within and adjacent to healthcare manage cybersecurity risks.
Established and currently overseen by the HITRUST Alliance, the HITRUST CSF enables organizations to effectively manage unique security risks they face, regardless of industry.
When it comes to improving infrastructure cybersecurity, HITRUST CSF is considered one of the most robust security frameworks globally. Its integrated approach to cybersecurity risk management helps organizations across various industries and risk profiles achieve high levels of data privacy and security.
The HITRUST CSF’s controls are integrated with those of other security frameworks, including:
- PCI DSS, which secures the sensitivity of cardholder data (CHD)
- HIPAA, which safeguards the privacy of protected health information (PHI)
- GDPR, which protects the privacy rights of European Union citizens
Combined, these controls streamline the effectiveness of regulatory compliance and enable HITRUST-certified organizations to prevent threats from impacting critical infrastructure.
HITRUST Control Categories
In its current version, v9.6.0, the HITRUST CSF’s controls are listed under 14 categories:
- Control Category 0.0 – Information security management
- Control Category 1.0 – Access control management
- Control Category 2.0 – Human resource security management
- Control Category 3.0 – Risk management
- Control Category 4.0 – Security policy management
- Control Category 5.0 – Information security organization
- Control Category 6.0 – Compliance management
- Control Category 7.0 – Asset management
- Control Category 8.0 – Physical and environmental security management
- Control Category 9.0 – Communications and security operations management
- Control Category 10.0 – Information systems management
- Control Category 11.0 – Security incident management
- Control Category 12.0 – Business continuity management
- Control Category 13.0 – Privacy practices management
Each of the privacy and security controls listed in these categories helps manage various risks organizations encounter when handling sensitive data and maintaining critical infrastructure.
However, specific implementations of the controls might vary with each organization’s unique risk profile, infrastructure cybersecurity, and business needs.
HITRUST CSF Maturity Levels
When implementing the HITRUST controls, you will need to evaluate compliance and the effectiveness of these controls in meeting your infrastructure and cybersecurity needs.
HITRUST control maturity can be evaluated at five levels, which are based on the NIST Program Review of Information Security Management Assistance (PRISMA) maturity model.
These levels include:
- Level 1 – “Policy” evaluates the establishment and documentation of policies and standards to support HITRUST CSF control implementation. Criteria at this level include:
- Dissemination of current standards to all staff
- Establishment of ongoing risk monitoring and assessment procedures
- Operational oversight of systems, assets, and personnel
- Policy approval by stakeholders across the organization
- Level 2 – “Procedure” evaluates whether the procedures implemented in compliance with HITRUST CSF align with the organization’s policies. Criteria at Level 2 include:
- Implementation of formalized, up-to-date procedures
- Descriptions of how, when, and where procedures are performed
- Definitions of roles and responsibilities required for all stakeholders involved in implementing controls
- Designation of personnel responsible for security oversight
- Tracking of all implemented procedures
- Communication of procedures to all relevant stakeholders
- Level 3 – “Implemented” focuses on the specific implementation of controls and whether they are within the scope of HITRUST assessments. Criteria at this level include:
- Consistent application of controls across assets
- Minimization of non-standard security implementation
- Operation of controls as described in the security policy
- Level 4 – “Measured” evaluates whether controls remain effective as they are implemented over long-term periods. Level 4 criteria include:
- Assessment of control adequacy and effectiveness
- Achievement of data privacy controls by policies and procedures
- Application of threat intelligence in mitigating security risks
- Continuous monitoring of risks related to past threats
- Assessment schedules are determined by type and frequency of testing
- Independent auditing of implemented controls
- Level 5 – “Managed” evaluates overall risk management via the following criteria:
- Prompt initiation of corrective actions to address compliance gaps
- Improvement of policies, procedures, and assessments
- Cost-effective management of enterprise security programs
- Monitoring and mitigation of security threats and vulnerabilities
- Identification and implementation of alternatives to security controls
The maturity levels that apply to your organization will also depend on the types of HITRUST assessments that will meet your infrastructure cybersecurity needs. Considering the extensive controls recommended by the HITRUST CSF, it helps to know which controls work best in some risk environments over others. It all comes down to understanding the full scope of the CSF’s controls and levels, which can be achieved with the guidance of a HITRUST CSF partner.
NIST CSF vs. HITRUST CSF – Which is Better?
Depending on the types of risks your organization faces, you might be wondering which of the two frameworks—NIST CSF or HITRUST CSF—to lean on when addressing your infrastructure and cybersecurity needs. Both frameworks provide robust infrastructure cybersecurity controls that can be adopted by any organization across risk environments. However, security risks evolve as different factors (e.g., technology, environments, privacy requirements) change.
When security controls are generalized (as in the NIST CSF), it can be difficult for organizations to address specific risks. In such instances, your organization will likely require a framework like HITRUST, which takes the most comprehensive, risk-based approach to cybersecurity.
In practice, aspects of the NIST CSF framework are integrated into the HITRUST CSF’s controls. And the HITRUST CSF provides extensive controls pulled from multiple security frameworks to mitigate a broader range of risks across business environments.
By complying with the HITRUST CSF control requirements, you are meeting those required by the NIST CSF and with the cyber resilience required by the NIST framework for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity.
Benefits of HITRUST CSF for Healthcare
Whereas the NIST CSF applies broadly to any organization, the HITRUST CSF specifically helps organizations within and adjacent to healthcare manage risks far more effectively.
When HITRUST-compliant, these organizations will be well-positioned to:
- Meet the requirements of the HIPAA Rules
- Secure sensitive PHI
- Scale up security implementations across assets
Ultimately, the HITRUST CSF is more comprehensive and adaptive than the NIST CSF. Depending on your current security posture, you might benefit from a combination of the controls recommended by the NIST CSF and HITRUST CSF.
Optimize Risk Management with HITRUST CSF
Implementing infrastructure cybersecurity controls will help your organization effectively manage various security risks and keep sensitive data safe. Working with a HITRUST CSF partner like RSI Security will help you develop and optimize your organization’s risk management controls.
Contact RSI Security today to get started!