What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

To best answer the question, “What is NIST 800 171 compliance?” requires a deep dive into its practices. We’re going to explore how this protocol separates itself from other cybersecurity measures, what steps you must take to be ready, and how our NIST compliance checklist can help get you started.

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

NIST 800 171 provides companies, employees, and contractors with requirements outlined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology for various reasons: compliance with the Department of Defense (DoD) and its Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), defense against cybersecurity incidents, and protecting CUI (controlled unclassified information) and other sensitive data.

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

The NIST special publication 800 171 (NIST SP 800 171) details the standards and protocols that help organizations that process sensitive unclassified information and protect and monitor their data. NIST 800 171 is a contractual obligation for businesses handling CUI, and compliance is mandatory to safeguard data from breaches, information security leaks, or cybersecurity threat actors.

NIST 800 171 compliance also helps prepare for CMMC certification and compliance, a critical component for contractors wanting to conduct business with the DoD and federal agencies that require a high level of cybersecurity protocols.

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

What is the difference between NIST 800 171 rev 1 and NIST 800 171 rev 2?

NIST 800 171 rev 1 is drawn from basic controls of NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) and Federal Information Processing Standards Publications (FIPS) 199 and 200. It covers the 14 security topics of the family requirements and its 110 security controls.


NIST SP 800 171 revision 2 (NIST SP 800 171 Rev. 2) protects controlled unclassified information within non-federal organizations, networks, and systems by setting recommended security requirements. Those requirements govern the protection of CUI (i.e., sensitive data such as health information, IP data, and critical infrastructure). 

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

NIST 800 171 controls

NIST 800 171 requirements detail the following controls essential for non-federal organizations’ cybersecurity policies and practices. Compliance with NIST is necessary for all contractors for the Department of Defense and U.S. government agencies to maintain cybersecurity compliance. 

Non-compliance or failure to comply with NIST 800 171 standards mean losing federal contracts and status as DoD contractors.

To demonstrate compliance with NIST and cybersecurity standards, define assessment objectives, and suggest potential assessment methods and objects, NIST SP 800 171a offers 110 protocols housed within 14 general security topics mentioned below.

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

NIST 800 171 controls 

1. Access Controls

Determine who has data access and authorization


2. Awareness and Training

Provide personnel (employees and government contractors) with adequate CUI handling and training  


3. Audit and accountability

Monitor access to sensitive information and who is responsible for security policies associated with CUI


4. Configuration management

Ensure employees, contractors, and subcontractors adhere to cybersecurity policies and achieve compliance


5. Identification and authentication

Manage and audit any and all instances of CUI within the organization and with contractors.

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

NIST 800 171 controls (continued)

6. Incident response

Prepare a system security plan (SSP) for potential security breaches and cybersecurity hazards regarding CUI


7. Maintenance

Ensure ongoing security and change management to safeguard CUI


8. Media protection

Implement information security for external drives, backups, and equipment


9. Physical protection

Authorize proper personnel (including contractors and subcontractors) to access physical spaces that transmit CUI


10. Personnel security

Prepare staff and contractors to identify and minimize internal security risks through best practices, standards, and guidelines

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

NIST 800 171 controls (continued)


11. Risk assessment

Conduct testing and create CUI compliance analysis


12. Security assessment

Verify that requirements related to the general security procedures are set and operational


13. System and communications protection

Shield all channels and networks


14. System and information integrity

Implement technical solutions for vulnerabilities and analyze, prevent, and mitigate system downtime

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

NIST 800 171 checklist


If you require NIST 800 171 compliance and need a NIST assessment, here’s our NIST 800 171 compliance checklist to help you meet cybersecurity requirements and prepare for your organization’s CMMC compliance needs.


Determine Scope

Find out what you need to stay compliant with NIST SP 800 171 – additional training for your staff, detailed self-assessments, contract clauses with subcontractors and their compliance levels, and the process of handling sensitive CUI. 



Meeting all controls and requirements is crucial for compliance with NIST SP 800 171 inspections and DOD NIST 800 171 scoring assessments, and this can only be done through careful record-keeping. To prepare for an audit, have records from various domains available for review: system and network architecture, data flow, personnel, processes and protocols, and future modifications


Conduct gap analysis and review

If you need to ensure complete compliance requirements within NIST 800 171, you must analyze and review any areas where your current practices fall short. Pay special attention to access control requirements and note any shortcomings or flaws in your existing systems. These issues should be documented and addressed through the Plan phase. 



Create a NIST-compliant comprehensive system security plan (SSP), including a remediation plan if CUI is compromised, and record it correctly. Document your procedures to prepare for a NIST 800 171 compliance audit that will meet your SSP and CUI retention standards. Finally, establish a Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) to maintain project progress. 



Collect relevant documentation and evidence to support your NIST compliance audit. Identify the specific requirements you will address from the 14 criteria listed in NIST 800 171. When implementing measures to comply with these requirements, creating an audit trail to demonstrate the actions taken and ensure accountability is crucial. 

Let’s move on to our NIST SP 800 171 checklist and step by step instructions.

Download our free NIST 800 171 implementation guide

Need a refresher to help prepare you for NIST 800 171 compliance (and subsequently CMMC compliance)? 

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What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?

Need help with NIST SP 800 171 compliance best practices?

You, your company, and your contractors must have NIST 800 171 certification to meet the requirements of maintaining secure and compliant cybersecurity practices.


There are many types of compliance, but NIST 800 171 control families also help prepare companies to be CMMC compliant


The security requirements of NIST 800 171 are also essential for CMMC 2.0 compliance, especially with CMMC Level 3, which consists of 110 NIST controls. (Learn more about CMMC vs NIST 800 171 here.)


With the help of an experienced NIST partner, you can conduct thorough compliance assessments and audits, establish a concrete SSP,  and implement a systematic review that helps you tick off the boxes of your NIST 800 171 checklist.


Hyper Vigilance offers complete and effective managed compliance services tailored to your business needs.

What is NIST 800 171 Compliance?


Hyper Vigilance was the right choice to guide us through the cybersecurity process as we attempt to grow the business. They provide excellent service and we continue to look forward to working with the Hyper Vigilance team. We are very grateful for how they simplified the entire process and the efficiency during the transition to a secure platform!
Hyper Vigilance moved us from negative NIST score to almost full compliance in less than 1 month. The team is experienced, quick, efficient and works to find the best solution to maintain business operations while keeping security at maximum level. Communication and issue resolving is fast. Highly recommended.
Hyper Vigilance moved us from negative NIST score to almost full compliance in less than 1 month. The team is experienced, quick, efficient and works to find the best solution to maintain business operations while keeping security at maximum level. Communication and issue resolving is fast. Highly recommended.