NIST 800-53: The Ultimate Guide

Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Feb 16, 2024

NIST 800-53

A recent study revealed that cyber attacks cost businesses a staggering $4.45 million annually. To combat this, an executive order was recently signed, which mandated agencies to manage cybersecurity risks effectively. 

This reinforced the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) of 2014, giving birth to the NIST cybersecurity framework 800-53. 

In this blog, we provide you with a complete guide to understanding and implementing the NIST SP 800-53 cybersecurity framework. 

What is NIST 800-53?

NIST 800 53 is a set of controls carefully curated by the Information Technology Laboratory (ITL). These controls provide a comprehensive framework for safeguarding sensitive data against various threats, ranging from natural disasters to malicious attacks.

What is NIST 800-53

NIST 800-53 is a security compliance standard with a list of controls that highlights the creation of a safe and secure federal information system. 

NIST 800-53 isn’t just for the government; it’s a tool any organization can use to bolster its security posture. The controls in the standard are technical, operational, and management related to maintaining confidentiality, availability, and data integrity. 

NIST cybersecurity framework 800-53 is required for all U.S. federal information systems, except for those related to national security. It is technology-neutral and can be taken up by any company operating an information system with sensitive or regulated data. 

If you want to know more about the set of controls present in NIST 800 53, download the resource below:

What is the purpose of NIST 800 53?

The purpose of NIST SP 800-53 is to enhance the security posture of information systems utilized by the federal government. The purpose of NIST is to furnish guidelines in the form of a catalog of controls, which facilitate the development of secure information systems.

The process takes you through categorizing your information system at a low-, medium-, or high-security level. With these categories, you compare the NIST 800-53’s security catalog and determine which applies to your firm.

However, the core components of NIST cybersecurity framework 800-53 are divided into five areas:

components of NIST 800-53

Each area of focus is chock-full of activities that work together to keep your systems secure. These activities are not just your average, run-of-the-mill tasks—they’re the leading information security practices and incident response plans that’ll help you stay ahead of the game.

Also read our detailed guide on NIST Compliance

Who needs to comply with NIST 800 53?

By mandate, US-based contractors and federal government agencies need to comply with NIST 800 53. However, other state and private organizations still use it as their security control framework. 

If you’re unaware of the systems on your network or if you’re caught off-guard by unexpected admin accounts or abnormal applications, you lack a baseline from which to manage your network.

NIST 800 53 will serve as a bird’s eye view of your network, down to the tiniest details. This level of visibility is not just important; it can be  a game-changer 

And to effectively do this, you need a compliance automation platform like Sprinto. Speak to our compliance experts

How to implement the NIST 800 53 framework?

NIST 800-53 framework says to deploy strong security assessment tools to understand the real-time security posture of your organization. 

Here are the 5 steps to implement the NIST 800 53 framework in your organization:

Implementation of NIST 800-53 framework

1. Setting the stage for success

Congratulations on taking the first step toward implementing the NIST Framework! The key to achieving success is establishing a clear set of goals for data security. Ask yourself questions like, “What are your risk tolerance levels?” or “Where should you prioritize protection?” By creating a set of goals, you can create a plan of action, define the scope of your security efforts, and ensure everyone in your organization is on the same page.

2. Assessing your current position

The next step is to assess your organization’s cybersecurity efforts through a detailed risk assessment. This provides valuable insights into which of your current efforts meet NIST standards and what needs to be improved. You can use open source or hire a cybersecurity specialist to assess thoroughly.

The Sprinto advantage

When it’s about understanding where you stand with your security, Sprinto’s got your back. Sprinto continuously monitors your security controls, providing real-time updates through its control health dashboard. 

This helps you stay informed about the status of your controls and take appropriate action if any control fails.

To see this revolutionizing feature in action, here’s a video you can refer to:

3. Tailored approach 

The NIST 800-53 framework provides voluntary guidelines applicable to a wide range of industries. However, each business is unique and requires a tailored approach. 

Creating a profile outlining your needs ensures the framework is tailored to your organization’s requirements. Utilizing the Implementation Tiers can elevate your organization’s cybersecurity measures from reactive to proactive.

4. Identifying gaps and creating an action plan

Communicate the findings from the risk assessment with key stakeholders to determine vulnerabilities and threats to your operations, assets, and individuals. Use the results to conduct a gap analysis and prioritize which areas must be addressed first. This will form the basis of your action plan.

5. Implementing and continuously improving

Now, it’s time to put the NIST 800-53 framework into action. However, it’s important to note that implementation is just the beginning. 

Continuous monitoring and improvement are necessary to ensure the framework is customized to your business’s needs. Keep iterating and improving to stay ahead of the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape.

However, you don’t need to implement this manually. The better way is to let Sprinto take the front seat.

As Sprinto is an always-on compliance system, it seamlessly integrates with your existing controls and automatically gathers audit-ready evidence. 

This way, you’ll stay ahead of your compliance status with ongoing monitoring and automated remediation workflows. 

Fastrack your NIST compliance with Sprinto

Check out the difference between NIST vs ISO 27001

What are the NIST 800-53 security controls?

NIST SP 800-53 aims to offer a set of security controls that meet the various security requirements for information systems and organizations. However, NIST has a huge list of security controls, over 1,000 in all, that cover every aspect of an information system.

These are the security controls in NIST 800-53 you need to be aware of:

  1. Access control
  2. Audit and accountability
  3. Awareness and training
  4. Configuration management
  5. Assessment, authorization, and monitoring
  6. Identification and authentication
  7. Incident response
  8. Maintenance
  9. Media protection
  10. Personnel security
  11. Physical and environmental protection
  12. Planning
  13. Risk assessment
  14. System and services acquisition
  15. System and information integrity
  16. System and communications protection
  17. Program management
  18. PII processing and transparency
  19. Supply chain risk management

Benefits of NIST 800-53

The benefits of NIST 800-53 framework are plenty. Here is the list of benefits you need to know about NIST 800 53: 

Experience superior and unbiased cybersecurity

The NIST CSF is a voluntary approach representing the collective wisdom of thousands of information security professionals, making it the most comprehensive, in-depth set of framework controls. When you harness this crowd-based wisdom, you can fill in blind spots you didn’t know existed and gain an understanding of your company’s security needs.

Enable long-term risk management

With the framework, you can wave goodbye to the outdated mindset of one-off audit compliance and risk assessment and instead embrace a more adaptive and responsive posture toward managing cybersecurity risk. The right tools can help you easily adopt a continuous compliance approach, enabling you to respond and recover swiftly and effectively.

Bridge the gap between stakeholders

The NIST 800-53 compliance comes from a risk-based approach, which executives can relate to. This approach fosters better communication and decision-making throughout your organization, with security budgets better justified and allocated. Adopting this framework develops a common language for business and technical stakeholders, facilitating improved communication from practitioners to the Board and CEO.

Embrace flexibility and adaptability

Given its risk-based, outcomes-driven approach, the NIST is the most flexible framework. Many industries have successfully adopted it, like sizable critical infrastructure in energy, transportation, and finance. 

This also includes small and medium-sized businesses. Being a voluntary framework, it is customizable, and with the core functions and implementation tiers, it offers an easy-to-grasp blueprint that speeds up ongoing guidance.

Prepare for the future 

As regulations and laws change, the NIST 800-53 compliance provides reliable security measures for building and iterating cybersecurity programs. New regulations and standards like NYDFS (23 NYCRR 500) use the framework as a foundation for compliance guidelines. This trend is expected to continue across all industries.

Make the NIST CSF a cornerstone of your cybersecurity program

Managing cybersecurity is a Board- and CEO-level issue. This is why the NIST serves as a powerful asset for cybersecurity practitioners. Its flexibility and adaptability make it a cost-effective way for you to approach cybersecurity and create a company-wide conversation around cyber risk and compliance.

This framework is an asset for practitioners and an important part of the bridge between technical- and business-side stakeholders. It paves the way for a future where security is on your company’s agenda.

What’s next?

Are you looking to achieve NIST 800 53 framework compliance for your organization? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. 

Let our team of experts take you through the process with ease. Sprinto’s cutting-edge automated security platform provides you with a centralized resource to streamline and monitor your compliance strategy every step of the way. 

Sprinto helps you in many ways starting from:

  • Streamlining your NIST 800-53 compliance for audit-readiness
  • Ensuring NIST cybersecurity framework 800-53 compliance becomes second nature as your business grows
  • Accessing multichannel support whenever you need it from our in-house experts
  • Choosing from flexible pricing plans tailored to your business needs


What data does NIST SP 800-53 protect?

NIST SP 800-53 safeguards information systems against diverse threats, such as cybersecurity incidents, privacy breaches, and malicious attacks.

What does NIST SP 800-53 cover?

NIST SP 800-53 is a set of guidelines that outlines the controls required to develop secure and resilient federal information systems. These controls comprise operational, technical, and management standards that are vital for maintaining information systems’ confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

What are the 5 core functions of NIST?

The 5 core functions of NIST are:

  • Identify
  • Protect
  • Detect
  • Respond
  • Recover
Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Meeba, an ISC2-certified cybersecurity specialist, passionately decodes and delivers impactful content on compliance and complex digital security matters. Adept at transforming intricate concepts into accessible insights, she’s committed to enlightening readers. Off the clock, she can be found with her nose in the latest thriller novel or exploring new haunts in the city.

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