Whether it be PII, financial data, or company IP, organizations are under constant pressure to safeguard their sensitive data from insider threats, data breaches, and accidental loss. To help address this challenge, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a broad set of guidelines and best practices for securing data, many of which focus on the use of removable media.
NIST’s removable media policy outlines the requirements for controlling, monitoring, and securing removable media devices such as USB drives, external hard drives, laptops, memory cards, or mobile devices. The guidance is designed to ensure that sensitive data is protected from unauthorized access, and that organizations are able to detect and respond to potential security incidents in a timely manner.
Complying with NIST’s removable media policy, media protection, and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework’s security requirements can be a complex and challenging task. Meeting the requirements of NIST 800-171 compliance specifically can prove even more intricate, given its emphasis on protecting Controlled Unclassified Information. However, by implementing a comprehensive device control solution like Endpoint Protector by CoSoSys, organizations can simplify their compliance efforts and improve their overall data security posture.
Key Aspects of NIST’s Removable Media Policy, Media Protection, and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework
NIST’s removable media policy outlines several key aspects that organizations must consider when implementing a comprehensive program to improve their data security posture, with a focus on media protection, and better protect sensitive information from potential breaches. By aligning these key aspects with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, organizations can further strengthen their overall cybersecurity risk management. These include:
- Controlling Access – requires that organizations implement access controls to ensure that only authorized users can use and access removable media devices, effectively managing media access. This aligns with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework’s focus on access control, identity management, and media protection. This can be achieved through the use of robust authentication mechanisms, as well as through the use of user-based access policies such as those offered by Endpoint Protector.
- Monitoring Activity – NIST’s policy requires that organizations monitor the activity of all removable media devices, including when they are used, by whom, and for what purpose. This can be achieved through the use of comprehensive logging and auditing mechanisms that track all activity related to removable media devices.
- Encryption – NIST’s policy requires that all sensitive data, including Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), stored on removable media devices be encrypted to protect it from unauthorized access. Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) refers to unclassified information that still requires safeguarding or dissemination controls as per laws, regulations, or government-wide policies. This can be achieved through the use of strong encryption algorithms such as AES, as well as through the use of key management mechanisms to ensure that encryption keys are properly secured. By encrypting CUI on removable media devices, organizations can comply with NIST SP 800-171 and protect sensitive information from unauthorized access and potential data breaches.
- Device Sanitization – NIST’s policy requires that organizations properly sanitize removable media devices before they are reused or disposed of. This can be achieved through the use of secure erasure tools that ensure that all data on the device is properly erased and cannot be recovered.
Challenges of Complying with NIST’s Removable Media Policy
Of course, with so many employees accessing sensitive data, it can be challenging for organizations to keep track of who has access to what data and when. This makes it difficult to detect and respond to potential security incidents in a timely manner.
Additionally, many device security control solutions on the market don’t offer the depth of control that today’s security admins will need. For example; for most organizations simply blocking all USB ports is overly restrictive and will create employee friction. Only Endpoint Protector by CoSoSys offers the depth of control needed to manage over 40 different device classifications (from removable USB flash drives to printers, smartphones, and SD cards).
Fortunately, Endpoint Protector’s comprehensive Device Control and DLP solutions can help organizations overcome these challenges. Endpoint Protector enables organizations to define granular policies that prohibit the use of removable media devices to authorized users, and approved devices, across Windows, macOS, and Linux machines. Using the Content Aware protection module, administrators can even retract the type of data being sent to removable storage.
How Endpoint Protector Can Help Organizations Meet NIST’s Removable Media Policy
Endpoint Protector by CoSoSys is a comprehensive device control solution that can help organizations meet NIST’s removable media policy and simplify their compliance efforts. Here are some of the ways in which Endpoint Protector can help:
- Access Control – Endpoint Protector allows organizations to implement granular access control policies for removable media devices and their associated system components based on user, device, and content. This ensures that only authorized users have access to sensitive data and that access is limited to approved devices.
- Activity Monitoring – Endpoint Protector provides real-time monitoring and logging of all activity related to removable media devices, including file transfers, device connections, and user activity. This enables organizations to detect potential security incidents in a timely manner and respond appropriately.
- Encryption – Endpoint Protector offers advanced encryption capabilities to protect sensitive data stored on removable media devices. It supports AES-256 encryption and allows organizations to enforce encryption policies on all connected devices.
- Granular Control – Endpoint Protector offers advanced controls over the devices being connected to employee machines. For example, restricting Bluetooth connections to wireless keyboards or mice only, or allowing a smartphone to be connected for charging, but not allowing data transfer.
- Device Sanitization – Endpoint Protector includes powerful data wiping tools that allow organizations to securely erase data from removable media devices, ensuring proper media sanitization, should they be lost or stolen. This ensures that sensitive data cannot be recovered and reduces the risk of data breaches.
Endpoint Protector also simplifies compliance with NIST’s removable media policy by providing pre-defined policies and templates that can be customized to meet the specific needs of the organization. This makes it easier for organizations to meet the policy’s requirements and maintain compliance.
And, because Endpoint Protector supports a wide range of operating systems and platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux, it’s easier for organizations to implement a consistent device control policy across all of their endpoints, regardless of the operating system.
Summary and 5-Step Action Plan
Complying with NIST’s removable media policy can be a complex and challenging task, but by implementing a comprehensive device control solution like Endpoint Protector by CoSoSys, organizations can simplify their compliance efforts and improve their overall data security posture.
Start your journey with this 5-step action plan and book a demo with one of our NIST compliance specialists.
- Define Your Removable Media Policy: The first step in implementing a NIST-approved removable media policy is to define your policy. This should include clear guidelines on the use of removable media in the context of your organization’s information technology infrastructure, such as what types of devices are allowed, when they can be used, and who is authorized to use them. Your policy should also define the types of data that can be stored on removable media, and how that data storage should be protected.
- Implement Device Control Solutions: Device control solutions such as Endpoint Protector provide the ability to manage and control access to removable media devices in controlled areas, ensuring the security of sensitive information. These solutions can enforce your organization’s removable media policy by blocking unauthorized devices, limiting access to specific users or groups, and controlling data transfer. Implementing device control solutions can help prevent data loss and reduce the risk of a data breach.
- Train Your Employees: One of the most important factors in implementing a successful removable media policy is employee training. Your employees should be aware of the risks associated with removable media storage, the importance of following your organization’s information security policies, and the specific requirements of your removable media policy. They should also be trained on how to identify and report suspicious activity related to removable media.
- Monitor and Enforce Your Policy: Once your removable media policy is in place, it is important to monitor and enforce it. Regularly review your policy to ensure it is up-to-date with the latest security standards and technologies. Additionally, enforce your policy by regularly auditing and reporting on the use of removable media devices and data transfers.
- Regularly Assess Your Policy: Finally, it is important to regularly assess your removable media policy to ensure it is effective in protecting sensitive data. Conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities and address any gaps in your policy. By regularly assessing and improving your policy, you can ensure your organization remains compliant with NIST 800-171 Control 3.8.7 and is protected against data loss and breaches.
Explore More on Device Control
Interested in diving deeper into the world of Device Control? Check out these hand-picked resources to expand your knowledge:
Download our free ebook on
A comprehensive guide for all businesses on how to ensure GDPR compliance and how Endpoint Protector DLP can help in the process.