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6 Steps to Apply the Risk Management Framework to Your Company’s Data Security

To address the changing threat landscape in the world of cyber, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) periodically updates its Risk Management Framework (RMF). The RMF is a standards-based, security-by-design process, required for all IT systems within DoD agencies. As an added precaution, federal contractors should be held to the same standards.

While companies that provide U.S. military and intelligence agencies with products and services have long faced espionage-motivated attacks, they’re now also confronting outside attacks that aim to prevent or sabotage their operations.

The incentive to steal secrets is twofold: Other countries seek to obtain secrets to generally boost their awareness about U.S. military operations or they attempt to steal intellectual property from defense contractors, like weapon designs, to be integrated into their own defense operations.

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Cybersecurity evolves daily to counter these threats posed by criminals, nation states, insiders and others. Use the following six steps to apply Risk Management Framework (RMF) to your organization’s data security approach to confront threats and improve technology and security processes.

6 Steps to Implementing the Risk Management Framework

Step 1. Categorize

Take inventory of all the enterprise data in your environment, whether located on a local drive or in the cloud. Identify sensitive data that is open to unauthorized users and stale data with no immediate operational value.  

Step 2: Select

After identifying critical information, select the relevant controls for your system based on FIPS 200 and NIST Special Publication 800-53. At the data level, reduce risk by quarantining, archiving, or deleting stale data in keeping with your agency’s policy on data retention and disposition.

Limit access to sensitive information by reviewing global access groups and eliminating unused or empty groups or those with non-expiring passwords. Fix inconsistent or broken access control lists and remove expired or so-called “ghost” users.

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Step 3: Implement

Create or refine the incident response plan by training staff on day-to-day management, reporting and user permissions, and active directory management. Once you know where your most important data is located, monitor and limit who has access to it. Be prepared to investigate any unusual patterns of access.

Step 4: Assess

Be prepared to respond by investigating potential security risks and prioritizing remediation. Automation can help ensure an agency’s security policy is maintained, deviations are corrected, and a least-privilege model is maintained. Regularly monitor and quarantine files and ensure your agency’s sensitive and stale date is handled correctly.

Step 5: Authorize

Implement authorized data workflow and policy. In an emergency, be prepared to enforce the policy by correcting deviations and return to a trusted state. Ensure data that may have been affected as part of the incident is protected by archiving, deleting, and migrating to other  locations.

Step 6: Monitor

Once data security is in place, you must sustain and continuously improve. The RMF stresses continuous monitoring. Monitor security controls via automation and ensure your organization’s “cyber hygiene” is maintained and monitored. The status of security control compliance should be monitored, and a change should initiate a review of the authorization at any time.

Cybersecurity is no longer a suggestion, but a necessity for companies. To stay ahead of potential cybersecurity threats, companies and their contractors must take a data-first approach to securing information. Consider applying the Risk Management Framework to reduce risk, decrease complexity, and improve operational efficiency.


H2L Solutions provides cyber security services to include Risk Management Framework, Penetration Testing, Network Security, Cyber Threat Analysis and Mitigation, and more. Discover more about our services.

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H2L Solutions implements, tests, administers, and sustains cybersecurity solutions. We have a staff of information security professionals skilled in the development and management of cybersecurity programs. Our professionals assist our clients with multiple layers of information assurance and cybersecurity requirements.