Digital information and assets represent a growing segment across all industries. This growth has led to streamlined operations, greater productivity, and better oversight for managers and organizational leaders. 

These QoL improvements, however, have come at a cost. The increased efficiency of modern computing has led to countless vulnerabilities that malicious actors can use to take control of private information.

Cybercrime is a significant headache for businesses that rely on network security for their daily tasks. Understanding the basics of cybersecurity is essential for IT directors and cybersecurity professionals who want to defend against potential attacks. Networks, user devices, and data are all at risk if the right cybersecurity framework isn’t in place.

What Is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

The threat of cyberattacks is more prevalent than ever before and is only getting worse. 

Although they may know they need to invest in cybersecurity, many businesses don’t know where to start. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has offered clear guidance for businesses that want to defend themselves against cyber threats.

NIST’s cybersecurity framework was developed to help organizations improve their understanding of and ability to manage cybersecurity risks. By connecting industries, educational institutions, and the public with core knowledge regarding cybercrime, the NIST is leading the way towards a safer, more secure digital future.

How Is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework Structured?

The NIST cybersecurity framework brings together many common ideas to reinforce threat defense and give businesses the knowledge they need to protect their critical infrastructure. 

By combining standardized industry practices with data-driven policy, businesses can effectively mitigate the many dangers posed by malicious actors across their networks.

The structure of the NIST cybersecurity framework is designed around three key areas. By looking at the framework core, implementation tiers, and profiles, IT directors and cybersecurity professionals will have a better understanding of how to defend against potential cyber threats.

Framework Core

The NIST cybersecurity framework core is itself split into three categories. These include functions, categories, and subcategories. By defining these terms in simple, easy-to-understand language, the NIST core can effectively manage operations across the digital, physical, and interpersonal levels. 

This NIST cybersecurity framework core consists of 5 high-level functions. These are:

  • Identify
  • Protect
  • Detect
  • Respond
  • Recover

IT directors and cybersecurity professionals should consider these key steps when building and defending their network infrastructures.

Implementation Tiers

The implementation tiers exist as a reference for organizations that want to understand how well their specific cybersecurity implementations are performing within each category. The tiers go from the first, or lowest, tier, for partial success, to the fourth and highest tier, which corresponds to an adaptive cybersecurity framework.

When taking part in the risk management process, IT directors and cybersecurity professionals should make sure to consider how much their integrated risk management program reduces their cybersecurity risk. Organizations should determine for themselves which levels are acceptable for each category.


Within the NIST cybersecurity framework, profiles are a convenient way to assess an organization’s unique characteristics and the strategies that will best fit its needs. By looking at a company’s objectives, existing threats within their environment, and standard requirements and controls, a cybersecurity profile can be formed.

Profiles are essential for building optimized plans that can be implemented based on available resources, existing budgets, and desired outcomes. Prioritizing gaps in security and year-over-year patterns, IT directors and cybersecurity professionals can create lasting solutions that help them make corrections as they go.

The 5 Key Functions of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework

For those businesses looking at best practices for managing their cybersecurity risk, the NIST cybersecurity framework offers a common set of guidelines that can help reduce the potential for attacks to succeed. 

The NIST cybersecurity framework was designed with five key functions in mind. By detecting and identifying threats before they occur, decision-makers can respond quickly and protect their networks. When attacks are successful, having a recovery solution in place is essential. 

1. Identify

The first key function of the NIST cybersecurity framework is to identify the specific problems faced by the organization. This analysis involves accounting for the systems, resources, and personnel that will be taking part in daily operations and refining methodologies to reduce existing attack vectors.

Development of a comprehensive risk management strategy starts with knowing what threats exist and what practices should be put in place to deal with them. This understanding means doing comprehensive risk assessments and managing assets with cybersecurity in mind.

2. Protect

The NIST cybersecurity framework goes on to define protecting assets as the second key function for businesses to be aware of. With the right mindset, decision-makers can effectively mitigate many potential threats before they can cause real harm.

Protecting data is of the utmost importance for businesses that rely on digital assets. Cyberthreats are constantly attempting to probe networks for the weakest link so they can gain access. IT directors and cybersecurity professionals have to be especially wary of common threats such as malware, ransomware, and other viruses.

3. Detect

The next key function that the NIST cybersecurity framework defines is the detection of threats. If a threat can be discovered quickly, this discovery lowers the chances of it posing a real problem for businesses. This truth makes it essential for IT directors and cybersecurity professionals to take a proactive approach to their cybersecurity strategy.

Businesses that use digital assets for their core operations should do continuous monitoring to ensure their systems aren’t compromised. With the right tools and software in place, issues can be resolved before they cause too much harm.

4. Respond

Responding to ongoing threats is a key function of the NIST framework that involves dealing with problems as they arise. Threats can occur at any time, even to businesses that have sold defenses in place. When a cyberattack does occur, it’s essential to have a comprehensive strategy in place for dealing with it.

A strong cybersecurity response involves having the right training and support in place so that nobody is left to deal with an attack on their own. By building an informed team that’s up-to-date on the latest best practices in threat mitigation, IT directors and cybersecurity professionals can ensure their response is swift and effective.

5. Recover

The final key function outlined by the NIST framework is the recovery process. This  function underscores the importance of having real-world solutions to existing threats rather than expecting defenses to always hold. 

After an incident takes place and the threat has been dealt with, businesses must be able to get back to normal operations quickly.

Recovering from a cybersecurity attack can mean accessing backups, investing in new infrastructure, and auditing existing processes to see how they held up. Adjusting to deficiencies and having a reliable recovery solution will reduce the potential for lost revenue, consumer distrust, and liability issues.

Build a Comprehensive Cybersecurity Framework with Touchstone Security

Is your cybersecurity framework lacking a key component? At Touchstone Security, we understand the importance of having a solid plan in place for protecting your digital assets and infrastructure. Our cybersecurity program is designed to be flexible so you can get the tools you need without the added cost of tools you don’t require.

Don’t put yourself or your business at risk. Our team of dedicated experts is here to make sure you have all you need to protect your core assets. We’ll make sure you’re able to successfully build and deploy a NIST-compliant cybersecurity framework without wasting time developing your solutions. 

Find out how Touchstone Security can help you build a comprehensive cybersecurity framework. Contact us today!