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NIST 800-171 vs. 800-53: what’s the difference between NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171?

NIST 800-171 and NIST 800-53 are two cybersecurity standards developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Both of these standards provide security controls that can be implemented to reach a standard level of IT and information systems infrastructure security.

Despite having similar designs and goals, there is one key difference between NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171: NIST 800-53 is a mandatory compliance standard for federal information systems, agencies, and contractors that work with the United States government. NIST 800-171, on the other hand, is a mandatory compliance standard for non-federal systems that handle Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).

Continue reading to learn more about the similarities and differences between NIST 800-171 and NIST 800-53.

NIST 800-171 overview

NIST 800-171 establishes guidelines for protecting sensitive information on the IT systems and networks of federal contractors. Through mandating top-tier cybersecurity practices for government contractors, the overall resilience of the federal supply chain is bolstered. NIST 800-171 focuses on safeguarding CUI to ensure that such sensitive data stored on contractors’ networks remains secure.

NIST 800-53 overview

NIST 800-53 is a security compliance standard designed to secure the information and IT systems of federal agencies. The standard provides guidelines to secure any part of a federal information system that stores, processes, or transmits federal information. NIST 800-53 is also concerned with ensuring the safeguarding of classified data within federal systems.

NIST SP 800-171 vs. 800-53: Similarities

These two standards bear many similarities. These include:

  • Both are frameworks that provide security standards for systems and organisations that work with government data.
  • Both standards take a risk-based approach and utilise security control families.
  • The controls used by each are designed to address various cybersecurity aspects, like access control, incident response, risk assessment, and system monitoring.

NIST 800-171 vs 800-53: Differences

There are also some key differences between these two standards. These include:

  • NIST 800-53 is mandatory for federal information systems and agencies that work with the US government, while NIST 800-171 is mandatory for contractors that work with the US government.
  • NIST 800-53 includes standards for securing classified data, whereas NIST 800-171 is intended to secure systems that house CUI, which is sensitive data that is not classified.

Learn more about NIST compliance standards

If you want to learn more about NIST standards and compliance, you can find more information in our NIST 800-53 information hub. Or, contact us today to learn more about how Hicomply can help you reach compliance standards.