A Closer Look at NIST SP 800 53 Access Control Requirements

What is NIST SP 800 53?

NIST SP 800-53 is a publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that provides a comprehensive set of security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations. The main goal of these controls is to help federal organizations comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which mandates that federal agencies implement programs to secure their information and infrastructure.

The controls in NIST SP 800-53 are organized into families, covering areas such as access control, incident response, and system and communications protection. They are designed to address various security requirements and risks, and they can be tailored to the specific needs of different organizations.

NIST SP 800-53 also supports the Risk Management Framework (RMF) by NIST, which provides a structured process for selecting, implementing, and monitoring the effectiveness of the security controls to protect organizational operations and assets. The publication is widely used not only by federal agencies but also by many non-federal organizations seeking to improve their security posture.

What organizations are subject to NIST SP 800 53 requirements?

NIST SP 800-53 requirements primarily apply to all U.S. federal agencies, except for national security systems. This includes any executive agencies or departments that operate federal information systems. Additionally, state agencies that handle federal data, or any private sector organizations that work under contract with the federal government to handle federal information, may also need to comply with these requirements.

Organizations outside of the federal government, such as state and local governments, or private sector entities, might voluntarily adopt NIST SP 800-53 controls to enhance their security posture, particularly if they handle sensitive or critical information. These controls are often used as a benchmark for best practices in information security and risk management.

What access control requirements are laid out in NIST SP 800 53?

NIST SP 800-53 outlines a comprehensive set of access control requirements designed to restrict access to resources to authorized users, processes, or devices. These requirements are categorized under the "Access Control" family, designated as "AC." Some of the key access control requirements in NIST SP 800-53 include:

  1. Access Enforcement (AC-3): Ensure that access to information systems and the data they process and store is controlled and that users are granted access based on the principle of least privilege.
  2. Account Management (AC-2): Manage user accounts, including establishing conditions for group membership, roles, and user privileges. It also involves monitoring the use of shared accounts and ensuring that accounts are disabled when necessary.
  3. Separation of Duties (AC-5): Ensure that duties and responsibilities are divided among different individuals to reduce the risk of unauthorized actions or fraud.
  4. Least Privilege (AC-6): Limit user access to the minimum necessary to perform their job functions.
  5. Unsuccessful Login Attempts (AC-7): Define and enforce actions when a maximum number of unsuccessful login attempts is reached, such as locking the account for a defined period or until reset by an administrator.
  6. System Use Notification (AC-8): Display system use information upon login, informing users of their privacy and security responsibilities.
  7. Remote Access (AC-17): Manage and control remote access methods, including providing adequate supervision and monitoring of remote access sessions.
  8. Wireless Access Restrictions (AC-18): Restrict and manage wireless access, including safeguarding wireless connections and protecting the confidentiality and integrity of transmitted information.
  9. Access Control for Mobile Devices (AC-19): Control connection of mobile devices, including implementing policies to manage the security of mobile devices accessing the system.

These controls are designed to be configurable and adaptable to the specific security needs of an organization, with the implementation details varying based on the sensitivity of the system and information being protected.

How can NAC help meet NIST SP 800 53 requirements?

Network Access Control (NAC) can be a powerful tool in meeting the requirements of NIST SP 800-53, particularly in managing and enforcing access control policies across an organization’s network. NAC solutions help ensure that only authorized and compliant devices are allowed to access network resources, aligning well with several specific access control requirements of NIST SP 800-53. Here are some ways in which NAC can help:

  1. Access Enforcement (AC-3): NAC systems can enforce access policies based on user roles, device compliance status, and other criteria. By dynamically controlling access to network resources, NAC ensures that only authorized users and devices can access sensitive information.
  2. Account Management (AC-2): While NAC does not manage user accounts directly, it can integrate with identity management solutions to apply access policies based on user account status, group membership, and other attributes.
  3. Least Privilege (AC-6): NAC solutions can enforce the principle of least privilege by restricting network access to what is necessary for users to perform their duties. This can be based on user roles, the types of devices they are using, the security posture of those devices, and the network segments they are attempting to access.
  4. Unsuccessful Login Attempts (AC-7): NAC systems can limit the number of login attempts from a device to a network resource and can take action, such as blocking the device or alerting administrators, if the threshold is exceeded.
  5. System Use Notification (AC-8): NAC can be configured to provide notifications to users upon attempting to access the network, informing them of the terms of use and any privacy considerations.
  6. Remote Access (AC-17) and Wireless Access Restrictions (AC-18): NAC can specifically control and monitor remote and wireless access requests, ensuring that such connections meet organizational security policies before allowing access.
  7. Access Control for Mobile Devices (AC-19): NAC is particularly effective in managing the connection of mobile devices to the network, ensuring that they meet security standards before granting access and continuously monitoring these devices.

By leveraging NAC, organizations can automate and streamline compliance with NIST SP 800-53 by ensuring that network access controls are consistently applied and aligned with the security requirements outlined in the standards.