A Basic Guide to NIST Compliance for Government Contractors

A Basic Guide to NIST Compliance for Government Contractors

What is NIST compliance, and why is it essential to government contractors? Our HRCT team has put together this guide to help you stay fully compliant.  

If you do business with the government, you need to be very aware of standards set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These guidelines are, severe and failure to comply with them can quickly jeopardize your ability to bid for new contracts and keep existing ones. Here is what you need to know.
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What is NIST Compliance?

As an agency within the United States Department of Commerce, NIST is tasked with creating standards for the science and technology sectors. Most compliance guidelines set forth by NIST are designed to assist federal agencies in maintaining compliance under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and other related regulations.

Following NIST compliance guidelines are generally not mandatory if you do not engage in government contracts. However, the guidelines they’ve put forth are so stringent that they also help civilian companies assess security risks quite effectively, too. They are still helpful in that following them to the letter can ensure your business is in compliance with other government guidelines, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other industry-specific mandates.

While there are hundreds of different mandates associated with NIST standards, the basis is simple. The guidelines are designed to offer a wide range of best practices for anyone who deals with sensitive information and is detailed enough that every business should pay attention to active compliance.

Who Needs to Pay Strict Attention to NIST Compliance Standards?

Just about any business organization can benefit from paying strict attention to NIST compliance standards. But those who act as subcontractors of the government or do business with city, state, or federal organizations should pay particular attention. A few of the most common include:

  • Government contractors who provide manufacturing services;
  • Government contractors who provide research or engineering services;
  • Third-party data administration firms who handle outsourced tasks for the government;
  • Colleges and universities that have specific government contracts;
  • Companies that work with municipalities in the criminal justice field,
  • Service providers who work in any capacity with a governmental body.

Of course, that is just a small list of the types of businesses that need to pay close attention to NIST compliance standards. Mainly, if your company handles any personal or classified data as part of a government contract, you want to adhere to NIST protocols.

Again, these standards aren’t just crucial for government contractors. Doctors, attorneys, accountants, and anyone else who regularly handles personal and sensitive data information should consider integrating many of these guidelines into their existing cybersecurity protocols.

Why Is NIST Compliance Important and What Happens If You’re Found Not to Be Compliant?

The reason why NIST compliance is essential has to do with data security. As data breaches and hacking incidents become more common, your company must take steps all necessary steps to keep these issues from happening to your organization. By following these guidelines, you can rest assured that the chance of an incident happening is minimized.

Furthermore, there are some serious ramifications of not being in NIST compliance. For example, government contractors can be found in breach of contract, which could effectively cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in mutual work interests. In certain extreme situations, these issues could even lead to legal action or criminal negligence filings. In short, it is highly beneficial for companies to remain NIST compliant from the very beginning to keep the chance of any issues from ever happening.

Who Offers NIST Compliance Services?

Remaining in compliance with all NIST standards can sometimes be difficult—especially when they change periodically and could be considered by some as intensely complex. Instead of attempting this major task by yourself, most companies opt to hire a third-party administrator. HRCT proudly offers a full range of NIST compliance services for a wide range of industries. Please contact us today for more details.