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NIST Cybersecurity Professional (NCSP) 800-171 Specialist

Business goals may include organizing the company to make it more efficient and profitable or redefine the major target markets. Key business goals must also reduce the risk of a data breach, the loss of intellectual property, and the compromise of valuable research data, while protecting employee and customer information. Success requires a business-focused cyber risk management program that includes a complete understanding of business activities and the potential organizational risk when a bad actor compromises one or more of these activities.

Technology goals start with the identified business activities. What technology underpins, enables, supports, or delivers each business activity? To understand security control requirements, we must first identify how the system supports the business activity and the impact of a bad actor on the business. It is essential to consider the risks associated with our systems, applications, and processing environment.

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Learning Objectives

This course looks at the impact of adapting a principled approach to the enterprise risk management (ERM) framework to better support cybersecurity decisions, establishing the context for the selected informative reference (IR). It guides students on the best approach to adapting, implementing, and operating (AIO) a comprehensive cybersecurity program that can be integrated into the existing organizational capabilities and incorporates the selected IR.

The course includes lectures, informative supplemental reference materials, workshops, and a formal examination. The workshops are a critical aspect of the course and develop examinable material; do not skip them. Outcomes and benefits include a practical approach that students can use to build and maintain cybersecurity and cyber risk management programs to support the selected IR.


This course assumes the student has successfully taken and passed the NCSP Practitioner (QANCSPFP) course and provides an introduction to the integration of typical enterprise capabilities with cybersecurity from the perspective of the selected cybersecurity informative reference. The overall approach places these activities into systems thinking context by introducing the Service Value Management System that is composed of three aspects, governance, assurance, and the Z-X Model.

With this in place, the course presents the approach to adapt, implement, operate, and improve the organizational cybersecurity posture that builds on the application of the FastTrack™ concept presented in the NCSP Practitioner course.

Course Content

Module 1, Course introduction

Introduces the course and its aims, followed by a lesson that prepares students for the rest of the material. Lessons include:

  • Course organization
  • Setting the stage

Module 2, Managing risks in the digital age

Introduces students to ERM and the COSO principles. Lessons include:

  • Enterprise risk management framework
  • COSO overview
  • Enterprise risk management framework applied

Module 3, Cybersecurity within a system

Introduces systems thinking and the SVMS (which includes the Z-X model). Lessons include:

  • The importance of systems thinking
  • Governance and culture
  • Strategy and set objectives
  • The service value management system
  • The Z-X model overview

Module 4, Z-X model capabilities

Probes the details of the Z-X model and its relationship to existing organizational capabilities. Lessons include:

  • Plan
  • Design
  • Build and deploy
  • Operate
  • Improve

Module 5, Adapt, covers the first part of AIO

Introduces the goal, question, metrics (GQM) approach to develop appropriate metrics for the cybersecurity implementation. Lessons include:

  • Overview of AIO (adapt, implement, and operate)
  • Cybersecurity adopt and adapt
  • Adapt in the context of the Z-X model
  • Preparation to implement
  • Project approach
  • Goal, question, metrics (GQM) overview
  • Metrics, measurement, and balance

Module 6, Implement, covers the second part of AIO.

It presents the implementation of the selected cybersecurity IRs using the phased approach introduced in the NCSP© Practitioner (and Bootcamp) course. Lessons include:

  • Cyber Security Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) Overview
  • FastTrack & CMMC
  • Phase 0 controls
  • Phase 1 controls
  • Phase 2 controls
  • Phase 3 controls
  • FastTrack™/CMMC & You

Module 7, Operate and ongoing improvement.

Covers the third part of AIO. Lessons include:

  • Operate, improve, and the COSO principles
  • Deliver value and integrate
  • Ongoing improvement

Exams & Certification

The key elements of the examination and its administration are as follows:

  • Prerequisites: NCSP Practitioner or NCSP Bootcamp
  • Duration: 120 minutes
  • Number of questions: 65
  • Delivery: Open book, open notes
  • Online Proctored exam post course
  • Format: 65 multiple-choice questions, each with a single correct answer from four choices (A, B, C, or D).

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