NIST VS ISO27001 Know the Key Difference 


When businesses are new to cybersecurity, they often wonder whether the NIST framework is a better choice or whether the ISO27001 standard is a better option. Well, an appropriate response to this would all depend on what an organization is looking to achieve from a cybersecurity perspective. NIST CSF and ISO27001 standards are both popular and widely adopted cybersecurity frameworks in the industry. Businesses looking to strengthen their cybersecurity program and confused between both frameworks must first understand the key differences and similarities. 

While an organization can use both the framework for better security and risk management, but if it comes to selecting one for the organization, then understanding which framework fits better and applies to your business must be analyzed. So, let us today, in this article explore the details and understand the key difference between NIST VS ISO27001 frameworks. 

Key Difference between NIST Framework Vs. ISO27001 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the International Standardization Organization (ISO) both are globally accepted standards and frameworks for the information security of an organization. So, when an organization is looking to improve their cybersecurity program and approach towards security and risk management they end up at the common crossroad of choosing either the NIST Framework or ISO 27001. So, to give better clarity and perspective of both the framework and what may work better for your organization, we have shared some key differences between both the frameworks. 

NIST Framework Vs ISO27001

Titles NIST Framework ISO27001 Framework
Purpose NIST Framework was created to facilitate Federal Agencies & organizations to improve and manage risk.  ISO27001 is an international framework and a popular information security management standard.  
Framework  NIST comprises three main sections including the Framework Core, Implementation Tiers & Profiles. Each Core Function consists of categories that are required to be completed for that function to be considered fulfilled.  ISO27001 is risk-based management that consists of recommendations on how best to secure information in the organization. 
Certification The framework is voluntary and involves self-assessment and compliance  The framework is voluntary but requires auditors and certification bodies to certification of compliance. 
Security Controls NIST comprises of various control catalogs – 5 functions, 21 categories & 78 sub categories  ISO27001 Comprises Annex A that has 14 Control Domains, with 114 total controls
Risk Maturity NIST is considered best for organizations that are in the early stages of developing a risk management plan.  ISO 27001, comparatively, is better for operationally mature organizations.
Updates NIST Framework was established in the year 2014 and later updated in the year 2018 and now an updated NIST CSF 2.0 version in August 2022 is all set to reflect the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape. ISO27001 is an international Standard and framework released in the year 2005 and then was last updated in the year 2013 but with only cosmetic changes that does not really address challenges of the current cybersecurity landscape.
Implementation Time frame NIST security control implementation can be done at your own pace and is not officially time-bound.  ISO27001 security control implementations are time bound because it requires an external auditor to test and verify and further based on whether the organization clears the audit provide certification of compliance.  
Cost Since NIST is a self-attestation process, the cost or expenses are not high.  ISO27001 requires external auditors to perform an audit and certification. So, ISO27001 Certifications are expensive. 


Which framework should an organization select for Cybersecurity? 

Organizations are often confused between both frameworks and wonder whether to consider ISO27001 or the NIST framework. Well, I believe a lot of factors need to be considered for taking the right decision. Depending on your cyber security goals, budget, and even the level of cyber security maturity, and risk management program, you should take the call for your business in terms of which framework is the most suitable. However,   generally speaking, if you are a start-up or a new business looking to establish and improve a cybersecurity program, especially when you are on a low budget, then NIST is probably the right choice. 

When we talk about the NIST framework, it identifies the current Cyber Security Maturity level and sets out a clear plan to mitigate the risks based on priority. It also facilitates decision-making about technology choices and identifies risks that need to be addressed immediately. For these reasons, the NIST framework is seen as a good start for organizations looking to build a cyber-security program. 

However, if you are looking to demonstrate a strong cyber security commitment and verify the effectiveness of a mature risk management system, then ISO27001 is the right choice.  Organizations that are better prepared and looking to progress further in building robust security programs must consider ISO 27001. 

Final Thought 

In conclusion, we believe it is essential for the organization to first understand where they stand in the industry and know their goals and priorities concerning cybersecurity. Organizations need to think and identify which framework may add more value in the long run. That said, organizations can even consider complying with both NIST and ISO27001 as there are several key areas and requirements that overlap. Moreover, with both ISO 27001 and NIST Framework, organizations will have the benefit of improving and establishing the highest level of information security in the organization. 

Guest article written by: Narendra Sahoo (PCI QSA, PCI QPA, PCI SSLCA, PCI SSFA, CISA, CISSP, CRISC, CEH, and ISO27001 LA.) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm based in the United States, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, and Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting, and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance, and Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2, PDPA, and PDPB, to name a few. Since 2004, VISTA InfoSec has worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.

Leave a Comment