NIST Risk Management Framework 2.0 Updates Cyber-Security Policy

The final version of the NIST Risk Management Framework 2.0 is now available, providing government agencies and commercial enterprises alike with new guidance that aligns risk, privacy and cyber-security controls.

NIST Releases Risk Management Framework Update

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is out with the final version of its Risk Management Framework (RMF) 2.0 update, providing organizations with new detailed insight into how to define and manage risk.

RMF 2.0 was officially released on Dec. 20 and follows seven months of consultation and comments. RMF 2.0 is formally titled NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-37 Revision 2 and outlines how federal agencies and those that wish to align with the standard can address security and privacy risk management. Among the key additions in the RMF 2.0 updates is an alignment and integration with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, which outlines controls and processes that should be used by U.S. government agencies.

"RMF 2.0 gives federal agencies a very powerful tool to manage both security and privacy risks from a single, unified framework," NIST’s Ron Ross, one of the publication’s authors, wrote in a media advisory. "It ensures the term compliance means real cybersecurity and privacy risk management—not just satisfying a static set of controls in a checklist."

RMF 2.0 itself is a lengthy report of 183 pages that is freely available. The report noted that organizations implementing the RMF will be able to maximize the use of automated tools to manage security categorization as well as control selection, assessment and monitoring.

"The RMF provides a dynamic and flexible approach to effectively manage security and privacy risks in diverse environments with complex and sophisticated threats, evolving missions and business functions, and changing system and organizational vulnerabilities," the RMF states. "The framework is policy and technology neutral, which facilitates ongoing upgrades to IT resources and to IT modernization efforts—to support and help ensure essential missions and services are provided during such transition periods."

The RMF 2.0 includes a long list of tasks that includes an outline of risk management roles within an organization as well as strategy. Identifying common controls as well as having a continuous monitoring strategy is another key component that is part of RMF. Risk itself is at the core of RMF 2.0, with the requirement that organizations execute a risk assessment that includes all assets that need to be protected.

"As a key part of the risk assessment, assets are prioritized based on the adverse impact or consequence of asset loss," RMF 2.0 states. "The meaning of loss is defined for each asset type to enable a determination of the loss consequence (i.e., the adverse impact of the loss)."

Industry Reaction

NIST's guidelines for cyber-security have become foundational elements in the product portfolios of multiple vendors that align their offerings to help enable organizations with governance, risk and compliance (GRC) needs. Multiple industry experts contacted by eWEEK were enthusiastic about the improvements made in the RMF and how it will help improve cyber-security overall.

"We view the NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF) as further refinement of NIST's message around the practice of risk management and a bridge in the continuation of their guidance encompassing security of the organization, individual privacy, and organization-wide risk management," Steve Schlarman, risk management strategist at RSA, told eWEEK. "We have long been committed to the belief that in order to effectively and efficiently manage information security, you have to take a risk-based approach."

McAfee's chief policy officer and head of government affairs, Tom Gann, is also supportive of RMF 2.0. He noted that the NIST Cybersecurity Framework presents a rational, step-by-step approach to identifying and managing an organization’s cyber-security risk. 

Abdul Rahman, chief data scientist at Fidelis Cybersecurity, commented that from his perspective looking at the RMF 2.0 update, the focus is on enhancing the protection of individuals’ sensitive data. 

"Organizations need to go beyond threat prevention—we've already seen that preventive tools alone don’t suffice against motivated and sophisticated attackers," Rahman told eWEEK.

Istvan Molnar, product marketing manager and compliance specialist at One Identity, also sees as noteworthy the emphasis on privacy in RMF 2.0. Molnar said the RMF 2.0 document specifically calls out the need for organizations to "consider how to best promote and institutionalize collaboration between the two Privacy and Information Security programs to ensure that the objectives of both disciplines are met at every step of the process."

"It's also noteworthy that the report not only refers to access but also ‘system activity or behavior’ going a step further than simply focusing on controlling access to data," Molnar told eWEEK. "Additionally, the framework promotes the notion of designing risk management into the security and privacy capabilities of information systems throughout the system development life cycle."

For Meerah Rajavel, CIO at Forcepoint, there are three key takeaways from RMF 2.0. The first is that digital and cyber-security are becoming center seat in the boardroom. 

"The RMF Revision 2.0 focusing on linkage and communication to the C-suite governance, and providing guidance on the synergy between Cybersecurity & Risk Management framework, can help elevate the CISO and CIO to be more powerful at the boardroom table," Rajavel told eWEEK.

She added that the second aspect of interest is the focus on the IT/OT and supply chain, which are crucial to protect critical infrastructure that affects civilians and the economy.  

"The third element, which is inspiring in lieu of many recent events, is linking privacy to risk, which helps other compliance and regulations like GDPR, CA Privacy Act, etc.," she said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.