Responding to new cybersecurity attacks and breaches The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) passed the NIST small business cybersecurity act in 2018. What the act means for small businesses, is that NIST is required to provide support to small and medium-sized companies in their efforts to prevent cybersecurity breaches and attacks.
Previously, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) were left out when it came to receiving support from NIST. The institute focused primarily on large corporations, neglecting smaller companies that face the same threats. Smaller organizations are often ill-equipped to respond to potential cybersecurity threats. Unlike, corporations that have larger IT departments and the means to employ outside professional help.
The NIST small business cybersecurity act resolves the discrepancies in the amount of support small businesses receive compared to large corporations. NIST will provide all companies, regardless of size, the framework needed to protect themselves from cyber threats.
What is the NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Act?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a federal U.S. agency created to promote competitiveness among companies that perform or provide nationally important products and services.
These services include disaster resilience, advanced manufacturing, communications, and cybersecurity. The purpose of NIST is to give the U.S. federal government the standards businesses need to protect consumer information and other types of data. NIST also has an obligation to companies. It is required to provide a framework that will help businesses meet industry compliance regulations.
The NIST small business cybersecurity act gives businesses the methodology to identify and manage cybersecurity risks by assessing its threat level. Smaller companies will have access to the provided NIST voluntary risk assessment, so they will know where vulnerabilities are and understand what actions are needed to neutralize potential threats.
What Does the NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Act Mean for Companies?
A company’s size doesn’t lessen its chances of a cyberattack. However, medium and small businesses often have problems fighting off cyber threats. Unlike larger organizations that often have resources devoted to cybersecurity, smaller companies are limited in both expertise and the budget needed to adequately protect their networks.
The NIST small business cybersecurity act gives these companies the framework they need to implement the adequate controls necessary to protect their networks and systems from hackers. NIST only suggests what steps companies need to take to improve cybersecurity, it does not enforce any industry standards. For many businesses with limited cash flow, it is welcome news. They have the tools they need, without incurring a cost.
The NIST framework is free and it’s up to the company to implement the supplied suggestions. It is designed to help small businesses meet industry cybersecurity compliance standards. The European GDPR, along with states like California have enacted cybersecurity defense and compliance standards that smaller companies must meet to avoid incurring potential stiff penalties.
Meeting both defense and compliance standards is often cost-prohibitive to small and mid-sized companies, but the NIST framework works to reduce the burden.
What is the NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Guide?
The guide titled Small Business Information Security; the fundamentals were created specifically for small companies that aren’t well-versed in cybersecurity protocols and practices.
The language is simple for easy understanding of how to identify, assess, and manage cybersecurity risks.
The guide is similar in scope to NIST’s Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, only scaled down to fit the needs of smaller and mid-sized companies. The framework includes tools that will help businesses develop the best cybersecurity practices that meet state, federal, and international compliance standards.
What is in The NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Guide
In the NIST small business guide, you’ll learn how to conduct a risk assessment that will evaluate any potential threats and recommend the best practices to avoid a cybersecurity breach. It also contains information on how to,
- Create policies and protocols to protect sensitive data
- Restrict employee access to protected data
- Encrypt outgoing and incoming information
- Install email and internet filters
- Update or patch existing applications and operating systems
- Train employees on data security standards
Even with adequate cybersecurity protocols in place, data breaches can still occur. The guide also gives companies guidance on how to detect, respond, and recover from a cybersecurity attack. A business’s response immediately following an attack is part of most industry cybersecurity compliance standards.
How to Conduct a NIST Risk Assessment
Before you can start a risk assessment on your small business, you need to understand the 9 tasks involved.
- Identify the reason for the assessment. Clearly state the purpose and reason for the assessment to all employees.
- Clarify the assessment’s scope. The scope of the assessment should cover areas where protected data is created, transmitted, and stored.
- Identify the type of threats. Determine what type of threats the company faces from hackers, accidents, or events like a power outage or phishing.
- Identify vulnerabilities. When you’re identifying threats, you are also finding the vulnerabilities in the system, network, or practices that might put data at risk.
- Determine how likely a breach is to occur. Using the different tiers on the risk assessment guide, determine the likelihood of a data breach.
- Determine the impact of the breach. Once you know the likelihood of a breach occurring, you can determine the negative impact it will have on the company.
- Risk determination. Combining the likelihood and impact of the threat will give you an idea of the company’s risk determination.
- Communication results. Employees and management should know the results of the risk assessment so they can start implementing the recommended practices and policies.
- Maintain the assessment recommendations. Once the recommendations have been implemented, the small business must take the appropriate steps to ensure risks are eliminated.
Cybersecurity experts recommend performing a risk assessment annually, even if your company hasn’t faced any threats. Hackers are constantly changing and improving their attacks, and even though your company has successfully prevented data breaches, vulnerabilities can still appear in your practices and protocols.
Can Small Businesses Build on the NIST Act?
The NIST Small Business Cybersecurity act provides smaller companies with the framework they need to meet data protection compliance standards. While the guide is a good starting point, and the risk assessment is a proactive tool, it’s always a good idea for businesses to take additional protective steps.
To ensure your company’s cybersecurity is strong enough to repel cyberattacks, here are a few methods you can implement. Since cost is often a concern, many of these suggestions are easy to put into place with little to no financial expense.
Move Data into the Cloud
Threats to systems and networks are constantly evolving and it is difficult for companies to keep up, especially smaller ones with limited resources. Moving protected identifiable information to a club server is one way you can minimize data risks. The cybersecurity practices in place around the cloud change to meet each new threat.
It is the responsibility of the vendor to ensure their protections are up-to-date. While this does take some of the burdens off the company, it is still their responsibility to ensure the vendor is following industry compliance regulations. If a breach occurs, it will be the company that is found liable, not the vendor.
Be Careful Opening Email
Hackers often target emails as a way to gain access to a company’s systems and protected data. Emails are often seen as non-threatening since it is a common way to communicate within and outside the company. It’s almost impossible to train everyone how to spot a suspicious email before opening it, but installing email filters will help mitigate the potential problem.
The filter effectively blocks suspicious emails before reaching your inbox. It works similar to the spam filter that is already in use, only stronger. Stopping an attack before it enters the network is one of the first steps in ensuring the safety of your protected data.
Encrypt Outgoing Data
Encrypting outgoing data is a compliance standard in several industry data protection acts. Some organizations take it a step further and encrypt incoming data as well. Not only does this make it more difficult for hackers, but it also minimizes the risk for accidental non-compliance issues such as non-authorized employees viewing protected data.
Cybersecurity specialists also recommend encrypting outgoing emails. It is not a compliance regulation yet, but some industry experts expect to see this change as cyber threats continue to grow. Once the data leaves the protection of your system it is automatically vulnerable to attacks from hackers. Encrypting the data helps ensure that it isn’t exploited by criminals.
Only Use Trusted Vendors
There isn’t a shortage of third-party suppliers promising to deliver tools that will keep your data safe from cybersecurity threats. As a small business, you often don’t have the resources to try several vendors to find one that you like and trust.
Instead of randomly contacting multiple vendors, look for one that has several years of experience in the IT field, specifically preventing cyber-attacks and data protection. You want the technology installed to be easily accessible to your employees. The technologies should also work together to eliminate risks on all fronts.
The NIST small business cybersecurity act is designed to help companies with fewer resources stay competitive in the local, state, federal, and international marketplace. Unlike larger organizations with IT departments and the resources to constantly upgrade their existing cybersecurity practices, smaller companies often feel like they are left behind.
The framework has been scaled down from the original NIST act passed in 2014, though it does cover all of the steps companies must take to stay in compliance and prevent data breaches. Not every company has the time or knowledge to perform a risk assessment or implement the necessary practices and policies, which is why RSI Security is here to help.
Whether you need advice on how to implement a practice or want a risk assessment performed, the experts at RSI Security can answer all of your questions. Contact RSI Security today and schedule a free consultation.