The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) framework is a nationally tested model to follow to fill cybersecurity roles. If you’re building a cybersecurity team, here is a complete guide on the NIST NICE cybersecurity framework and how to implement it.
What Is the NIST NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework
There is currently a shortage of qualified professionals to fill cybersecurity and other related roles. The 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study shows a global shortfall of 3.4 million people. That’s why building a cybersecurity team with the right professionals can be challenging for many organizations.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. The NICE Cybersecurity workforce framework provides a series of guidelines for building high-performing cybersecurity teams.
NICE is led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States Department of Commerce and cuts across the public, private, and academic sectors.
The NIST NICE framework outlines cybersecurity tasks, knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to perform those tasks successfully. It is a series of guidelines that define roles and competencies for members of a cybersecurity team.
In addition, the document offers guidance to cybersecurity professionals looking for positions that fit their current knowledge and experience level. The NICE Framework can also help young practitioners map a career pathway.
The Purpose of the NICE Framework
The NIST Nice cybersecurity workforce framework has three primary goals:
- Inspire urgency in the public and private sectors to ramp up learning and skill development.
- Strengthen education and training by focusing on education, measuring performance, and expanding the cybersecurity workforce to foster a diverse community.
- Guide career growth and workforce planning by assisting employers in meeting industry demand to improve recruitment and hiring and talent development and retention.
NICE accomplishes this mission by collaborating with government, academic, and private organizations to facilitate innovation, build on existing successful programs, and provide vision and leadership. This will help raise the number of qualified cybersecurity professionals that will help protect the nation from cyber criminals.
How to Implement the NIST NICE Cybersecurity Framework
One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the inconsistency with which cybersecurity is defined. In most cases, job titles and descriptions for the same roles differ among employers. That’s due to the imbalance between classroom knowledge and hands-on skills.
The NIST NICE Framework bridges this gap.
Over time, universities and colleges have found it challenging to build curricula and prepare students for their first jobs. Hence, they result in a "one size fits all" model. This causes entry-level practitioners to struggle in real-world applications.
The gap between academics and the industry can make employers tricky. Companies invest time and resources in retraining new hires because they lack the required skills to do the job.
However, implementing the NICE Framework helps you build a comprehensive cybersecurity team capable of identifying, responding, and containing any threat. Using the Framework’s three main components below, you can hire the right profile of professionals based on your company’s needs.
- Categories: The NICE Framework consists of seven categories. It is a high-level grouping of popular cybersecurity functions.
- Specialty Areas: This comprises different areas of cybersecurity work.
- Work Roles: This is a well-detailed description of cybersecurity work consisting of specific KSAs required to execute tasks in a Work Role.
The 7 Categories of the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework
Here are the categories, specialties, and work roles of the NICE Framework:
This category is for professionals who conduct a highly specialized evaluation of cybersecurity information to determine its benefits for intelligence.
Speciality Areas and Work Roles
- Threat Analysis: This specialty include tracking cybercriminals' activities to provide findings for joint investigations with law enforcement. The job title or work role for this specialty is Threat/Warning Analyst.
- All-Source Analysis: To evaluate threat information from all sources and use the findings to provide actionable insights. The work roles for this specialty are Mission Assessment Specialist and All-Source Analyst.
- Exploitation Analysis: Professionals in this specialty will review information concerning cybercriminals' possible exploitation of vulnerabilities. The work role is Exploitation Analyst.
- Targets: To use knowledge of entities, countries, regions, and technologies to improve defensive cybersecurity. Organizations that need this service will look for a Target Developer or Target Network Analyst.
- Language Analysis: Applies cultural elements, language, and technical expertise to collect and analyze cybersecurity activities. The work role is Multi-Disciplined Language Analyst.
Operate and Collect
This category specializes in denial and deception operations, including collecting cybersecurity data and information for intelligence.
Speciality Areas and Work Roles
Areas of specialization and job titles include:
- Collection Operations: To manage the collection process using appropriate strategies that align with the priorities in the collection management process. Work roles include All Source-Collection Requirements Manager and All-Source Collection Manager.
- Cyber Operations: This specialty refers to professionals who gather evidence on foreign intelligence entities or criminal activities to mitigate real-time or potential threats. Their efforts aim to protect against insider threats or espionage, international terrorist activities, and foreign sabotage and to support other intelligence programs. The specific work role for this specialty is Cyber Operator.
- Cyber Operational Planning: To conduct thorough joint targeting and cybersecurity planning process. Professionals with this specialty gather information and develop comprehensive Operational Plans and Orders for integrated information and other cyberspace operations. The specific work roles are Cyber Ops Planner, Cyber Intel Planner, and Partner Integration Planner.
This category of professionals is in charge of investigating cybersecurity events.
Specialty areas and work roles are:
- Cyber Investigation: Specialists use tactics, techniques, and procedures to balance the benefits of prosecution and intelligence gathering. Popular processes include surveillance, counter-surveillance, and interview, among others. The specific work role is Cyber Crime Investigator.
- Digital Forensics: Professionals in this specialty collect, process, analyze, and present computer-related evidence to support network vulnerability mitigation and criminal, counterintelligence, fraud, or law enforcement investigations. Digital Forensics is often paired with Incident Response as DFIR. The work role for this specialty includes Cyber Defense Forensics Analyst, Law Enforcement Forensics Analyst, Counterintelligence Forensics Analyst, etc.
Protect and Defend
This category identifies, analyses, and mitigates cyber threats to an organization's systems, data, and networks.
Specialty areas and work roles are:
- Incident Response: The Incident Response expert responds to cyber-attacks and threats to mitigate them and reduce damage to your organization's assets. They’ll also contribute to building the company’s incident response plan (link to how to build an incident response program). Specific work roles are Cyber Defense Incident Responder, Intrusion Analyst, and CSIRT Engineer. In some cases, the work role could also be as an Incident Handler.
- Cyber Defense Analysis: To use defensive measures and data collected from various sources to identify, analyze, and report incidents that occur or may occur. Do you have what it takes to work to specialize in this cybersecurity area? You can test your knowledge and proficiency for the Cyber Defense Analyst work role on Cybrary.
- Cyber Defense Infrastructure Support: Cybersecurity professionals in this specialty test, deploy, and manage infrastructure hardware and software to maintain computer network defense services. The work role for this specialty is Cyber Defense Infrastructure Support Specialist.
- Vulnerability Assessment and Management: This specialty involves conducting threat and vulnerability assessments to find loopholes in your security posture. It also includes recommending and developing appropriate mitigation countermeasures when needed. Specific work roles are Vulnerability Assessment Analyst, Red Teamer, and Penetration Tester.
Securely Provision describes professionals that conceptualize, design, procure, and/or build secure information technology systems. They are also responsible for parts of the system and network development.
Areas of specialization and specific work roles are:
- Risk Management: These professionals are responsible for evaluating your company's cybersecurity risk requirements and ensuring internal and external compliance. The work roles are Security Control Assessor and Risk Manager.
- Software Development: As the name implies, these are the Software Developers who write secure code and design software. Another work role is Secure Software Assessor.
- Systems Architecture: To develop system concepts and work on the capabilities stage of the systems development life cycle. This specialty also covers translating technology and environmental conditions such as law and regulation into systems and security design and processes. Work roles include Cybersecurity Architect and Enterprise Architect.
- Systems Development: These professionals oversee the development stages of the systems development life cycle. Work roles are Systems Developer and Information Systems Security Developer.
- Test and Evaluation: Specialists in this field develop and run tests on systems to ensure compliance with specifications and requirements. They’ll use principles of cost-effective planning, evaluating, verifying, and validating technical, functional, and performance characteristics, including interoperability of systems that incorporate IT. Specific work roles are System Testers and Evaluation Specialists.
- Technology R&D: To perform technology and integration assessments and support prototype capabilities. The recommended job role is Research and Development Specialist.
Oversee and Govern
This categorizes cybersecurity professionals into leadership, management, and advocacy roles.
Specialty areas and work roles are:
- Legal Advice and Advocacy: Professionals in this specialty will provide legal advice and recommendations to staff and leadership. They’ll advocate legal and policy changes due to legality concerns. This category also covers privacy compliance. Specific work roles or job titles are Privacy Officer and Cyber Legal Advisor.
- Cybersecurity Management: This is typically the professional who oversees a cybersecurity program and manages information security implications. Other areas of responsibility include strategy, infrastructure, personnel, policy reinforcement, requirements, security awareness, and emergency planning. The typical job title will be an Information Systems Security Manager, Cybersecurity Manager, or Communications Security Manager.
- Strategic Planning and Policy: This specialty is responsible for creating cybersecurity policies and procedures (link to article) for approaching security initiatives. The recommended work role or job title is Cyber Policy and Strategy Planner or Cyber Workforce Developer.
- Executive Cyber Leadership: Professionals in this specialty typically supervise, manage, and lead work and workers in cyber operations and other cyber-related work. The specific work role is Executive Cyber Leader.
- Program/Project Management and Acquisition: As the name implies, this specialty uses the knowledge of information security structure to handle acquisitions. This includes hardware, software, and information systems. They’ll be in charge of project management, auditing, and investment alignment. Work roles are IT Project Manager, Program Manager, IT Program Auditor, and IT Investment Manager.
- Training, Education, and Awareness: These professionals train other staff and evaluate courses or approaches to support their education. They will often develop a skills development curriculum for each position in the company. Specific job titles are Cyber Instructor and Cyber Instructional Curriculum Developer.
Operate and Maintain
The Operate and Maintain category provides support, administration, and required maintenance for efficient and effective use of IT system performance and security.
Specialty areas and work roles are:
- Customer Service and Technical Support: The Technical Support Specialist will address all issues that customers are facing and provide initial incident information to the Incident Response specialty.
- Data Administration: Popular known as a Data Analyst or Database Administrator, this professional will be responsible for maintaining databases and managing data systems.
- Knowledge Management: To manage tools and processes for your organization to identify, document, classify, and access intellectual capital. The specific work role is Knowledge Manager.
- System Administration: A System Administrator supports server configurations to provide integrity and confidentiality by managing accounts, access controls and patches, and firewalls. Other specific work roles are System Operations Personnel, Website Administrator, Server Administrator, Security Administrator, and Platform Specialist.
- Network Services: Professionals in this specialty will install, configure, test, operate, maintain, and manage networks and firewalls. This also includes hardware and software used in the transfer of information. Specific work roles are Networks Operations Specialist, Cabling Technician, Network Administrator, and Cabling Technician.
- Systems Analysis: A System Security Analyst will study your organization's current systems and procedures and design solutions to improve your security and efficiency. Their expertise will bridge the gap between business and information technology. Specific roles are Information Assurance (IA) Operational Engineer, Information Security Analyst, and Information Systems Security Engineer.
Where to Implement the NIST NICE Framework
The NIST NICE Cybersecurity Framework is useful for many reasons. Here are places the Framework can be implemented in the cybersecurity industry:
- To monitor your cybersecurity teams and understand each person's strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, skills, and abilities.
- Organizations using the NICE Framework can work with their HR department to improve job descriptions with more specific and relevant work roles. Since the Framework provides the KSAs required to perform the roles, including job titles successfully, it’ll help simplify your screening and recruitment phases.
- To identify training and qualification needs that develop the KSAs of current employees.
- To help categorize work roles from the most critical to less significant.
- The NICE Framework helps you draw a career roadmap for current staff to advance their careers.
Beyond organizations, individuals can also leverage the NICE Framework for personal development. Young practitioners can implement the Framework when charting their career paths. On the other hand, experienced professionals can use the NICE Framework to diversify and understand critical job roles.
The NICE Framework helps educators build the most effective curricula depending on the category and specialty.
Without implementing the Framework, there will be a huge gap between academia and the industry, causing many public and private organizations to struggle when recruiting the right talent. Hence, they’re forced to retrain new and current recruits. Many cybersecurity professionals will also find that they’re hugely lacking in knowledge, skills, and abilities compared to industry requirements.
Cybrary for Teams comes with pre-built Career Paths aligned to the NIST NICE Framework. Quickly and easily launch initiatives to align your workforce to the industry standard. 96% of Fortune 1000 companies use Cybrary to train their employees based on the NIST NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. Learn more about how Cybrary can help.