On August 28, 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the first publically available draft of the preliminary Cybersecurity Framework, which is being developed at the direction of President Obama’s February Executive Order on critical infrastructure cybersecurity.  The Executive Order requires NIST to issue a preliminary draft of the Framework by October 10, 2013.

In anticipation of that deadline, and to give stakeholders an opportunity to participate in the revision of the draft, NIST will host a fourth and final workshop on September 11-13, 2013 at the University of Texas at Dallas before issuing the preliminary Cybersecurity Framework for public comment.

Venable has attended all of NIST’s workshops on the Framework and will be in attendance in Dallas to continue providing coverage on the Framework development process to its clients.

In addition, Venable will host a live presentation and webinar, Cyber Sticks and Carrots: How the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, Incentives, and the SAFETY Act Affect You, on September 25, 2013.  Former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute will give the keynote speech.

Overview of Draft Framework

The draft preliminary Framework largely reflects the characteristics originally set forth in the Draft Outline of the Framework released prior to NIST’s July 10-12 workshop in San Diego.  Specifically, the draft retains the outline’s proposed structure, consisting of five “core functions” – Know, Prevent, Detect, Respond, and Recover – each of which is divided into categories and subcategories.

At the subcategory level, specific tasks are enumerated alongside selected suggestions for achieving those tasks using existing cybersecurity standards, i.e. so-called “Informative References.”  The listed Informative References, which include well-known standards such as ISA 99, COBIT, the ISO/IEC 27000 series, and NIST’s own SP 800-53, are not exhaustive, and entities “are free to implement other standards, guidelines, and practices.”

Framework Implementation Tiers and Profiles

One notable change from the draft outline is the replacement of the maturity indicators known as Framework Implementation Levels with Framework Implementation Tiers.  The Tiers still reflect an implementing organization’s respective maturity under the Framework, measured from zero to four for each core function.  Whereas the Framework Implementation Levels were proposed to define specific levels of maturity for each category and subcategory for various roles in an organization, the Framework Implementation Tiers are defined generally and are not role specific, greatly simplifying the measurement of an organization’s implementation of the Framework.

A new feature of the draft preliminary Framework is the introduction of Framework Profiles, which make use of the simplified maturity measurement facilitated by the Framework Implementation Tiers.  The draft instructs adopting organizations to calculate both their current Profile – consisting of the Tier ratings for each of the core functions – as well as their target Profile, i.e. the set of Framework Implementation Tiers that an organization determines it should have based on its assessment of its own cyber-risk.  In addition to assisting entities to achieve the right level of risk mitigation by identifying gaps, the Framework Profile concept is intended to assist entities in communicating with one another about cyber-risk.

Areas of Improvement

In addition to providing further detail on the contents of the Cybersecurity Framework, the draft also describes several “areas for improvement” for which “[c]ollaboration and cooperation must increase...to further understanding and/or the development of new or revised standards.”  The initially identified areas are as follows:

  • Authentication;
  • Automated indicator sharing;
  • Conformity assessment;
  • Data analytics;
  • International aspects, impacts, and alignment;
  • Privacy; and
  • Supply chains and interdependencies.

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