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Managing Manufacturing Data: How to Protect IP and Achieve NIST 800-171 Compliance

Manufacturers in the United States perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector R&D in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector. Being the driving force for economic growth and innovation does not come without its challenges—protecting intellectual property (IP) and meeting NIST Cybersecurity Framework requirements are chief among them.

Securing Your IP

The first, protecting IP, cannot be overstated in terms of value—it is the lifeblood of any company. In fact, IP theft costs U.S. companies as much as $600 billion each year. When it comes to protecting proprietary information in the manufacturing industry, cybercrimes targeted at companies are designed to not only steal IP but cause physical disruption to operations and produce black-market replicas. Therefore, understanding what puts your organization at risk, and how to mitigate those risks is essential for data protection and security.

  • The supply chain is a massive threat vector. Sharing data is essential for collaboration but the more service providers, contractors and third-party suppliers that come in contact with your IP, the more at-risk you become. Over the last year, 56% of organizations have had a breach that was caused by one of their vendors.
  • Legacy manufacturing infrastructures aren’t equipped to defend against modern attack methods. Aging patchworks of vendors and equipment combined with perimeter-only security is an open invitation for cyberattackers.

Modernizing the supply chain with end-to-end encryption will ensure unauthorized parties—such as competitors or attackers—will not be able to access your proprietary data, like confidential R&D plans and product roadmap details.

Data Protection 101 with NIST 800-171

For manufacturers servicing the US government, protecting IP and sensitive data is not just a best practice, it is required for NIST 800-171 compliance.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory government agency that provides a set of standards for recommended security controls for information systems to federal agencies. As such, the standards set forth by NIST are a critical resource for security among manufacturing companies that are a part of any government supply chain.

The main benefit of NIST compliance is that it helps to ensure an organization’s infrastructure is secure. Therefore, compliance with NIST guidelines—specifically NIST 800-171—has quickly become a top priority for organizations handling controlled unclassified information (CUI) such as emails, drawings, patents, personnel records, sales orders, or contracts. NIST 800-171 aims to help organizations that are a part of the government supply chain ensure that their systems that process CUI are secure and controlled. That means that a private sector firm—such as a hardware manufacturer that supplies the federal government— is subject to the requirements laid out in NIST 800-171.

How to Achieve NIST 800-171 Compliance

NIST 800-171 is comprised of 14 control families that establish guidelines for protecting CUI when stored and transmitted by non-federal systems and organizations:

  1. Access Control – Monitor all access events and limit access to systems and data.
  2. Awareness and Training Ensure that managers and all users are aware of the security risks by providing security training on a regular basis.
  3. Audit and Accountability – Collect, analyze, and retain audit logs to detect unauthorized activity.
  4. Configuration Management – Establish and maintain baseline configurations and monitor user-installed software.
  5. Identification and Authentication – Verify the identity of all users and devices in your network by using multifactor authentication and upholding a strong password policy.
  6. Incident Response – Develop an incident response strategy and implement processes to detect, analyze, and respond to security incidents.
  7. Maintenance – Perform regular system maintenance.
  8. Media Protection – Ensure the security of both paper and digital media by limiting access and ensuring proper disposal.
  9. Physical Protection – Protect your hardware software, networks, and data from damage and loss by controlling physical access.
  10. Personnel Security – Monitor all user activities and protect systems that contain CUI.
  11. Risk Assessment – Regularly evaluate potential risks to your systems.
  12. Security Assessment – Monitor and assess its security controls to determine if they are effective enough and develop a plan to reduce security vulnerabilities in critical systems.
  13. System and Communications Protection – Prevent the unauthorized transfer of information by monitoring, controlling, and protecting information that is transmitted by your systems.
  14. System and Information Integrity – Identify and correct system flaws, and protect critical assets from malicious code.

Protect IP and CUI, Wherever It Is Shared

First things first, evaluate your current infrastructure to determine where you are currently NIST compliant and where you need to improve. Based off of this gap analysis, you’ll see what changes you need to make and which features to look for in selecting a solution to help protect IP and CUI. With Virtru’s end-to-end encryption, manufacturers can ensure sensitive data is protected at the object level, reducing your organizations risk of IP theft, and helping to achieve NIST 800-171 compliance. Learn more about how Virtru helps with NIST compliance and protecting your IP.

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