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NIST 800-53 Security Assessments & ATO Support

NIST 800-53 compliance is a security standard for United States federal government agencies and organizations that handle sensitive data. The standard outlines what measures must be in place to protect this data from unauthorized access or disclosure.

What is NIST SP 800-53?

NIST 800-53 Compliance

NIST Special Publications 800-53 is a security and privacy control catalog issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The standard provides guidance on how to select and apply security controls to protect federal information systems against threats. NIST 800-53 also covers requirements for agencies to follow when assessing the security of their information systems.

The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) requires federal agencies to develop, document, and install an information security program. NIST 800-53 provides a risk management framework that agencies can use to meet these requirements.

How does it apply to applications?

NIST 800-53 compliance is often required for applications handling sensitive data. There are three categories: low risk, mid risk, and high risk. Applications must meet the appropriate requirements of NIST 800-53 to be compliant. This can be a challenge, as the standard is very comprehensive and can be difficult to interpret.

What's included and who must comply?

NIST 800-53 covers a wide range of security topics. These topics include access control, incident response, network security, and system integrity. The standard organizes each area of security into control families. It also includes guidance on how to select and put the security controls in place.

NIST 800-53 compliance is mandatory for all federal agencies. Many state and local governments have also adopted the standard. Some agencies may have more requirements to meet.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to compliance, including:

  • Improved security of information systems
  • Reduced risk of data breaches and other security incidents
  • Greater assurance that information systems and organizations protect against threats
  • Enhanced ability to respond to security incidents
  • Improved ability to detect and defend against cyber attacks

What is the latest version?

NIST SP 800-53, Revision 5 was released in November 2020. The update includes new and revised controls. These address emerging threats, such as ransomware and attacks on critical infrastructure. The revision also includes changes to the structure of the standard to make it easier to use.

More information on NIST SP 800-53, Revision 5 is available here.

What is an ATO?

An ATO, Authorization To Operate, is a decision by a senior agency official that an information system meets the agency’s security requirements. An information system requires an ATO to function in a production environment. In order for employees or contractors to use an information system, you must get an ATO.

How do I get an ATO?

To get an ATO, an agency must first develop a security plan for the information system. The security plan must address all the NIST 800-53 security controls that apply to the system. 800-53 is the basis for security assessments and authorization decisions.

Once the security plan is complete, the agency must submit it to a senior agency official for review and approval. If the senior agency official approves the security plan, they will issue an ATO.

What's the difference between NIST 800-171 & NIST 800-53?

NIST SP 800-53 focuses on the IT Security of hosted systems and applications, and NIST SP 800-171 focuses on handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) of a given organization seeking to do business with the U.S. Government. DFARS 252.204-7012 implements the security requirements of 800-171 for defense contractors handling CUI.

Get a NIST 800-53 Security Assessment Today

If you’re responsible for the security of an information system, you should ensure that it meets the requirements of NIST 800-53. Implementation of controls can be complex, so you may want to seek help from qualified security professionals.

How to get help

For more information, please contact our team of experts. We can help you to understand the requirements of the standard and select the controls that are right for your organization.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Our team is happy to answer your questions and help make your next project successful. Contact us today and we will be in touch as soon as possible. 

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