Guide to the NIST Risk Management Framework

Every Federal IT pro understands the criticality of information system security within federal agencies.

Help improve your agency’s Risk Management Framework STIGS compliance.

From protecting agency systems and infrastructure devices to securing the information contained therein—often top-secret federal data and/or Personally Identifiable Information (PII)—security permeates nearly every aspect of information technology.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD), has established a single set of standards—a unified cybersecurity framework—for the entire federal government. Introduced in 2010, this framework is known as the Risk Management Framework (RMF).

Every federal agency is required to comply with the processes outlined within the RMF. According to NIST, it created the RMF as a way “… to improve information security, strengthen risk management processes, and encourage reciprocity among federal agencies.”

RMF Basics

The RMF cybersecurity framework combines IT security and risk management into the systems development lifecycle to enable a more dynamic approach to managing agency risk.

The six RMF steps are as follows:

 Categorize the System

Determine if the systems and information in question require strict, moderate, or lower-level safeguarding efforts.

 Select Security Controls

Choose security safeguards that align with the risk associated with the system categorization step above.

 Implement Security Controls

Ensure the security safeguards have been put in place by responsible personnel; develop and maintain policies that support risk management decisions for the system.

 Assess Security Controls

Validate that the chosen controls have been successfully implemented and are adequately captured in supporting policy documentation.

 Authorize Information System

Establish a formal approval process by designated authorization officials; ensures agency leadership concurs the chosen controls meet the needs for system risk.

 Monitor Security Controls

Continuously monitor the effectiveness of existing controls to manage system risk.

Enhancing RMF Compliance Through Automation

Maintaining RMF compliance is no easy task, particularly as system needs and users change, system components are replaced or upgraded, and as the threat landscape changes. In a complex environment that is growing ever-more complex as new technologies are introduced and new systems join existing ones, a federal IT pro needs speed, effectiveness, and reach.

One of the best ways to achieve this is through automation.

Configuration management tools can save time and improve security by managing configurations, changes, and compliance for network devices. These tools are designed to support the bulk deployment of standardized device configurations, and they can backup configuration and help identify and remediate known vulnerabilities.

Automation doesn’t just streamline the process, it is also a force multiplier when it comes to RMF compliance.

SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (NCM) is built to meet these automation needs. In fact, NCM is designed specifically to automate the management of configurations, changes, and compliance for routers, switches, and other network devices, which can help federal IT pros dramatically reduce the time required to manage critical changes and repetitive tasks across complex, multi-vendor networks.

Get more information on NCM here.

SolarWinds also offers its Log & Event Manager (LEM). SEM is a security information and event management (SIEM) tool that can help automate a broad range of tools to help federal IT pros more easily use event logs for security, compliance, and troubleshooting.

Get more information on SEM here. Learn how we help with NIST compliance here.

For more information on the NIST Risk Management Framework, as well as a range of additional federal security compliance information, download the Daily Federal Compliance and Continuous Cybersecurity Monitoring white paper.

Finally, let’s remember that RMF provides overarching guidelines for security across agencies. Civilian and Defense agencies each have additional compliance requirements. For more information on each of these, you’ll need to become familiar with FISMA compliance and DISA STIG compliance.

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