Top 5 Cybersecurity Frameworks and Standards

Security in a digital world is a shaky and tricky ground to walk upon. It gets more sophisticated and transformed based on different industries and technologies as a cherry on top. As a result, standardization at some level becomes the wisest choice. That’s where security frameworks step in.

Cyber security frameworks are a set of standards and guidelines to help organizations mitigate the risk of a security breach. They make the life of information security professionals a little easier and protect your organization from attacks. But, the thing is finding the appropriate security frameworks for your company is not the easiest thing in the world.

On top of that, many regulations cross-reference multiple standards or frameworks. That’s why understanding which cybersecurity frameworks and standards apply to your organization and how you can comply with them is key. Let’s dive in.

What is a security framework?

A cybersecurity and regulatory framework is a structured set of guidelines, best practices, and standards aggregated to help organizations achieve compliance with regulatory requirements and laws applicable to their industry. In other words, a security framework is a methodology for collecting necessary pieces of evidence and documenting them into a cohesive whole to prove your organization’s capability to defend against malicious actors. 

Suggested reading: What is Continuous Compliance?

Benefits of a security framework

Security frameworks are often mandatory or strongly advised for organizations who want to comply with industry, state, federal, or international cybersecurity regulations. With these structured guidelines, your organization can:

  • Have a coherent view of your current security posture and the required steps to implement to achieve the desired posture
  • Ensure that they have all necessary security controls in place to prevent unauthorized access and other threats
  • Identify and harmonize regulatory mandates. 
  • Manage and mitigate risks
  • Understand evidence requirements and collect proof of compliance, supporting the veracity of the identification and harmonization
  • Integrate new requirements into your existing compliance processes
security frameworks guide

Common cybersecurity frameworks and standards

1. CIS Critical Security Controls

The CIS Controls were initially developed by the SANS institute and called the SANS Critical Controls. However, now it is managed by the Center for Internet Security (CIS) and developed by a community of experts such as companies, government agencies, and individuals. The CIS Controls are a set of recommended best practices for cyber defense, providing actionable ways to thwart attack vectors.

  • The CIS Controls are free to use by anyone.
  • The key benefit of the CIS Controls is prioritization, defining a starting point for cyber defense. 

Who is it for? The CIS Controls have been adopted by organizations of all sizes and global enterprises.

2. SOC 2 (Service Organization Control)

Developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), SOC 2 is a voluntary compliance standard for service organizations managing customer data. The criteria defined by SOC 2 are based on five “trust service principles,” which are: 

  • Security
  • Availability
  • Processing integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Privacy

SOC 2 compliance certification is issued by external auditors. While compliance with SOC 2 isn’t a requirement, it demonstrates that your company has adequate security controls in place to securely govern data. 

Who is it for? SOC 2 applies to any SaaS company or technology service provider that processes, stores, or handles customer data.

3. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Developed under Executive Order 13636, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides voluntary guidance for organizations to better manage and reduce security risks. It was first issued in February 2013 and developed to address the U.S. critical infrastructure, including healthcare delivery, water supplies, energy production, and communication.  

The NIST CSF is based on existing guidelines, standards, and practices for minimizing risks to critical infrastructure. At its core, the framework consists of five concurrent and continuous functions: identifying, protecting, detecting, responding, and recovering. These functions provide a holistic view of the lifecycle of an organization’s management of security risk.

Who is it for? Organizations of various sizes, from small businesses to federal agencies and public and private sectors, can use the NIST CSF as guidance. 

4. PCI DSS

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements for companies that process, store, manage, or transmit credit card information to maintain a secure environment. An independent body including VISA, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express, the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) manages the PCI DSS.

  • The core purpose of PCI DSS is to improve account security throughout the transaction process.

Who is it for? PCI DSS applies to all companies accepting payments, possessing, storing, managing, or transmitting credit card information and cardholder data. 

5. GDPR

General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) is a framework of privacy and security requirements that global organizations must comply with. While it is a law drafted and passed by the EU, its obligations impose on any organization so long as they target, handle, or collect data related to EU citizens. 

GDPR requirements include specific controls for preventing unauthorized access to stored user data and access control measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and role-based access. Failing to meet GDPR requirements is seen as a violation, which results in heavy fines. 

GDPR is based on a set of data protection principles:

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency
  • Purpose limitation
  • Data minimization 
  • Accuracy
  • Storage limitation
  • Integrity and confidentiality
  • Accountability

Who is it for? GDPR applies to any organization anywhere in the world, targeting, collecting, or handling personal data of the people in the European Union. 

How Resmo helps you stay continuously compliant

Resmo is a cyber asset visibility, security, and compliance solution for cloud, multi-cloud, and SaaS environments. It helps you monitor your asset inventory across your entire cyber environment and detect vulnerabilities in real-time. Here are a few ways you can utilize Resmo to stay compliant:

  • Use pre-made compliance packs or create custom packs to automatically assess your cloud and SaaS resources’ compliance posture and know exactly how to improve it.
  • Query your cyber assets to instantly see configurations and resource information. I.e., you can query your AWS accounts without MFA.
  • Set up rules to continuously check your resource conformance, such as access controls

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