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NIST SP 800-53 rev 3 - Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems
on Tuesday 06 December 2011 print the content item {PDF=create pdf file of the content item^plugin:content.18}
in Publications > Special Publications - SP 800 series

The purpose of this publication is to provide guidelines for selecting and specifying security controls for information systems supporting the executive agencies of the federal government. The guidelines apply to all components of an information system that process, store, or transmit federal information. The SP 800-53 guidelines were developed to help achieve more secure information systems within the federal government.

Download NIST Special Publication 800-53 Revision 3. Errata as of May 1, 2010

Please use the Forum to ask questions or discuss this document. Members can use the comment link below for short comments about this publication.

The SP 800-53 rev. 3 document was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and is public domain (not subject to copyright).

(The below SP 800-53 rev.3 description is from, edited)

The implementation of appropriate security controls for an information system is an important task that can have major implications on the operations and assets of an organization. Security controls are the management, operational, and technical safeguards or countermeasures prescribed for an information system to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the system and its information. There are several important questions that should be answered by organizational officials when addressing the security considerations for their information systems:

  • What security controls are needed to adequately protect the information systems that support the operations and assets of the organization in order to accomplish its assigned mission, protect its assets, fulfill its legal responsibilities, maintain its day-to-day functions, and protect individuals?
  • Have the selected security controls been implemented or is there a realistic plan for their implementation?
  • What is the desired or required level of assurance (i.e., grounds for confidence) that the selected security controls, as implemented, are effective3 in their application?

An effective IT security program should include:
  • Periodic assessments of risk, including the magnitude of harm that could result from the unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction of information and information systems that support the operations and assets of the organization;
  • Policies and procedures that are based on risk assessments, cost-effectively reduce information security risks to an acceptable level, and ensure that information security is addressed throughout the life cycle of each organizational information system;
  • Subordinate plans for providing adequate information security for networks, facilities, information systems, or groups of information systems, as appropriate;
  • Security awareness training to inform personnel (including contractors and other users of information systems that support the operations and assets of the organization) of the information security risks associated with their activities and their responsibilities in complying with organizational policies and procedures designed to reduce these risks;
  • Periodic testing and evaluation of the effectiveness of information security policies, procedures, practices, and security controls to be performed with a frequency depending on risk, but no less than annually;
  • A process for planning, implementing, evaluating, and documenting remedial actions to address any deficiencies in the information security policies, procedures, and practices of the organization;
  • Procedures for detecting, reporting, and responding to security incidents; and
  • Plans and procedures to ensure continuity of operations for information systems that support the operations and assets of the organization.

It is of paramount importance that responsible individuals within the organization understand the risks and other factors that could adversely affect their operations and assets. Moreover, these officials must understand the current status of their security programs and the security controls planned or in place to protect their information systems in order to make informed judgments and investments that appropriately mitigate risks to an acceptable level. The ultimate objective is to conduct the day-to-day operations of the organization and to accomplish the organization’s stated missions with what the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130 defines as adequate security, or security commensurate with risk, including the magnitude of harm resulting from the unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction of information.

NIST Special Publication # 800-53
Publication Date 1 May 2010

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