Feel free to read the above mandates, but if you want my two cents, the changes are a combination of, “We realize folks aren’t very good at security,” and, “We’re gonna shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic to see if we can make people a little more comfortable.”
Objectives of the NIST 800-37 Risk Management Framework
There are seven major objectives for this update:
To provide closer linkage and communication between the risk management processes and activities at the C-suite or governance level of the organization and the individuals, processes, and activities at the system and operational level of the organization;
To institutionalize critical risk management preparatory activities at all risk management levels to facilitate a more effective, efficient, and cost-effective execution of the RMF;
To demonstrate how the NIST Cybersecurity Framework [NIST CSF] can be aligned with the RMF and implemented using established NIST risk management processes;
To integrate privacy risk management processes into the RMF to better support the privacy protection needs for which privacy programs are responsible;
To promote the development of trustworthy secure software and systems by aligning life cycle-based systems engineering processes in NIST Special Publication 800-160, Volume 1 [SP 800-160 v1], with the relevant tasks in the RMF;
To integrate security-related, supply chain risk management (SCRM) concepts into the RMF to address untrustworthy suppliers, insertion of counterfeits, tampering, unauthorized production, theft, insertion of malicious code, and poor manufacturing and development practices throughout the SDLC; and
To allow for an organization-generated control selection approach to complement the traditional baseline control selection approach and support the use of the consolidated control catalog in NIST Special Publication 800-53, Revision 5.
Adding the “Prepare” Step
The addition of the Prepare step is one of the key changes to the RMF—incorporated to achieve more effective, efficient, and cost-effective security and privacy risk management processes.
The primary objectives for institutionalizing organization-level and system-level preparations are:
To facilitate effective communication between senior leaders and executives at the organization and mission/business process levels and system owners at the operational level;
To facilitate organization-wide identification of common controls and the development of organizationally-tailored control baselines, reducing the workload on individual system owners and the cost of system development and asset protection;
To reduce the complexity of the information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) infrastructure using Enterprise Architecture concepts and models to consolidate, optimize, and standardize organizational systems, applications, and services;
To reduce the complexity of systems by eliminating unnecessary functions and security and privacy capabilities that do not address security and privacy risk; and
To identify, prioritize, and focus resources on the organization’s high value assets (HVA) that require increased levels of protection—taking measures commensurate with the risk to such assets.
Expected Capabilities Delivered by NIST 800-37
By achieving the above objectives, organizations can simplify RMF execution, employ innovative approaches for managing risk, and increase the level of automation when carrying out specific tasks.
Organizations implementing the RMF will be able to:
Use the tasks and outputs of the Organization-Level and System-Level Prepare step to promote a consistent starting point within organizations to execute the RMF;
Maximize the use of common controls at the organization level to promote standardized, consistent, and cost-effective security and privacy capability inheritance;
Maximize the use of shared or cloud-based systems, services, and applications to reduce the number of authorizations needed across the organization;
Employ organizationally-tailored control baselines to increase the speed of security and privacy plan development and the consistency of security and privacy plan content;
Employ organization-defined controls based on security and privacy requirements generated from a systems security engineering process;
Maximize the use of automated tools to manage security categorization; control selection, assessment, and monitoring; and the authorization process;
Decrease the level of effort and resource expenditures for low-impact systems if those systems cannot adversely affect higher-impact systems through system connections;
Maximize the reuse of RMF artifacts (e.g., security and privacy assessment results) for standardized hardware/software deployments, including configuration settings;
Reduce the complexity of the IT/OT infrastructure by eliminating unnecessary systems, system components, and services — employing the least functionality principle; and
Make the transition to ongoing authorization a priority and use continuous monitoring approaches to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of security and privacy programs.
Recognizing that the preparation for RMF execution may vary from organization to organization, achieving the above objectives can reduce the overall IT/OT footprint and attack surface of organizations, promote IT modernization objectives, conserve resources, prioritize security activities to focus protection strategies on the most critical assets and systems, and promote privacy protections for individuals.
If you want to read more about the supporting federal mandates regarding cybersecurity, read more. Otherwise, this might be a good breakpoint.
Defense Science Board Report (DSB) 2013
The Defense Science Board Report, Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat [DSB 2013], provides an assessment of the vulnerabilities in the United States Government, the U.S. critical infrastructure, and the systems supporting the mission-essential operations and assets in the public and private sectors. “…The Task Force notes that the cyber threat to U.S. critical infrastructure is outpacing efforts to reduce pervasive vulnerabilities, so that for the next decade at least the United States must lean significantly on deterrence to address the cyber threat posed by the most capable U.S. adversaries. It is clear that a more proactive and systematic approach to U.S. cyber deterrence is urgently needed…”
There is an urgent need to further strengthen the underlying information systems, component products, and services that we depend on in every sector of the critical infrastructure—ensuring that the systems, products, and services are sufficiently trustworthy throughout the system development life cycle (SDLC) and can provide the necessary resilience to support the economic and national security interests of the United States. System modernization, the increased use of automation, and the consolidation, standardization, and optimization of federal systems and networks to strengthen the protection for high value assets [OMB M-19-03], are key objectives for the federal government.
Executive Order (E.O.) 13800
Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure [EO 13800] recognizes the increasing interconnectedness of Federal information systems and requires heads of agencies to ensure appropriate risk management not only for the Federal agency’s enterprise, but also for the Executive Branch as a whole. The E.O. states: “…The executive branch operates its information technology (IT) on behalf of the American people. Its IT and data should be secured responsibly using all United States Government capabilities…” “…Cybersecurity risk management comprises the full range of activities undertaken to protect IT and data from unauthorized access and other cyber threats, to maintain awareness of cyber threats, to detect anomalies and incidents adversely affecting IT and data, and to mitigate the impact of, respond to, and recover from incidents…”
OMB Memorandum M-17-25
Reporting Guidance for Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure [OMB M-17-25] provides implementation guidance to Federal agencies for E.O. 13800. The memorandum states: “… An effective enterprise risk management program promotes a common understanding for recognizing and describing potential risks that can impact an agency’s mission and the delivery of services to the public. Such risks include, but are not limited to, strategic, market, cyber, legal, reputational, political, and a broad range of operational risks such as information security, human capital, business continuity, and related risks…” “… Effective management of cybersecurity risk requires that agencies align information security management processes with strategic, operational, and budgetary planning processes…”
OMB Circular A-130
Managing Information as a Strategic Resource [OMB A-130], addresses responsibilities for protecting federal information resources and for managing personally identifiable information (PII). Circular A-130 requires agencies to implement the RMF that is described in this guideline and requires agencies to integrate privacy into the RMF process. In establishing requirements for information security programs and privacy programs, the OMB circular emphasizes the need for both programs to collaborate on shared objectives: “While security and privacy are independent and separate disciplines, they are closely related, and it is essential for agencies to take a coordinated approach to identifying and managing security and privacy risks and complying with applicable requirements….” This update to NIST Special Publication 800-37 (Revision 2) responds to the call by the Defense Science Board, the Executive Order, and the OMB policy memorandum to develop the next generation Risk Management Framework (RMF) for information systems, organizations, and individuals.
Justin (he/him) is the founder and CEO of NuHarbor Security, where he continues to advance modern integrated cybersecurity services. He has over 20 years of cybersecurity experience, much of it earned while leading security efforts for multinational corporations, most recently serving as global CISO at Keurig Green Mountain Coffee. Justin serves multiple local organizations in the public interest, including his board membership at Champlain College.