NIST 800-53


NIST 800-53 is a publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that provides guidelines for security controls in federal information systems. It offers a comprehensive framework for managing cybersecurity risks and ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and information systems. The publication can be used by both federal agencies and private organizations to improve their overall information security posture.

Key Takeaways

  1. NIST 800-53 is a publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that provides guidelines and recommendations for federal agencies to achieve strong security control standards when managing and operating their information systems.
  2. The framework contains a comprehensive catalog of security controls, which are organized into 20 control families such as access control, system and communications protection, and incident response, to help protect agency data, networks, and systems from potential threats and vulnerabilities.
  3. NIST 800-53 is a flexible and scalable security guideline allowing organizations to tailor and select the appropriate controls depending on their specific needs and risk levels, making it widely applicable beyond federal agencies as well, including state and local governments, and private sector organizations.


NIST 800-53 is an important technology term as it refers to a key publication by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), outlining the security standards, guidelines, and best practices for federal information systems.

Titled “Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations,” the document is mandated under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) for achieving regulatory compliance, and plays a crucial role in ensuring the protection of federal information and infrastructure.

It provides a comprehensive catalog of security controls that federal agencies, contractors, and organizations must implement, review, and update regularly, enabling them to improve their cybersecurity posture, mitigate risks, and address emerging threats effectively.


NIST 800-53 serves a crucial purpose in the realm of cybersecurity and risk management for organizations, especially within the federal government sector in the United States. Established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), this comprehensive set of guidelines and controls helps organizations assess, implement, and maintain adequate security measures to protect their information systems and ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information.

The primary goal of NIST 800-53 is to provide a systemic framework that identifies potential risks and vulnerabilities in an organization’s information systems, while prescribing effective countermeasures to safeguard critical information assets and prevent unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction of these assets. With the increasing reliance on technology and the rapid advancement of threats posed by malicious entities, NIST 800-53 has become an indispensable tool in fostering a robust security posture within organizations.

The framework allows organizations to develop tailored security plans according to their specific operational requirements, risk tolerance, and mission objectives. As a result, NIST 800-53 drives the implementation of risk-based security measures which are aligned with the principles of federal legislation, such as the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA). By employing NIST 800-53, organizations not only demonstrate compliance with regulations, but they also foster a proactive security culture that continuously adapts to the evolving threat landscape, ensuring the protection of their information systems and critical assets.

Examples of NIST 800-53

NIST 800-53 is a publication titled “Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations” by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It provides guidelines for implementing security controls to protect government information systems and networks. Here are three real-world examples of organizations or systems using NIST 800-53:

The United States Department of Defense (DoD): The DoD requires compliance with NIST 800-53 for many of its information systems, ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data. By following these guidelines, the DoD helps to safeguard sensitive information related to national security, military operations, and personnel records.

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP): This government-wide program was designed to facilitate the adoption of cloud services by federal agencies. It provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and monitoring of cloud service offerings. Cloud service providers that wish to serve federal agencies must adhere to the security requirements found in NIST 800-53, ensuring that their systems and data are protected against a wide range of potential threats.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Department: The HHS operates the website, which allows individuals to access the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. The website contains personal and sensitive information of millions of individuals, such as social security numbers, financial information, and medical histories. To protect this data from theft or misuse, the HHS follows NIST 800-53 guidelines for developing and maintaining the security of the system.

Frequently Asked Questions: NIST 800-53

What is NIST 800-53?

NIST 800-53 is a set of guidelines published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that provides a catalog of security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations.

What is the purpose of NIST 800-53?

The purpose of NIST 800-53 is to help federal agencies and organizations to implement adequate security and privacy controls that can protect their information systems and data from potential threats, vulnerabilities, and other risks.

Who must comply with NIST 800-53?

All federal agencies, their contractors, and other organizations handling federal data must comply with NIST 800-53. It may also be adopted voluntarily by other organizations as a best practice for information security management.

What are the key components of NIST 800-53?

NIST 800-53 is divided into 18 control families that cover various aspects of information security and privacy, including access control, audit and accountability, risk management, incident response, and system and information integrity. Each family includes numerous individual security controls, which are organized into different levels of impact (low, moderate, and high).

How often is NIST 800-53 updated?

NIST 800-53 is updated periodically to keep up with evolving cyber threats and technologies. The most recent revision, Revision 5, was published in September 2020, and replaced the previous Revision 4, which was published in 2013.

What is the relationship between NIST 800-53 and FedRAMP?

FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is a government-wide program that standardizes the approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. FedRAMP uses NIST 800-53 as a basis for its security control requirements, and cloud service providers seeking FedRAMP authorization must comply with selected controls from the NIST 800-53 framework.

Related Technology Terms

  • Risk Management Framework (RMF)
  • Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)
  • Security Controls
  • Information Assurance (IA)
  • Security Assessment and Authorization (SA&A)

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