Risk management framework (RMF) is a set of policies, procedures and controls that help organizations to identify, assess and manage their cybersecurity risks. RMF— also called risk management life cycle— is one of the most effective ways to manage cybersecurity risks.

What Is RMF?

The risk management framework (RMF) is a set of guidelines that combines information security, risk management, and privacy management into systems development. Originally created and implemented by the Department of Defense (DOD), the framework outlines the process by which organizations can architect and engineer data security processes for IT systems.

The RMF was designed for federal agencies to more effectively comply with policies like the Privacy Act of 1974, the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA), and other regulations.

In recent years, however, these guidelines — which were developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — have found a broader audience among private organizations.

Who Needs to Use RMF?

The RMF is not a product. It is a process that helps you to assess, manage and monitor risks in your organization. By following the RMF, you will be able to identify new threats and vulnerabilities, as well as respond faster if an incident occurs.

In addition to improving your security posture, using RMF can also help with compliance regimes such as GDPR or NIST CSF (Cybersecurity Framework).

Why Use RMF?

Risk management framework (RMF) is a set of procedures that help you to identify, manage and monitor your risk. It also helps you to report and track your risk. RMF can be used for both internal and external audit purposes as well as compliance requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). It is used by organizations to manage information security risk and cybersecurity risks. The RMF has five phases:

  • Planning
  • Acquisition/Development
  • Implementation/Operations (I&O)
  • Continuous Monitoring/Analysis (CMA)
  • Remediation

What RMF is NOT

RMF is a process, not a single tool— it comprises multiple tools that can be used together or independently depending on your organization’s needs.

RMF is not a single solution; rather, it provides an approach to information security risk management that allows organizations to determine their unique risks and implement appropriate controls based on those risks through the use of various resources such as people, processes and technologies (including software).

RMF should not be viewed as an alternative to existing frameworks such as NIST SP800-30 or ISO 27001/27002; rather these standards complement each other well because they all focus on different aspects of managing information security risk within your organization.

NIST Risk Management Framework Steps

The 7-step NIST RMF framework is designed to be comprehensive, flexible, repeatable, and measurable — and therefore easily adopted by any organization to manage information security and privacy risk.

The RMF steps are:

  1. Prepare: the organization to take initial proactive steps for properly managing security and privacy risk.
  2. Categorize: the systems and information processed, stored, and transmitted — and conduct an impact analysis.
  3. Select: the controls needed to protect the information and systems.
  4. Implement: the selected controls — and document all processes needed to ensure their implementation and operation.
  5. Assess: security controls to determine if controls are properly in place, functioning correctly, and effectively mitigating risk.
  6. Authorize: information systems that are working properly and reducing risk.
  7. Monitor: the effectiveness of security controls continuously and make adjustments as needed — as well as document any changes and enable reporting on them.

Risk Management Process

It’s important for organizations that are implementing a risk management framework to be familiar with the elements that go into the process so they can better measure performance and define what success looks like.

Risk management elements relevant to RMF implementation are:

Risk identification

Organizations need to define the parameters of the entire threat landscape and identify all possible risks to information systems. This includes threats, impact levels, and points of vulnerability for IT risk, operational risk, regulatory risk, and more.

Risk assessment

Businesses need to create a risk profile for each risk they’ve identified — and then calculate and rank those risks.

Risk mitigation

After identifying and measuring risk to information systems, risk mitigation involves determining which risks are acceptable and which need to be immediately addressed and eliminated. Organizations must also come up with mitigation strategies to handle them.

Reporting and monitoring

Regularly re-examine risks to make sure that risk mitigation strategies are effective — and document and be able to report on them.

Risk governance

All the risk management steps should be operationalized and implemented in the organization.

Risk Management Framework Types

IT Risk Management Framework

IT Risk Management Framework (ITRMF) is a risk management framework for IT systems. It is a set of activities, processes and procedures that can be used by organizations to manage their IT security risks.

ITRMF helps organizations address the following issues:

  • How do we know what our risks are?
  • How do we analyze our current status with respect to each identified risk?
  • What controls are in place to reduce or eliminate these risks and how effective are they at doing so?

Operational Risk Management Framework

Operational Risk Management Framework is used to manage operational risk. Operational risk is the risk of loss resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, people and systems, or from external events. Operational risk can be reduced by implementing a sound operational risk management framework that ensures that operational risks are identified, assessed and controlled at an acceptable level within an organization’s policies and procedures in order to meet its objectives.

Benefits of RMF

Managing risk — whether it’s IT risk, regulatory risk, organization risk, legal risk, or any type of security threat an organization might encounter — is critical to running effective security and privacy programs.

  • identify risk across the business
  • implement a risk mitigation strategy
  • evaluate risk that needs to be eliminated vs. that which is acceptable
  • adapt quickly to changes in security controls or threats
  • report on risk management practices
  • protect sensitive and personal data
  • put a risk governance system into place … and more.

The RMF approach works for new information systems, legacy systems, and for any type of organization, across industries.

BigID’s Approach to Risk Management Frameworks

Risk Management Framework is the most effective way to ensure all the cybersecurity risks are properly identified, managed and monitored.

BigID helps organizations stand up and maintain their risk management framework. With a deep discovery foundation that enables organizations to identify and classify all their data — everywhere — companies can reduce risk on their sensitive, personal, and regulated data across the entire data landscape.

With BigID, classify data according to risk level — and by category, type, sensitivity, policy, and more. Additionally, identify and remediate high-risk file access issues, manage data risk throughout the data lifecycle, remediate high-risk data, implement data retention workflows, simplify data risk analysis, reduce risk on sensitive data, enable risk reporting, and incorporate a holistic approach to risk management.

Get a 1:1 demo with BigID risk management experts.