Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the document advises federal agencies to put continuous monitoring in place. Software, firmware, hardware, operations, and threats change constantly. Within that flux, security needs to be managed in a structured way, Ross says.
"We need to recognize that we work in a very dynamic operational environment," Ross says. "That allows us to have an ongoing and continuing acceptance and understanding of risk, and that ongoing determination may change our thinking on whether current controls are sufficient."
The continuous risk management step might include use of automated configuration scanning tools, vulnerability scanning, and intrusion detection systems, as well as putting in place processes to monitor and update security guidance and assessments of system security requirements.
NIST will keep public comment on Special Publication 800-37 open until the end of the year.
The new document is the second in a series of five that aims to create a more consistent, unified framework for federal cybersecurity. A consortium of agencies, which includes representatives from the military, intelligence agencies, and civilian agencies, is behind the creation of the series.
The first in the series, Special Publication 800-53, provided updated recommendations on security controls. The other three documents will advise federal agencies on how to assess the effectiveness of security measures, provide an enterprise architecture lens through which to look at cybersecurity, and how to assess risk and tackle existing problems.
Over the coming year or two, NIST also plans to help integrate cybersecurity guidance into the government's official Federal Enterprise Architecture methodology, release a technical cybersecurity framework for systems and security engineering, and take on a more public face to encourage culture change in terms of cybersecurity.