Protecting data from cyber attacks has only grown more complicated over the years: the number of cyber crimes committed per year has massively grown. In 2021, the number of security breaches reached 1,862. How do organizations prevent the risk of cyber attack? 

Many countries and industries have devised their own sets of cybersecurity best practices for organizations to follow to manage that risk. These frameworks consist of assessment, monitoring, preventative, and response activities to help security teams identify and resolve current issues and constantly scan for new threats. In some cases, these frameworks have even been signed into law.

In this article, you’ll learn what those cybersecurity frameworks are, how they are categorized, and determine which of the most common frameworks might help your organization achieve its security goals.

What are cybersecurity frameworks?

Cybersecurity frameworks are systems and standards that guide security programs and help leaders mitigate cyber risks in their organizations. These frameworks act as a shared language across regions and industries, allowing consumers and businesses to make informed decisions about the companies they place their trust in. No matter the industry, organizations that adopt cyber security frameworks have committed to maintaining a high degree of security around the data they gather and store, as well as the services they provide. Likewise, when a threat arises, they should have a clear plan to take action.

In many cases, implementing certain cybersecurity frameworks is necessary to comply with state, national, and international regulations. Abiding by accepted frameworks shows that organizations are taking concrete steps to decrease their exposure to vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit on their networks, applications, or devices. In practice, cybersecurity frameworks can take on several different forms.

Types of cybersecurity frameworks

There are three types of cybersecurity frameworks distinguished by their function:

Control frameworks

Control frameworks are foundational security strategies. They help teams:

  • Evaluate the current state of their overall tech stack (including devices, networks, and applications)
  • Create a baseline set of controls
  • Plan and prioritize other control implementation

Program frameworks

Program frameworks strengthen an organization’s overarching security practices by:

  • Establishing a comprehensive security program
  • Continuously assessing the efficacy of that program
  • Streamlining communication between the security team and business leaders

Risk frameworks

As the name implies, risk frameworks are designed specifically to minimize risks. They include:

  • Processes to help security teams manage existing risk and improve security posture
  • Steps to identify and quantify risk
  • Methods to triage and implement new security measures

Together, control, program, and risk frameworks serve as a comprehensive barrier — not only to current cyber threats but risks that may arise in the future as well.

8 Cybersecurity framework examples

Since there isn’t any one “right” framework to follow, implementing cybersecurity frameworks can be daunting. Let’s explore eight of the most common frameworks to give you inspiration for the types of frameworks that could fit your organization’s security goals.

1. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, known as the “NIST Cybersecurity Framework,” or “NIST CSF” was created to safeguard commercial, energy, and defense utilities. However, its core principles can help any organization follow the basic pattern of cyber defense: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

The NIST framework consists of a series of steps to protect an organization’s data (in transit and at rest), detect risks, respond to threats, and recover assets if needed. It also prompts security teams to conduct root cause analysis of any vulnerabilities they uncover in the process. Originally, the NIST framework was designed to cover traditional IT-managed systems. But organizations are applying the NIST framework to any IoT, IoMT, OT or other connected devices under their purview.

While NIST compliance is voluntary, it’s required for any organization doing business with federal government agencies. For that reason, many enterprise-level organizations in the U.S. have adopted the NIST framework in conjunction with the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014.

2. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) Critical Security Controls

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) Critical Security Controls framework is best for organizations wanting to ease into a cybersecurity framework. The 20 CIS controls are constantly updated by volunteer experts who hold various industrial, academic, and government roles. Controls are divided into three groups: basics, foundational, and organizational. Security teams should implement the basics first and then move on to the foundational and organizational controls.

CIS also has benchmarks that work in conjunction with its controls. They are set according to other existing standards like NIST or HIPAA, and are split into two levels: security essentials that don’t affect performance, and advanced protocols that may affect performance. Again, this distinction enables security teams to break up their work into more manageable chunks, getting controls implemented faster and more efficiently.

CIS frameworks are meant to calibrate IT services, products, and devices, as well as prepare organizations to tackle other, more complex and demanding frameworks. 

3. The International Standards Organization (ISO) frameworks ISO/IEC 27001 and 27002

International Standards Organization (ISO) frameworks are international standards for cybersecurity. As part of the 27K ISO framework, organizations must design and implement an information security (InfoSec) management program dedicated to mitigating identified threats and patching vulnerabilities.

27001 and 27002 ISO frameworks are notoriously demanding. They have over 100 coherent and comprehensive controls that organizations struggle to follow without an ongoing risk management process.

But many organizations need to adopt at least ISO 27001 for legal reasons. To be considered ISO 27001-compliant, organizations must demonstrate that they adhere to the “PDCA Cycle” to an external auditor. The PDCA Cycle is a business management method that focuses on four steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act:

  • Plan – objectives, processes, and procedures for risk management
  • Do – implementing InfoSec policies
  • Check – regularly evaluating and updating InfoSec policies relative to performance and emerging InfoSec best practices
  • Act – enhancing and adjusting InfoSec policies per internal audits

Any organization that has a financial services arm or handles particularly sensitive data, such as medical records, should consider implementing the ISO 27001 protocol. 

4. SOC 2 (Systems and Organization Controls 2)

Systems and Organization Controls 2 dictates how organizations protect their data from unauthorized access, security incidents, and other vulnerabilities. Today, most organizations store this information on the cloud, so SOC 2 was formed specifically to protect sensitive data used in cloud-based applications and connected devices.

The SOC 2 framework requires that customer data is managed and stored based on 5 Trust Services criteria:

  • Security – protection against unauthorized access, disposal, modification, or disclosure of confidential data, software misuse, or any other system abuse 
  • Availability – assurance that a device or software works as it’s supposed to when it’s supposed to and there are plans in place to alleviate any delays in performance 
  • Processing integrity – ensures organizations communicate the way they process data to their clients and uphold their own standards
  • Confidentiality – keeps confidential data encrypted and restricted
  • Privacy – organizations follow Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAAP) to mask PII and other personal data regarding race, sexuality, religion, and health.

Unlike other frameworks, SOC 2 has some flexibility — organizations can determine attestation reports and controls on their own. These reports and controls are then distributed to and evaluated by independent CPA auditors.

While achieving SOC 2 compliance isn’t necessary, it establishes trust with service providers and their customers. Modern procurement teams often look for SOC 2 compliance when evaluating new vendors. Any B2B SaaS organization should strongly consider achieving compliance with this framework.

5. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations)

The European Union’s GDPR is consumer and data privacy legislation, not a cybersecurity framework. However, this law requires that organizations use “appropriate technical and organizational measures” to secure processed personal data — something that applies to many organizations, especially those in the healthcare sector.

All organizations with patients in the EU must prove that they are GDPR-compliant under the accountability principle. That means they’ve instituted technical measures to adhere to the GDPR law, can explain how those measures work, and demonstrate their effectiveness whenever requested. Examples of those measures include:

  • Documenting what data is kept and how long it will be stored for
  • Establishing concrete security and response processes for preventing and containing data breaches
  • Noting how data is originally collected and whether it can be shared with third parties

The goal of GDPR is to provide consumers with more control over how their personal data is handled and disseminated by companies, particularly in a marketing context. Putting consumers in the driver’s seat makes it more difficult for organizations to mislead consumers with deliberately confusing or vague information.

The EU takes GDPR rules very seriously and will fine organizations that fail to comply with GDPR up to 4% of their global revenue.

6. CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification)

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CCMC) is a unified standard for implementing cybersecurity across defense industrial base contractors. The CMMC model was built to prevent U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) information leakage. 

Before a contractor can start any government contracts, they must pass certain CMMC certifications. Currently, this applies to over 300,000 companies in the supply chain.

There are five levels to the CMMC certification paradigm. Each reflects the reliability of a company’s cybersecurity infrastructure to safeguard sensitive government information like federal contact information and unclassified documents. Contractors must pass an audit conducted by third-party assessors to achieve each certification.

Organizations that abide by the NIST framework will be in good shape, as submitting an NIST 800-171 assessment to the DoD’s Supplier Performance Risk System is the first step in achieving CMMC certification. Post- NIST assessment, many enterprises enlist the help of an accredited third-party auditor to perform a gap analysis. They can pinpoint any major missing protocols prior to taking the full CMMC assessment.

Organizations also have a chance to remedy any issues that are spotted in a CMMC assessment 90 days after the evaluation is complete. If your organization is successful, it will be awarded a 3-year CMMC certification.

7. FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act)

Like GDPR, FISMA is U.S. legislation that defines a framework of guidelines and standards to protect government information and operations. FISMA was signed into law in 2002 and requires compliance from state agencies that administer federal programs or organizations that hold a contract with the U.S. government. FISMA compliance is especially crucial for healthcare organizations: many patients receive care through Medicare and Medicaid programs, which are government programs that must be protected. Non-compliance with FISMA can lead to a loss of federal funding, reputational damage, and even indictment for potential government hearings.

FISMA has similar controls to the NIST framework, requiring federal contractors to:

  • Track information system inventory
  • Continuously categorize risk
  • Design a system security plan
  • Implement security controls
  • Conduct risk assessments
  • Achieve certification and accreditation

Organizations that work with the federal government, and even those in the private sector, should stay up to date with FISMA standards and keep a record of the ways in which they comply with the law. Data should be classified according to the level of sensitivity whenever it’s created or stored. Organizations should also take steps to encrypt that data automatically.

8. UK Cyber Essentials sections

The Cyber Essentials scheme is designed to show an organization has a minimum level of protection in cyber security through annual assessments to maintain certification. The Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus certifications help organizations avoid weaknesses and address vulnerabilities to prevent exploits.

Both assessments are rooted in five major controls that show organizations are committed to preventing cyber crime. Those controls include:

  • Firewalls
  • Secure configurations
  • User access control
  • Malware protection
  • Patch management

Organizations that want to bid for UK central government contracts must have the Cyber Essentials certification at minimum.

Get a jumpstart on your cyber security today

Cyber security is of utmost concern to all organizations: hospitals, IP-enabled manufacturing systems, and Interactive Teller Machines are collecting more data than ever before, making rock-solid security protocols a necessity — not a nice to have.

Implementing cyber security frameworks can seem daunting, especially without the right tools. Organizations need a security solution particularly designed for their unique security needs, and that’s where Ordr comes into play. Ordr makes connected device security simple through automated asset discovery, identification of vulnerabilities and risk, and dynamically created policy to improve protection.

Organizations that use Ordr get visibility into what is connected to their network in real time, allowing security teams to find and eliminate vulnerabilities proactively. Plus, Ordr can dynamically create policy to respond to active threats or proactively improve security to protect your organization, data, and patients.

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