Updated NIST Guide Is Sector-Specific, Includes New Privacy Controls Catalog

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In order to better meet emerging cybersecurity challenges, the National Institute of Standards and Technology April 30 announced the publication of the fourth revision of a “core” cybersecurity guide that includes, for the first time, a privacy controls catalog.

Federal agencies can use the guide to protect their information systems in compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act.

“This update was motivated by the expanding threats we all face,” Project Leader and NIST Fellow Ron Ross said in an April 30 statement. “These include the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks and the fact that we are being challenged more frequently and more persistently.”

The update to Special Publication (SP) 800-53 includes security controls for new threat contexts, such as: mobile and cloud computing; insider threats; applications security; supply chain risks; advanced persistent threats; and trustworthiness, assurance, and resilience of information systems, the agency said in the statement.

The security controls in the revised guide are intended to provide organizations across sectors with greater flexibility in structuring security programs, the agency said. The baseline set of security controls can be tailored for an organization's mission, environments of operation, and technologies. For example, the guide provides security “overlays,” or lists of controls and implementation guidance, for various missions, such as military tactical operations and health care applications, and specific technologies, such as cloud computing and mobile devices.

Privacy Controls Based on FIPPs

Also included in the update is the agency's first publication of its “Privacy Control Catalog,” which “provides a structured set of controls for protecting privacy and serves as a roadmap for organizations to use in identifying and implementing privacy controls concerning the entire life cycle of PII,” according to NIST.

The privacy controls are based on the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs), which are “[p]rinciples that are widely accepted in the United States and internationally as a general framework for privacy and that are reflected in various federal and international laws and policies,” according to the guide.

The agency submitted the appendix for public comment in July 2011 (10 PVLR 1066, 7/25/11).

A privacy controls appendix for the guide has been in discussion since at least 2009, when NIST released the third revision to SP 800-53 without “privacy-related material,” (8 PVLR 286, 2/16/09) but said the privacy controls updates were forthcoming.

The draft fourth revision of SP 800-53 was released for public comment in February (11 PVLR 423, 3/5/12). SP 800-53 was first published in 2005 (4 PVLR 964, 7/25/05) and underwent a major update in February 2009 to introduce new controls for organization-wide security programs and harmonize specifications across the federal government (8 PVLR 286, 2/16/09).

NIST is responsible for developing information security standards and guidelines, including minimum requirements, for federal information systems, but the private sector widely looks to its cybersecurity standards.


The 457-page guide, “Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations” (SP 800-53, Revision 4), is available at http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP.800-53r4.pdf.