The NIST Cybersecurity Framework 2.0: A Guide to Implementation

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is a set of best practices practices for improving cybersecurity published by the US Government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. It was originally designed to help organizations deemed to be part of a ‘Critical Infrastructure Sector’ identify, assess, and manage their cybersecurity risks. Over time the NIST CSF has traversed across industries, and today it can be configured to meet the specific needs of almost any organization. 

The first version of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework was introduced almost ten years ago, and was divided into five functions: 

  • Identify: Identify assets that need to be protected, threats and vulnerabilities that could impact those assets, and potential consequences of a security incident. 
  • Protect: Implement security controls to protect the organization’s assets from threats and vulnerabilities. 
  • Detect: Detect security incidents as early as possible. 
  • Respond: Respond to security incidents in a timely and effective manner. 
  • Recover: Recover from security incidents and minimize their impact. 

Version 2.0 of the CSF includes a new pillar called “Govern.” This pillar focuses on the organizational structures, policies, and processes that support cybersecurity. The Govern pillar includes the following subcategories: 

  • Policy: The policies that define the organization’s cybersecurity requirements.
  • Procedures: The procedures that describe how the organization’s policies are implemented.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: The roles and responsibilities of individuals and teams involved in cybersecurity.
  • Culture: The organization’s culture and values related to cybersecurity.
  • Metrics and Measurement: The metrics and measurements used to track the organization’s cybersecurity performance.

The Govern pillar is essential for successful implementation of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. By ensuring strong governance is in place, an organization can improve their cybersecurity posture and reduce their risk of a security incident. 

Version 2.0 also expands the framework’s scope and enhances guidance. The NIST CSF is now applicable to all organizations, regardless of their type, size, or whether they’re part of the “Critical Infrastructure Sector” or not. The updated framework also introduces guidance on creating “profiles,” which aim to tailor the CSF for a variety of situations. For example, there is now a profile for smaller firms who’d like to address their cybersecurity needs. 

As you can see, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is both comprehensive and straightforward. And, with the release of Version 2.0, it’s now inclusive. By implementing the CSF, any organization can improve their cybersecurity posture and reduce their risk of a security incident. The benefits of implementing the complete NIST CSF can be significant, yet implementation can be quite challenging. 

Here are some of the primary reasons why implementation of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is so complex: 

  • The comprehensive nature of the framework means it includes a lot of detail, which can make it difficult to understand and implement. 
  • There is no “one size fits all” configuration; the CSF must be configured to meet the specific needs of each individual organization. 
  • Implementation of the CSF can be time-consuming, resource intensive, and costly. 
  • Implementation requires a commitment from the entire organization, from top management down to individual employees. 

Despite its complexities, taking the time to fully understand and implement the NIST Cybersecurity Framework can prove immensely valuable for your organization. This is especially true as data continues to become more valuable – and the bad actors going after this data (and the technology they use) continue to get smarter. If your organization were to experience a cybersecurity breach or your data were to be exposed, the ramifications could be catastrophic. The cost of inaction could prove to be greater than investment in implementing the NIST CSF. 

So, how would an organization go about implementing the NIST CSF? Here are some tips for getting started: 

  • Start by understanding the CSF. Read the framework carefully and get familiar with the terminology and concepts. 
  • Assess your organization’s cybersecurity posture. This will help identify the areas where you need to improve. 
  • Develop a specific, measurable plan for implementing the CSF. 
  • Get buy-in from top management and all employees.
  • Focus on the new “Govern” pillar, as it’s the foundation for successful implementation.
  • Monitor and evaluate the implementation, to identify positive changes and areas of improvement. 

While this list provides a good starting point, implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework can be a daunting task. If your organization lacks the resources, expertise, or simply the time to do this on your own, there are security service providers who can guide you through the process, and some that can even help you implement it. Ntirety has been connecting mission critical data across highly secure, available, and resilient environments for over 25 years, and has guided and implemented the NIST Cybersecurity Framework for customers through our comprehensive, NIST CSF-oriented approach to security. Ntirety is here to help organizations like yours reduce risk, reduce complexity, free up IT, optimize spend, and strengthen cybersecurity posture overall. 

If you’re looking to take the next steps in understanding and implementing the NIST CSF for your organization, the experts at Ntirety can help. To get started, visit us at