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Which Framework Should I Choose Without Strict Compliance Requirements?

In the evolving landscape of cybersecurity, organizations often find themselves at a crossroads when selecting a cybersecurity framework to guide their security practices especially when strict compliance mandates do not drive the selection process. With numerous frameworks available, the choice depends on various factors including the organization's size, industry, risk profile, and specific security needs. This blog post delves into four popular cybersecurity frameworks: NIST CSF, CIS CSC, SOC 2, and ISO/IEC 27001, offering insights into each to help you make an informed decision.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF)

Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the NIST CSF offers a comprehensive and flexible approach to cybersecurity, focusing on five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.

Why Choose NIST CSF:

  • Flexibility: Highly adaptable to various industries and organization sizes.
  • Risk Management Focus: Emphasizes a continuous risk management process.
  • Wide Adoption: Especially popular in the United States and across industries seeking a robust risk management framework.

CIS Critical Security Controls (CSC)

The CIS CSCs are a set of prioritized cybersecurity best practices designed to mitigate the most common and impactful cyber threats. The framework focuses on a practical, actionable set of controls.

Why Choose CIS CSC:

  • Prioritized Controls: Offers a prioritized checklist of actions for immediate impact against threats.
  • Actionable Guidance: Designed for direct implementation, making it ideal for organizations looking for specific, actionable steps.
  • Community-Driven: Developed and refined based on input from a wide range of cybersecurity professionals.

ISO/IEC 27001

An international standard that outlines the requirements for an information security management system (ISMS), focusing on a systematic approach to managing company information based on risk assessment.

Why Choose ISO/IEC 27001:

  • International Recognition: Offers a globally recognized certification, beneficial for companies operating in or targeting international markets.
  • Comprehensive Approach: Covers all aspects of information security management, providing a holistic framework.
  • Continuous Improvement: Emphasizes a continual improvement process, suitable for organizations looking to embed long-term security practices.
What is ISO 27001, The Information Security (ISMS) Standard


SOC 2 is a compliance framework developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) that focuses on five trust service principles: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customer data in cloud services.

Why Choose SOC 2:

Service Organizations: Ideal for SaaS providers and other cloud-based services that store customer data.

Market Trust: Helps demonstrate security and privacy commitments to clients, crucial for B2B companies.

Customizable Reporting: Allows organizations to tailor reports based on the trust service principles most relevant to their business.

SOC 2 Trust Services Criteria (TSC) - Required Security Controls | Dash Solutions (

Making the Choice

A common approach to comparing frameworks is to review how they “crosswalk” between them. A control crosswalk facilitates the alignment of two distinct frameworks by mapping a specific requirement or control in one framework to its equivalent in another. This is particularly useful for compliance and audit teams who recognize that cybersecurity compliance standards often share similar security control requirements.

For example, organizations may opt to implement elements of CIS CSC because it is more prescriptive in order to achieve the more broader frameworks such as NIST CSF or ISO 27001.

For example CIS controls are more focused on technical implementation while ISO 27001 is a  management system that needs these controls, but requires a management layer to support these technical controls. CIS lacks the management layer. You will notice in the image below that the green sections “crosswalk” or have similar controls. The red do not.

Extended mapping of CIS Controls to ISO27001 security controls | Identity Underground (

When selecting a cybersecurity framework, consider the specific needs, industry, and goals of your organization. For those prioritizing a risk management approach and flexibility, NIST CSF may be the best fit. Organizations looking for actionable, prioritized steps might lean towards CIS CSCs. Service organizations concerned with demonstrating security practices to clients may find SOC 2 most appropriate. Finally, companies seeking international recognition and a comprehensive security management system might opt for ISO/IEC 27001.

The right framework is not just about meeting compliance requirements but about enhancing your organization's cybersecurity posture effectively. By understanding the nuances of each framework, organizations can choose a path that not only safeguards their assets but also aligns with their business objectives and growth.

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