NIST Misses Deadline for Cybersecurity Framework

An executive order calls for the agency to set standards and best practices to promote the protection of critical infrastructure.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology missed its deadline for proposing cybersecurity guidelines for nuclear-power plants and other critical-infrastructure providers because of the federal-government shutdown that ended on Thursday, FierceGovernmentIT reported on Wednesday.

NIST -- a federal technology agency that works with industry -- in February was directed by an executive order from President Obama to work with critical-infrastructure entities to create a voluntary framework for reducing cyber threats to and attacks on them from nefarious hackers and nation states. The White House issued that executive mandate because it was frustrated that members of Congress could not agree on cybersecurity legislation intended to encourage the government and private sector to share more data on cyber threats.

The executive order calls for the NIST framework to include standards, guidelines and best practices intended to promote the protection of critical infrastructure while also shielding business practices and individuals' privacy. The federal agency, though, missed its Oct. 10 deadline for releasing a preliminary version of the framework because of the government shutdown.

However, cybersecurity experts tell FierceGovernmentIT they do not expect the delay to greatly impact the cybersecurity framework's subsequent development and adoption. Much of its structure already has been spelled out in a draft released for discussion in August.

"The framework was already rolling along. I think a two week, three week delay is probably not going to affect it too much," said Alvaro Cárdenas, a University of Texas-Dallas computer science academic who has taken part in NIST framework workshops.

The final NIST product will not be as strong as an actual law, former National Security Agency top lawyer Stewart Baker told the Washington Post. Instead, after the federal agency completes the cyber framework in January, the Obama administration is expected to offer industry varied incentives to voluntarily adopt it.