NIST SP 800-53, Revision 5



Publication Date:

December 20, 2020

As we push computers to “the edge,” building an increasingly complex world of connected information systems and devices, security and privacy will continue to dominate the national dialogue. In its 2017 report, Task Force on Cyber Deterrence [DSB 2017], the Defense Science Board (DSB) provides a sobering assessment of the current vulnerabilities in the U.S. critical infrastructure and the information systems that support mission-essential operations and assets in the public and private sectors.

“…The Task Force notes that the cyber threat to U.S. critical infrastructure is outpacing efforts to reduce pervasive vulnerabilities, so that for the next decade at least the United States must lean significantly on deterrence to address the cyber threat posed by the most capable U.S. adversaries. It is clear that a more proactive and systematic approach to U.S. cyber deterrence is urgently needed…”

There is an urgent need to further strengthen the underlying information systems, component products, and services that the Nation depends on in every sector of the critical infrastructure- ensuring that those systems, components, and services are sufficiently trustworthy and provide the necessary resilience to support the economic and national security interests of the United States. This update to NIST Special Publication (SP) 800-53 responds to the call by the DSB by embarking on a proactive and systemic approach to develop and make available to a broad base of public and private sector organizations a comprehensive set of safeguarding measures for all types of computing platforms, including general purpose computing systems, cyber-physical systems, cloud-based systems, mobile devices, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, weapons systems, space systems, communications systems, environmental control systems, super computers, and industrial control systems. Those safeguarding measures include implementing security and privacy controls to protect the critical and essential operations and assets of organizations and the privacy of individuals. The objectives are to make the information systems we depend on more penetration-resistant, limit the damage from attacks when they occur, make the systems cyber-resilient and survivable, and protect individuals’ privacy.

Revision 5 of this foundational NIST publication represents a multi-year effort to develop the next generation of security and privacy controls that will be needed to accomplish the above objectives. It includes changes to make the controls more usable by diverse consumer groups (e.g., enterprises conducting mission and business functions; engineering organizations developing information systems, IoT devices, and systems-of-systems; and industry partners building system components, products, and services). The most significant changes to this publication include:

  • Making the controls more outcome-based by removing the entity responsible for satisfying the control (i.e., information system, organization) from the control statement;
  • Integrating information security and privacy controls into a seamless, consolidated control catalog for information systems and organizations;
  • Establishing a new supply chain risk management control family;
  • Separating control selection processes from the controls, thereby allowing the controls to be used by different communities of interest, including systems engineers, security architects, software developers, enterprise architects, systems security and privacy engineers, and mission or business owners;
  • Removing control baselines and tailoring guidance from the publication and transferring the content to NIST SP 800-53B, Control Baselines for Information Systems and Organizations;
  • Clarifying the relationship between requirements and controls and the relationship between security and privacy controls; and
  • Incorporating new, state-of-the-practice controls (e.g., controls to support cyber resiliency, support secure systems design, and strengthen security and privacy governance and accountability) based on the latest threat intelligence and cyber-attack data.

In separating the process of control selection from the controls and removing the control baselines, a significant amount of guidance and other informative material previously contained in SP 800-53 was eliminated. That content will be moved to other NIST publications such as SP 800-37 (Risk Management Framework) and SP 800-53B during the next update cycle. In the near future, NIST also plans to offer the content of SP 800-53, SP 800-53A, and SP 800-53B to a web- based portal to provide its customers interactive, online access to all control, control baseline, overlay, and assessment information.

Control Families