Cybersecurity Framework: Meeting NIST SP 800-171 Compliance Regulations

NIST SP 800-171, the Special Publication from the National Institute of Standards (NIST) sets requirements governing how Federal government contractors must protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) hosted in nonfederal information systems and organizations.

Utilizing a robust cybersecurity framework that involves privileged access management (PAM) and controlled multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides a comprehensive and cost-effective path to complying with NIST SP 800-171.

NIST SP 800-171 covers the new security requirements government contractors must comply with to protect CUI. This applies to virtually ALL federal contractors.

What is NIST SP 800-171?

NIST SP 800-171 establishes rules for federal contractors as well as for state and local agencies that handle CUI. CUI is the common and significant amount of sensitive (but not secret) data that these federal contractors use to fulfill their various responsibilities on government projects. This regulation calls for protecting the confidentiality of CUI when hosted in nonfederal information systems. Many of NIST SP 800-171’s requirements necessitate the need for a cybersecurity framework that ensures organizations maintain complete control over CUI by knowing exactly who has access to the information and what they are doing with it.

Failure to comply with NIST SP 800-171 can result in contractors losing ALL of their federal contracts.

CUI in the wrong hands can create substantial security risks, which is why having strong security in place is so important. Federal contractors who do not comply with these new rules and regulations by December of 2017 can be charged with violating the False Claims Acts and/or face losing their federal contracts.

Meeting NIST SP 800-171 Requirements

CUI can be threatened by both insiders and outsiders, but breaches of this information will likely involve privileged accounts in some fashion. Therefore, maintaining complete control and visibility over privileged accounts is imperative. Based on the requirements outlined in NIST SP 800-171, using a robust cybersecurity framework that includes Privileged Access Management (PAM) with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) capabilities is the best solution.

Privileged Access Management (PAM)

Given the attention that identity and access control are given in NIST SP 800-171, compliance strategies should involve Privileged Access Management (PAM). PAM is the collection of processes and tools that give organizations visibility and control over who has access to privileged or administrative systems in addition to knowing what they are doing on those systems, when, and how.

PAM helps protect CUI by providing a range of processes and tools that allow organizations to maintain complete visibility and control.

Privileged users are individuals who have deep access to systems including access to configuration settings and other resources the system hosts. Given this level of access, privileged users can expose organizations to high-security risks either intentionally or accidentally. They represent a dangerous threat for companies and are often targeted by hackers who try to impersonate them to take over their accounts. PAM helps secure privileged accounts to prevent breaches and assist organizations in protecting CUI.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Securing CUI involves ensuring every user is who he or she claims to be. Data must be protected from malicious actors and outsiders who gain access to the network using stolen credentials from a legitimate user. You must prevent these types of breaches before they occur because once a malicious user gets inside, system-level access controls become difficult to enforce.

MFA significantly reduces the chances that a malicious user will be able to gain access to important systems using stolen credentials.

Using MFA within a strong PAM cybersecurity framework makes it easy for organizations to meet these strict requirements. Plus, MFA enforcement drastically reduces the chances that a malicious user will connect to a system by hijacking legitimate credentials, further protecting the organization.

The WALLIX Bastion PAM Solution Integrated with Axiad IDS

Critical data, as well as vital infrastructure, lie at the heart of organizations. Axiad IDS, which offers a comprehensive high identity assurance and authentication solution, integrates seamlessly with WALLIX’s lightweight and adaptable PAM solution, the WALLIX Bastion. The Bastion protects organizations by implementing a cybersecurity framework that covers the full end-to-end user lifecycle, while Axiad further protects systems and critical data by ensuring all users are who they claim to be.

Our integrated solution addresses the three most fundamental requirements for NIST SP 800-171 compliance:

  • Ensuring the identity of the user
  • Guaranteeing that this user is not able to get more access/rights than he or she is entitled to
  • Tracing all privileged actions on the systems

Benefits of The WALLIX/Axiad Solution

The combined WALLIX/Axiad solution for NIST SP 800-171 offers a holistic approach to cybersecurity and covers virtually all points of vulnerability – whether it involves monitoring and controlling the actions of a super-admin or ensuring that the super-admin and other users are who they say they are using an advanced cybersecurity framework. Plus, complete integration between WALLIX and Axiad’ solutions ensure 100% utilization by users and means that all necessary applications, devices, and processes are actually in place, utilized, and secured.

The WALLIX/Axiad solution covers virtually all points of organizational vulnerability.

Overall, WALLIX and Axiad together provide a comprehensive cybersecurity framework for cost-effective operations and quick compliance. Their joint solution includes all of the essential tools necessary for meeting compliance including a complete audit log of user logins, MFA processes, and privileged access sessions.

Interested in receiving a complete overview covering the technicalities of NIST SP 800-171 and the exact capabilities our solution offers to help you meet compliance? Give us a call.