NIST 800-171 Standards: Why SMBs Need Them?

Does your small business provide resources to the Federal Government or the Department of Defense (DoD)? If so, you have had to jump through many hoops. You have had to legally qualify as a small business and officially register as a government contractor. And in order to register, you have had to comply with all the laws and regulations in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).

And some of those regulations that you most likely know about are the NIST 800-171 standards, the cybersecurity guidelines for government contractors. Not only are the NIST standards helpful to businesses working with the government, but they are also a valuable resource for small businesses in general.

What is NIST 800-171 Compliance?

Adherence to the NIST 800-171 standards is vital to your organization’s wellbeing

While these standards may seem like just another hoop to jump through, on closer inspection adherence is vital to your organization’s wellbeing as well as the government’s. This is true because of the fact that we are fighting a new type of war against cybercriminal gangs. These gangs are engaging in cyber-terrorism through ransomware attacks on our businesses, our government, and our nation. And it only seems to be getting worse.

Read about how the Biden administration is seeking to rally allies and the private sector against the ransomware threat.

Threat actors working 24/7 to break into our computer networks

Did you know that threat actors are trying to break into our computer networks 24/7?

Check out this live cyberthreat map

They are looking for vulnerabilities like:

  • weak passwords
  • unmanaged service accounts and automated tools
  • permission inheritances that are not functioning properly

Vulnerabilities in business networks are common and threat actors know it. Because of that, businesses cannot afford to be negligent in cybersecurity. And we need to work together to protect sensitive information and proprietary data. In today’s Internet-connected business world we are all connected. Bad actors who hack into one business’s network, can then access other networks that they are connected to. To strengthen our defenses, it is critical to increase our cyber awareness and establish effective security controls.

Advantages to implementing the NIST SP 800-171 standards

It is also important to know that implementation of the NIST cybersecurity standards results in an advantage over competing contractors. This is true because government entities are required to do business with contractors that are diligently working to implement these standards. The more secure your network, the more you have to offer them.

The good news – you are not alone!

The good news is that you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. As an IT Company that specializes in helping businesses improve their cybersecurity, Integrinet IT can reduce the time, money, and stress it would take you to do it alone. We understand the technical lingo and guidelines in the NIST standards. So if you work with the Federal Government, we can assess your current cybersecurity compliance level against these standards and then help prepare you for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).

We would love to help you. Give us a call! Utah (385) 316-7202 or Idaho (208) 510-0967.

Read more about our NIST Assessment & CMMC Services.

What Is NIST 800-171 Compliance?

Is your SMB working on assessing your company’s cybersecurity model for NIST 800-171 compliance? Are you preparing for the upcoming Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC)?

All contractors that provide resources to the Federal Government or the Department of Defense (DoD) will need this certification. And the NIST 800-171 regulations were designed to help you know what you have to do.

Why Does Your SMB Need to Implement the NIST 800-171 Standards?

What is NIST?

NIST stands for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is an agency that issues recommendations under the US Department of Commerce. Its primary role is to develop standards that apply to various industries. One set of these standards is Cybersecurity.

NIST 800-171 is a practical program that gives businesses a plan of action to improve their cybersecurity. And when these are implemented, the result is increased business, economic, and government defenses.

NIST’s goal for NIST 800-171 compliance

NIST’s goal for NIST SP* 800-171 r2** is to “protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in nonfederal information systems and organizations.” These organizations provide services, goods, and R&D for the government, but are not actual government entities. They have their own servers, computers, and ways of managing their data and CUI.

*SP stands for Special Publication
**r2 stands for the updated NIST SP 800-172 version

Read the original publication: NIST Special Publication 800-171: Protecting CUI in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations

Developing a cybersecurity plan

More specifically, NIST 800-171 was designed to help organizations figure out if their security controls are sufficient to defend their CUI against attackers. The process is about developing a plan to improve your infrastructure security over time. Ideally, your business should do this as quickly as possible to protect yourself, your clients, your partners, and the government. However, it takes time and money that many businesses can’t immediately pull from their budget.

This is why it won’t be a requirement until the beginning of 2026. Thankfully, there is time to establish a budget-friendly plan of action.

Read the entire updated (Jan 28, 2021) publication here: Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Systems and Organizations

What is the current state of your NIST 800-171 compliance?

The following questions are examples of what network assessments you will need to make:

  • Has your IT company designed your infrastructure according to RMF* standards?
  • Are your company policies and procedures in place that address security issues?
  • Have your teams received cybersecurity awareness training including CUI?
  • Do your teams know what an insider threat is and what to do about it?
  • Does your company have a forum where you and your staff can discuss issues like phishing attempts?
  • Do you need to upgrade your networking equipment and software?
  • Are your security controls decreasing the risk to your resources and sensitive data?
  • Do you know who has access to your files and documents that contain CUI?
  • What kind of measures are you taking to audit access to CUI?
  • Have you taken steps to physically limit access to the computers or servers that store CUI?

*RMF stands for Risk Management Framework. It is a set of criteria that dictate how the U.S. government’s IT systems must be architected, secured, and monitored.

Don’t despair – we can help!

We know that it is important to every SMB to keep their proprietary and CUI data safe. And business owners are stressing about what to do in a world of increasing cyberattacks. The bottom line is that compliance to these security standards is not an easy accomplishment for small businesses. You are busy trying to run your business. It is difficult to put that on hold while you determine what you need to do.

But you are not alone. Integrinet IT can assist you in preparing for the CMMC. We know the NIST 800-171 standards and how to apply them to your unique business. We are here to take the load off your shoulders and save you time at a budget-friendly cost.

If you are a government contractor, strengthening your cybersecurity defenses is now a top priority. We can help you implement the necessary security controls that will tighten those defenses against threat actors who are working 24/7 to break into our computer networks.

Contact us now for support: Utah (385) 316-7202 or Idaho (208) 510-0967.

See our NIST Assessment & CMMC Services