Delineating NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171 Compliance

Posted by Tonni Islam

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has crafted multiple cybersecurity frameworks to guide organizations in bolstering their security posture. Two prominent frameworks among them are NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171. Both frameworks encapsulate robust security and privacy best practices, categorizing them into controls with precise guidance on their implementation.

However, despite their common objective to enhance cybersecurity, they cater to different audiences and have distinct scopes. Here’s a detailed comparison shedding light on NIST 800-53 vs. NIST 800-171 and aiding you in understanding which framework resonates with your organization’s needs.

Diving Into NIST 800-53

NIST 800-53 emerges as a comprehensive compilation of security controls primarily designed for federal information systems. It embodies over 1000 security controls, distilled into three control families: Management, operational, and technical. Each control family plays a pivotal role in shielding sensitive and non-sensitive information critical to the federal government’s operations.

Unpacking NIST 800-171

On the flip side, NIST 800-171 is tailored for non-federal information systems handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). It stipulates 110 security requirements across 14 control families, aiming to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of CUI.

NIST 800-171 vs. 800-53: The Major Distinctions


The breadth of NIST 800-53 vs. NIST 800-171 is a noticeable difference. While NIST 800-53 spreads its wings wide with a comprehensive set of security controls for federal information systems, NIST 800-171 narrows down its focus to safeguarding CUI within non-federal information systems.

Number of Controls

A quick glance at NIST 171 vs. 53 reveals a stark contrast in the number of controls—over 1000 in NIST 800-53 against 110 in NIST 800-171. Despite this, both frameworks cover a full spectrum of security requirements.


NIST 800-53 is tailored for entities operating within the federal information ecosystems, whereas NIST 800-171 is crafted for organizations handling CUI for the federal government.


Compliance with NIST 800-53 is mandated for federal agencies, whereas adhering to NIST 800-171 remains voluntary, albeit with certain exceptions under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).

Level of Detail

NIST 800-53 delves deeper with detailed security controls compared to the more high-level security requirements in NIST 800-171.

Taking the First Step Toward Compliance

Embarking on a compliance journey need not be daunting. ComplyAssistant offers robust compliance management software and healthcare cybersecurity services meticulously designed to navigate the complex terrain of security and compliance.

Our innovative solutions stand ready to guide you through the NIST 800-171 vs. NIST 800-53 landscapes, making compliance management efficient and straightforward. Harness the power of organized and well-managed compliance processes—schedule a demo today and take a giant stride toward bolstering your organization’s cybersecurity posture.

NIST 800-171, NIST 800-53