The 3 Steps to NIST 800-171 Compliance

3 steps to nist 800-171 compliance

The 3 Steps to NIST 800-171 Compliance


Feb. 20th, 2017

At this point, I’ll assume you’ve heard about NIST 800-171. You’re aware that it impacts your organization, and you know you have to figure it out before December 31st.

But where should you start?

3 Steps to NIST 800-171 Compliance

It may seem daunting, but NIST 800-171 compliance can be broken down into three primary activities:

  1. Assessing your environment
  2. Addressing deficiencies
  3. Documenting your results

That’s basically it.

Step 1: Assessing Your Environment

First off, you need to determine which environment (or environments) are subject to NIST 800-171 compliance. Ask this question:

Does this environment process, store or transmit any Controlled Unclassified Information?

If the answer is yes, it needs to be assessed.

What exactly should you assess?

Go through the Controls (Section 3) of NIST 800-171. For each control, determine if this environment contains safeguards that satisfy the requirements.

Step 2: Addressing Deficiencies

Following your assessment, you should have a solid understanding of which controls are satisfied and which are not.

It’s time to figure out how to address the issues for each control that is not satisfied. It may be as simple as creating a policy or as complex as redesigning your network. Either way, you need to have a plan.

Step 3: Documenting Your Results

You’ve probably been documenting your activity throughout the assessment and remediation steps. At this point, it’s time to put it all together in a format that is acceptable to the Government. They’re quite particular about the way things need to be presented.

3 steps to nist 800-171 compliance

The 2 documents you need to produce

Your results should be cataloged in two specific documents:

  1. System Security Plan
  2. Plans of Action

These documents correspond to the first two steps discussed previously.

System Security Plan

The best approach for creating the System Security Plan is to create sections based on the information required in NIST 800-171.

System Security Plan Outline:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. System Boundary
  3. Operational Environment
  4. Security Requirements Implementation
    1. Controls 1 – 110
      1. Implementation Description
      2. Evidence Description (evidence, e.g. screenshots/documents, should be collected and saved but not necessarily included in the SSP)
  5. Environment Interconnection with Other Systems

Plans of Action

The government is expecting you to have some issues. You’re going to raise some eyebrows if you claim to be 100% compliant.

Plans of Action Outline:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Unimplemented Security Requirements
    1. Specific Controls with Issues
      1. Non-compliance Details
      2. Remediation Plan

Documentation is Key

You know how the government operates… if you deviate even slightly from their requirements you’re going to end up going back to fix things. Make sure you provide solid detail for each control and capture some sort of evidence to back it up. ComplyUp offers a comprehensive NIST 800-171 Self-Assessment Platform, complete with easy to understand explanations of each control.

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