NIST releases cyber security guidelines for government contractors

The NIST has published a document for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) when it resides on contractors IT infrastructures.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a guideline, titled “Publication Citation: Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations“, for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) when it resides on contractor IT infrastructure networks or other non-federal systems.

“The protection of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) while residing in nonfederal information systems and organizations is of paramount importance to federal agencies and can directly impact the ability of the federal government to successfully carry out its designated missions and business operations. This publication provides federal agencies with recommended requirements for protecting the confidentiality of CUI: (i) when the CUI is resident in nonfederal information systems and organizations; (ii) when the information systems where the CUI resides are not used or operated by contractors of federal agencies or other organizations on behalf of those agencies; and (iii) where there are no specific safeguarding requirements for protecting the confidentiality of CUI prescribed by the authorizing law, regulation, or governmentwide policy for the CUI category or subcategory listed in the CUI Registry.” state the guidelines.

The NIST guidelines come a few weeks after the clamorous hack against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) which was caused by the non-compliance with some of the suggestions included in the document.

Ironically also the OPM used contractors in foreign countries, according to Ars Technica there were also contractors in China, are you surprised?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines aim to provide detailed instruction to US Federal agencies about how to protect sensitive data when it’s handled by contractors and outsiders.


The NIST publication covers various aspects of the cyber security when approaching with contractor services, including physical protection, access control, personnel security, audit and accountability, configuration management, ID and authentication, awareness and training, incident response, maintenance, media protection, risk assessment, security assessment, system and communications protection, system and information integrity.

The NIST publication (NIST SP – 800-171) is available online here.

Pierluigi Paganini

June 24, 2015

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