What are the five elements of the NIST cybersecurity framework? What are the five elements of the NIST cybersecurity framework?

NIST Cybersecurity Framework: The 5 Vital Elements

Cybersecurity is one of the most essential practices you should be aware of in this information age. Additionally, it is a very popular technology employed by many businesses and companies to protect their system from cyber attacks.

Following the increased reliance on technology and the internet, most businesses believe that effective cybersecurity measures are the key to successful security and protection. Cybersecurity serves as the frontline defense against many cyber threats and attacks.

On the other hand, this article is about the five elements of the NIST cybersecurity framework, so what is a cybersecurity framework in the first place? 

Besides, a cybersecurity framework is defined as a structured set of guidelines, effective practices, and ideas organizations use to manage and improve their cybersecurity efforts. Their approach usually involves assessing their cybersecurity status, identifying vulnerabilities, and establishing measures to battle the attacks.

Thus, continue reading to learn the NIST cybersecurity framework & its five vital elements

1. What Is a Cybersecurity Framework?

In detail, a cybersecurity framework is described as a set of guidelines, standards, and practices specially designed for cybersecurity risk management. You might wonder what the practices are.

Well these are the systematic strategies for handling cybersecurity risk and securing the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and systems. 

A member of a Cybersecurity Framework
By Jefferson Santos/ Unsplash Copyrights 2017

Furthermore, here are the top cybersecurity frameworks that have garnered attention for their outstanding cyberdefense work:

  1. NIST Cybersecurity Framework
  2. ISO/ IEC 27001
  3. CIS Controls
  4. FAIR (Factor Analysis of Information Risk)
  5. NIST Cybersecurity Framework for Critical Infrastructure

They all serve different kinds of organizations based on their requirements, goals, and types of cyberattacks. However, their ultimate target is to construct an unassailable cyberspace. 

2. What is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework? 

NIST Cybersecurity Framework is an acronym of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is an institute with guidelines, best practices, and standards especially designed for securing organizations against cyberattacks.

Initially, they created the cybersecurity framework for private organizations in the United States. However, it was translated into other versions and has been used by the governments of Japan and Israel. 

On the 12th of February 2013, former president Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13636, which is regarding the development of a framework for cybersecurity in the US. In the same year, it also sought requests for information from industry, government agencies, and other organizations that need strong cybersecurity protection.

A person using a secured tablet
By Dan Nelson/ Unsplash Copyrights 2020

From 2013 to 2014, the framework cooperated with several organizations and developed a common language and methodology to assess and improve one’s data on the internet. Consequently, they formulated a few functions and categories mainly focused on the five elements of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. 

NIST: Cornerstone of Digital Defense

Alex Taylor, the Head of Marketing at CrownTV, perceives the role of cybersecurity frameworks, particularly the NIST cybersecurity framework, in ensuring the security and protection of organizations against cyber threats:

“In my role, where technology intersects with media, the NIST cybersecurity framework is a cornerstone. It provides a structured approach to managing cyber risks.

The beauty of this framework lies in its flexibility and adaptability to various industries, including digital marketing and signage. Implementing it has significantly fortified our defenses against cyber threats.

It’s particularly effective in identifying potential vulnerabilities and ensuring timely responses. Moreover, its emphasis on continuous improvement aligns perfectly with the dynamic nature of digital security.

Adopting NIST standards has been a key factor in safeguarding our innovative digital solutions against evolving cyber threats.”

Alex Taylor
Alex Taylor

3. What are the Five Elements of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

3.1. Identify 

It is the process of identifying the organization’s data and information that is vulnerable to cyber threats. It is mostly about understanding the risks of the organizations. This is the first and foremost step of establishing a framework.

Depending on the organization’s resources at hand, the NIST cybersecurity framework identifies the possible ways to tackle and handle cyberattacks. Here, I have listed the essential components under the identify function: 

1. Asset Administration

The identification of the organization’s assets is what is done in this phase. This may include the examination of the company’s hardware, software, data, and personnel. This will help the IT framework to understand the organization’s mission. 

2. Business Environment

For an organization to develop in this 20th century, it is a must to know how business works. This part of the function includes identifying their mission, stakeholders, competitors, and the legal requirements that are adaptable to them. 

A man and a woman using a laptop
By Petter Lagson/ Unsplash Copyrights 2020

3. Governance

This involves establishing and maintaining a governance structure for the organization to protect from risks. From defining roles and responsibilities to developing policies and procedures, the organization is all set to fight against cyberattacks. 

4. Risk Assessment

This assessment is one of the crucial tests, as it identifies the potential risks. In addition, it will look into the loopholes and other cracks that hackers might attack. 

5. Risk Management Strategy

Meanwhile, this part will discuss the strategies to accept, reduce, transfer, and avoid threats. 

Encouraging Innovation with Secure Foundations

Jon Torres, the CEO of Jon Torres, describes the strategic advantages of aligning with cybersecurity frameworks Like NIST:

“One advantage of aligning with cybersecurity frameworks like NIST is the facilitation of innovation.

By establishing a secure foundation, businesses can encourage a risk-aware culture that encourages teams to explore and implement new technologies confidently.

For instance, in my experience, aligning with NIST standards fortified our cybersecurity and empowered our teams to experiment with emerging technologies.

Knowing that our company prioritizes security provided a sense of stability, allowing for more daring initiatives without compromising on safety.”

Jon Torres
Jon Torres

3.2 Protect

This function outlines apt approaches and techniques to ensure that the system is protected at all costs. It encompasses a comprehensive set of measures to safeguard the organization’s systems, data, and operations from cybersecurity threats.

Below is the list of protective implementations that can assist the organization in mitigating cyberattacks through the NIST cybersecurity framework: 

1. Access Control

NIST manages and controls access of the organization’s users (both authorized as well as unauthorized) to data and information.  

2. Awareness and Training 

This training is designed especially for the employees and stakeholders of the organization to make them aware of their ongoing cybersecurity risks and approaches. 

3. Data Security

This incorporates the protection of sensitive information through encryption, two-factor authentication, and other data leakage-preventive measures. 

4. Information Protection Processes

From securing and handling to disposing of the information, NIST ensures that the information security is strong to go. 

5. Maintenance

Checking on the systems daily and formulating new and updated approaches to address the available vulnerabilities are taken care of. 

6. Protective Technology

Technologies, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software, are implemented to face off against data breaches.

3.3 Detect

It focuses on detecting cybersecurity activities before they are about to happen. Their primary goal is to establish mechanisms to detect security breaches and other malicious cyber activities.

Furthermore, upon using this element, the NIST cybersecurity framework helps several organizations enhance their ability to identify security events promptly, enabling quicker responses and mitigation efforts.

Moreover, it is the best element of the NIST; as you know, prevention is always better than cure. Here are the key components of the detect element:

1. Anomalies and Events

To protect the organization from the potential threat, it is always advisable to be vigilant. In that case, the detect element will supervise monitoring their networks, systems, and applications, collecting and analyzing logs, looking for abnormalities, and detecting potential security incidents.  

2. Continuous Monitoring

This process involves tracking the organization’s network traffic, system performance, and user activities. 

3. Responses Management

If a threat is detected, then the first and foremost thing to do is respond effectively. So, the organization must be prepared with a response plan. 

4. Detection Technologies

There are a range of detection technologies, including IDS (Intrusion Detection Systems), IPS(Intrusion Prevention Systems), SIEM(Security Information and Event Management), EDR(End-point Detection and Responses), and many other solutions. These technologies help in automating the detection of potential dangers. 

what are the five elements of the NIST cybersecurity framework?
By Scott Graham/ Unsplash Copyrights 2016

5. UEBA (User Entity Behavior Analytics) 

Furthermore, NIST employs UEBA, a tool that monitors and analyses the organization’s user and entity behavior patterns. 

6. Security Baselines

Sometimes, configuration changes also cause potential security issues in an alliance, and for this reason, NIST sets baseline configurations for systems and applications and monitors exceptions from these baselines. 

3.4. Respond

Following the detection of the threat, the next step has to be an effective response from the organizations. However, without any predefined plan, it is impossible to counter-attack.

The response element outlines how organizations should respond to a detected cyberattack. It comprises response plans, containment strategies, and other actions on responding to IT security breaches. 

1. Incident Response Plan

This is an organizational plan that facilitates effective and prompt responses against attacks. This includes understanding the nooks and corners of the problem and taking action to mitigate and prevent it from happening again. 

2. Incident Containment

It is the process and implementation of a strategy while handling security events. The containment strategy involves three steps: filtering and routing to prevent access from a source, removing unauthorized access, and sorting to prevent access to the target resource. This will limit the impact of the attack on a very large scale. 

3.5 Recover

It is the fifth element and final in the NIST. Moreover, this is the pivotal part of the cybersecurity framework, ensuring that the systems and data have recovered safely after a cyberattack. Consequently, this area of the framework includes three steps:

1. Recovery Procedures

In this step, the initial recovery procedures following an attack are set in motion. It includes the ability to regain access and functionality of information and data of the organization’s system after a cyberattack incident. 

Data and coding of an organization
By Roman Synkevych/ Unsplash Copyrights 2020

2. Communication and Reporting 

Here, the stakeholders and authorities concerned with the organization are intimate with the existing crisis (if any). The necessary reports and statements are produced if mandatory. 

Governance as Cybersecurity Playbook

Abid Salahi, the Co-founder/CEO of FinlyWealth, explains governance structures aiding organizations in developing robust strategies for cybersecurity risk management and what are a few key aspects that should be considered in establishing effective governance:

“Given today’s dynamic cyber threats, consider governance as the playbook of our tech company. It defines the game plan, assigns roles, and sets how we respond, adapt, and learn from the cybersecurity field.

It’s not just about outlining responsibilities but about generating a team spirit against cyber threats. Successful governance should be comprehensive yet straightforward, permeating all company levels.

It ensures piracy doesn’t bowl us over but serves as an opportunity to strengthen our defense line. The key: keep it inclusive, persistent, and evolutionary.”

Abid Salahi
Abid Salahi

4. Final Thoughts 

Simply put, a cybersecurity framework is a pathway to build a foundation, structure, and support for an organization’s security system.

In conclusion, there are three types of cybersecurity frameworks: control, risk, and program; nevertheless, their ultimate purpose is to fortify the organization’s security management. Undoubtedly, NIST is one of the high-profile cybersecurity frameworks.

I hope this article gave you thoughtful insights into the five elements of the NIST cybersecurity framework. 

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on February 18, 2024 by Saket Kumar


  1. NIST Cybersecurity framework is a high-profile cybersecurity framework and this article managed to cover all of the important information about it in a thorough but easy to understand way.

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