What is NIST CSF and why is it important?

What is NIST CSF and why is it important?

NIST is a federal agency within the US Department of Commerce that creates guidelines to facilitate innovation in the science and technology fields. NIST CSF stands for The National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework. 

Developed in 2014 as a result of Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13636, NIST CSF provides regulatory protocols for federal agencies and their partners. NIST CSF’s tech and cybersecurity principles are also adopted by private sector organizations.

Who needs to comply with NIST CSF? 

The NIST CSF compliance framework is only mandatory for federal agencies; however, if your company plans on doing business with the government as a contractor, partner, or vendor, you will likely need to comply with NIST CSF. 

Outside of federal compliance, the NIST framework is voluntarily adopted by many private sector organizations. Especially useful to small businesses, NIST CSF helps mitigate and respond to cybersecurity threats. The NIST framework can be customized to the individual needs and goals of each organization’s infrastructure. 

Can my business earn a NIST CSF certification?

The NIST agency does not award certifications or endorsements as a result of implementing its framework. However, businesses that do comply with the NIST framework can communicate or message their compliance practices. Self-attestation of NIST CSF is free of charge and does not require an audit to establish or maintain. 

What are NIST CSF’s five functions?


The Identify function assists businesses to understand possible cybersecurity risks that may occur across the organization. This means holistically examining a company’s people, processes, and technology in order to weed out any vulnerabilities. 


The Protect function requires companies to establish defensive protocols and best practices across the entire organization. This includes, but is not limited to, data protection, encryption, employee training, login management, and more. 


The Detect function helps companies develop a threat-discovery strategy in response to possible attacks. It’s important to limit the time it takes to react to infrastructural anomalies, investigate unusual activity, and troubleshoot challenges.


The Respond function helps businesses develop an effective process in the event of a security breach. During this critical time, the company needs to eliminate the threat while simultaneously continuing to conduct business. A communication plan must be established in order to inform all customers, vendors, and partners about the breach.  


The Recover function details exactly what to do after a company experiences a security breach and responds to it. People, processes, and technologies must be restored to normal daily operations. Measures must be taken to investigate the cause of the security breach and prevent it from happening again. 

What are the benefits of NIST CSF?

NIST CSF can help your organization better understand, handle, and continuously monitor cybersecurity risks it may encounter. Newer companies, as well as more mature organizations, can take advantage of what NIST CSF has to offer.

Customize the framework to your entire organization

Because cybersecurity is not a one-size-fits-all approach, there can be a lot of ambiguity and misrepresentation. NIST CSF isn’t a siloed, team-based framework—it considers the entire organization’s security posture. This common, unified approach to fortifying cybersecurity can then be tailored to your company’s goals.

Create new protocols or update existing ones

Young businesses can use NIST CSF to start fresh by designing a new cybersecurity program. This can be especially useful for startups or new companies that have yet to assemble cybersecurity defenses. Conversely, older companies that want to update cybersecurity protocols can rely on NIST CSF as a trusted source of modern best practices. 

Provide external proof of compliance best practices 

By complying with NIST CSF standards, companies can provide potential vendors, partners, and prospects with information about their security posture. The NIST framework helps businesses from different sectors and stages of growth find common ground when assessing cybersecurity expectations. 

Learn more about compliance and cybersecurity

What’s the difference between NIST CSF and ISO 27001? 

How proving security wins deals and enables growth

10 Steps to effective compliance risk management

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Setup access review procedures
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  • Set your access review frequency (monthly, quarterly, etc.) and working period/deadlines
Consolidate account access data from systems
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  • Upcoming integrations include Zoom and Intercom (account access), and Personio (HRIS)
  • Upload access files from non-integrated systems
  • View and select systems in-scope for the review
Review, approve, and deny user access
  • Select the appropriate systems reviewer and due date
  • Get automatic notifications and reminders to systems reviewer of deadlines
  • Automatic flagging of “risky” employee accounts that have been terminated or switched departments
  • Intuitive interface to see all accounts with access, account accept/deny buttons, and notes section
  • Track progress of individual systems access reviews and see accounts that need to be removed or have access modified
  • Bulk sort, filter, and alter accounts based on account roles and employee title
Assign remediation tasks to system owners
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Verify changes to access
  • Focused view of accounts flagged for access changes for easy tracking and management
  • Automated evidence of remediation completion displayed for integrated systems
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Report and re-evaluate results
  • Auditor can log into Vanta to see history of all completed access reviews
  • Internals can see status of reviews in progress and also historical review detail

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PCI Compliance Selection Guide

Determine Your PCI Compliance Level

If your organization processes, stores, or transmits cardholder data, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a global mandate created by major credit card companies. Compliance is mandatory for any business that accepts credit card payments.

When establishing strategies for implementing and maintaining PCI compliance, your organization needs to understand what constitutes a Merchant or Service Provider, and whether a Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) or Report on Compliance (ROC) is most applicable to your business.

Answer a few short questions and we’ll help identify your compliance level.


Does your business offer services to customers who are interested in your level of PCI compliance?


Identify your PCI SAQ or ROC level

The PCI Security Standards Council has established the below criteria for Merchant and Service Provider validation. Use these descriptions to help determine the SAQ or ROC that best applies to your organization.

Good news! Vanta supports all of the following compliance levels:


A SAQ A is required for Merchants that do not require the physical presence of a credit card (like an eCommerce, mail, or telephone purchase). This means that the Merchant’s business has fully outsourced all cardholder data processing to PCI DSS compliant third party Service Providers, with no electronic storage, processing, or transmission of any cardholder data on the Merchant’s system or premises.

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A SAQ A-EP is similar to a SAQ A, but is a requirement for Merchants that don't receive cardholder data, but control how cardholder data is redirected to a PCI DSS validated third-party payment processor.

Learn more about eCommerce PCI

for service providers

A SAQ D includes over 200 requirements and covers the entirety of PCI DSS compliance. If you are a Service Provider, a SAQ D is the only SAQ you’re eligible to complete.

Use our PCI checklist

Level 1 for service providers

A Report on Compliance (ROC) is an annual assessment that determines your organization’s ability to protect cardholder data. If you’re a Merchant that processes over six million transactions annually or a Service Provider that processes more than 300,000 transactions annually, your organization is responsible for both a ROC and an Attestation of Compliance (AOC).

Automate your ROC and AOC

Download this checklist for easy reference


Learn more about how Vanta can help. You can also find information on PCI compliance levels at the PCI Security Standards Council website or by contacting your payment processing partner.

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