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Knowing NIST Special Publication 800-171 and Its Requirements

Because the US federal government is now outsourcing service providers to assist in carrying out a wide range of federal projects and business activities, using the federal government’s information system, and due to the sensitive information being used in the projects, the Department of Defense is now requiring service provider operators, contractors and subcontractors, dealing with Covered Defense Information (CDI) to take protective and preventive measures on their cyber security, such that the Defense Department requires that outsourced operators be NIST Special Publication 800-171 compliant as early or before December 31, 2017.

NIST Special Publication 800-171 is an outlined general procedure and information that delineates how information systems and policies are to be set-up and complied by service operators to protect government information, particularly called Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), which can directly affect the normal activities of the federal government to successfully deliver its operations. These outsource service providers are hired to perform many routine works, such as the processing, storing and transmitting of federal information in their information computer system, delivering these data information (for example, providing credit card and financial services, providing Web and electronic mail services, conducting background investigations for security clearances, processing healthcare, providing cloud services, developing communications satellite and weapons systems) to federal agencies and, therefore, it is of paramount importance that a system be adopted to protect the sensitivity of this form of work by way of requiring all outsourced service providers to be compliant to NIST Special Publication 800-171.

To be NIST Special Publication 800-171 compliant, as a hired government contractor, you can either follow the step-by-step process requirements, using these procedures – gap analysis and providing an incident response plan, or hire a professional group to help you comply with the requirement.

By conducting a security analysis of your system processing, of which this is referred to as gap analysis, you need to check and go over all the control gaps of your network based on the policies of NIST Special Publication 800-171 and find out if your current projects and systems used comply and finding out which areas need to be compliant, such that in doing so you have to work this out with your staff by helping them investigate on the network map, as well as configurations, and thorough checking on the compliance checklist especially with respect to the processing treatment of Controlled Unclassified Information. To be able to meet up with complying to the NIST Special Publication 800-171 requirement, as a government contractor handling sensitive information data, it is obligatory at your end to analyse the results of the gap analysis so that further changes may be introduced into securing or protecting the system from cyber intrusion or an insider investigation which can be prevented if you have introduced a two factor authentication process where there are no shared passwords, as well as coming up with an incident response plan in case of a cyber attack.

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