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NIST Issues Draft Guide for IT System Security
Posted May 14, 2014
NIST Issues Draft Guide for IT System Security
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By Barry Levine. Updated May 14, 2014 2:45PM

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An initial public draft for IT systems' security guidelines was offered this week by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The publication proposes guidelines that are implemented at every level of IT systems.

The document, "Systems Security Engineering: An Integrated Approach to Building Trustworthy Resilient Systems," said that it is addressing the engineering actions needed "for developing a more defensible and survivable information technology structure."

"We need to have the same confidence in the trustworthiness of our IT products and systems that we have in the bridges we drive across or the airplanes we fly in," said NIST fellow Ron Ross in a statement. He added that civil engineers employ principles of physics and engineering when they build, say, bridges, and, similarly, systems security engineering processes can be employed to produce trustworthy IT components and systems, using scientific and engineering principles.

International Standards

The report is available at http://1.usa.gov/1qDPGNY.

It utilizes international standards for systems and software engineering from the International Organization for Standardization, the International Electrotechnical Commission, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

Eleven core systems processes for developing IT systems/software are addressed, with security recommendations for each process.

"The ultimate objective," the report said, "is to address security issues from a stakeholder requirements and protection needs perspective and to use established organizational processes to ensure that such requirements and needs are addressed early in and throughout the life cycle of the system."

The processes in the report cover stakeholder requirements definition process, requirements analysis, architectural design, implementation, integration, verification, transition, validation, operation, maintenance and disposal. Appendices include ones on information security risk management, use case scenarios, roles and responsibilities, security and trustworthiness, system resiliency, the Department of Defense engineering process, and acquisition considerations.

Final by December

While voluntary, governmental agencies and private companies that utilize these guidelines will be able to tout their compliance with NIST-recommended standards. NIST said that these guidelines, as best practices, could be applied to a wide range of systems, both small and large, general purpose and specialized, financial, defense and industrial control.

A final draft of the publication is targeted for December of this year. Revised drafts are expected to include use cases, risk management, and system resilience. The agency is seeking comments until July 11, which should be sent to sec-cert@nist.gov.

In February, NIST also released its "Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity," a separate voluntary standards effort for industry that had been ordered last year by a presidential directive.

The newest publication, first unveiled Tuesday at the University of Minnesota Technological Leadership Institute, is primarily targeted at the public sector, and resumes an effort begun two years ago under Vivek Kundra, who had been the first U.S. chief information officer.

In 2009, a task force between NIST and the intelligence agencies worked to standardize federal approaches to information security, and this report includes some of those results.

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