Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity: An explanation of the NIST framework

NIST’s Vicky Yan Pillitteri, at the 2014 ARC Forum, discussed the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and today’s release of the Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.


Preview of the Feb. 13 U.S.cyber security announcement was given by Vicky Yan Pillitteri, NIST, on Feb. 11, at the 18th Annual ARC Industry Forum. Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, is expected to have provisions for sThe U.S. federal government partnered with the private sector to strengthen cybersecurity for critical infrastructure sectors, according to those involved. Vicky Yan Pillitteri, NIST, while at the 2014 ARC Forum, discussed the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and today's release of the Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.

The policy creates a framework to reduce cybersecurity risks by sharing threat information. It was developed, Pillitteri said, by consulting standards and holding workshops with key stakeholders to develop methods, procedures, and process as part of the framework.

Cybersecurity differs across industries. Finance and water industries, for instance, differ in their needs and approaches. Given this heterogeneity, the framework needed to be agile, repeatable, and effective, she said.

3 main elements to cybersecurity framework

The framework contains three main elements:

1. Core: The core incorporates industry standards, guidelines, and best practices. The steps are to identify threats, protect, detect, respond, and recover. Categories and subcategories for each of the five steps are matched with descriptions of and links to informative resources.

2. Tiers: Implementation tiers provide context on how an organization views cybersecurity risk and how to manage that risk. Tiers range from partial to adaptive.

3. Profile: The profile aligns functions, categories, and subcategories to fit risks within organizations.

The cyber security framework is intended for organizations to:

  • Review practices
  • Establish or improve themselves
  • Communicate with stakeholders
  • Identify opportunities for new or revised informed references
  • Incorporate methods to protect privacy and civil liberties.

The framework also includes defined adoption criteria and steps needed. But the first goal will always be to support the industry and increasing awareness of cybersecurity considerations.

Version 1.0 of the framework (it will evolve) is available today, Feb. 13, in the Federal Register and on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework site. It includes a draft to identify the next steps for further development and harmonization. A roadmap includes issues to address, such as supply chain connections to critical infrastructure.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager CFE Media, Control Engineering, and Plant Engineering,

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