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NIST Maturity Levels

The costs of a successful cyberattack can be far-reaching, from loss of sensitive data to reputational fallout with customers. Therefore, it is important for businesses of all sizes to consider their cybersecurity practices in relation to how effective they are against threats.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed a Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) to help organisations understand just how robust their cybersecurity protocols are and provide a roadmap of how to enhance them.

Part of NIST CSF is the NIST maturity level model, which is designed to help businesses understand just how sophisticated their digital security is. Continue reading to learn what the NIST maturity levels are, why they are important, and tips on improving your organisation’s NIST CSF maturity.

What are NIST CSF maturity levels

NIST maturity levels are integral for organisations to evaluate and enhance their cybersecurity position and strengths. The model includes four levels of maturity, from partial to adaptive, each representing just how prepared an organisation is to manage cyber threats. The four NIST maturity levels are:

Level 1 – Partial

Organisations that fall in this level of maturity need a robust and organised cybersecurity risk assessment and management process. While Level 1 organisations might have ad hoc or isolated threat response practices in place, they lack the ability to effectively identify, assess, and mitigate risks.

Level 2: – Risk-Informed

Level 2 organisations are better equipped to deal with cyberattacks than Level 1 organisations. Level 2 organisations have developed and implemented procedures and policies for dealing with risks.

Level 3 – Repeatable

Level 3 organisations have a standardized approach to cybersecurity risk management. The processes they have developed can be repeated to more effectively identify and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

Level 4 – Adaptive

Organisations at Level 4 are the most mature. These businesses have implemented a proactive cybersecurity approach. IT teams work to stay ahead of maturing risks. Processes are continuously improved to effectively identify and manage risks and to navigate the ever-changing risk landscape.

Why are NIST maturity levels important?

The NIST CSF maturity levels are important because they enable organisations to have a more robust understanding of their current cybersecurity policies and protocols. By following these maturity levels, businesses can clearly gauge their readiness to detect, identify and respond to cyberattacks. It also enables businesses to see where they can improve to advance to the next level of maturity.

How to enhance your NIST CSF maturity

Businesses looking to understand and enhance their CSF maturity can use the following steps:

  1. Understand your current maturity level – audit your cybersecurity protocols and policies to get a comprehensive understanding of where you currently stand.
  2. Create a maturity roadmap – set and prioritize measurable goals to build towards to enhance your cybersecurity posture.
  3. Build from the bottom up – prioritize foundational goals upon which you can build an extensive cybersecurity framework.
  4. Build on existing policies – if your organisation has foundations in place, you don’t need to start from square one. Build on what’s working.
  5. Continuous improvement – continue to monitor, measure and improve your cybersecurity protocols and policies. As threats become more sophisticated, so must your capabilities to manage them.

NIST 800-53 maturity levels

While the NIST maturity levels were developed to correspond to CSF, businesses that want to be compliant with NIST 800-53 can use the NIST 800-53 controls to understand how their existing policies can be improved to meet compliance standards. Learn more about NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-53 controls.