HITRUST CSF Additional Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Why choose the HITRUST CSF over other control frameworks like NIST SP 800-53 and ISO/IEC 27001?

The HITRUST CSF is designed with certain highly regulated industries in mind. However, it is a region- and industry-agnostic control framework that can be used globally by organizations across all industries. Furthermore, HITRUST is the only standards development organization with a framework, an assessment platform, and an independent assurance program. Other compelling benefits and considerations are presented in FAQs throughout this document.

The table below compares the HITRUST CSF with other leading information security and risk frameworks:


For more information on why one would choose the HITRUST CSF, refer to the Comparing the CSF, ISO/IEC 27001 and NIST SP 800-53 brochure or, for a healthcare organization’s perspective, a joint presentation by HCSC and Children’s Health Selecting a Healthcare Information Security Risk Management Framework in a Cyber World.

Is the scope of the HITRUST CSF too large for most organizations?

Although HITRUST provides tailoring options for the HITRUST CSF based on an organization’s specific risk factors, any framework can be applied inappropriately. Given the relatively uncontrolled sprawl of sensitive information in many organizations, the HITRUST CSF can (and should) be applied as broadly as necessary to scope to the specific types of information, systems, and/or business units requiring information asset protection.

Scope can be minimized by ensuring that workflows requiring the use of sensitive information are understood and such uses are restricted to the minimum necessary, as required by many legal and regulatory bodies, as well as best practices. In addition, information assets and data flows with sensitive information can be isolated from other assets and data flow types, e.g., through network segmentation.

For more information, refer to the Risk Analysis Guide for HITRUST Organizations and Assessors.

Does the HITRUST CSF take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to information security?

The HITRUST CSF is one of the most flexible information protection frameworks available. The HITRUST CSF was created by harmonizing a myriad of standards, frameworks, and regulatory requirements with relevant leading best practices in the information protection space while collaborating with information security and privacy professionals in various industries with differing needs. The resulting controls can then be tailored based on specific organizational, system, and compliance risk factors. While this approach provides the ability for more granular tailoring out-of-the-box than any other framework, HITRUST understands that no two organizations are exactly alike. Although information may have a common classification (e.g., PII, ePHI), differences such as organizational culture, infrastructure, technology, and risk appetite may result in the need for a slightly different set of controls.

For more information, refer to the Risk Analysis Guide for HITRUST Organizations and Assessors.

What are the goals for the HITRUST CSF?

Through HITRUST, the CSF provides organizations with a controls framework that is:

  • Relevant through regular maintenance of supporting authoritative sources and changes in the threat environment;
  • Scalable to various sizes and types of organizations or systems in a controlled manner;
  • Tailorable through managed approvals of alternative (compensating) controls;
  • Based on compliance with control baselines intended to manage risk to an industry-accepted level;
  • Capable of providing certifiable risk assurances to internal and external stakeholders, including regulators; and
  • Supported by appropriate guidance and tools along with regular updates.

For more information on HITRUST and the CSF, refer to the How HITRUST Helps Organizations Manage Risk guide.

Why do organizations need a security and privacy framework?

Information security and privacy laws are passed to regulate many industries and require that organizations, operating in such industries, conduct thorough risk assessments to protect against threats to the security and privacy of sensitive information. Organizations in other industries — that are less-regulated (or even unregulated), may also want to protect valuable business information for many reasons, such as protecting patents and trademarks, gaining competitive advantage, and protecting customer data, and earning new business with partner concerned about information security. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to securing sensitive information, and oftentimes performing information security risk analyses is not something many organizations know how to do.

The textbook approach to risk analysis includes threat and vulnerability assessments, information asset valuation, and the selection of specific risk treatments for the enumerated threat-vulnerability pairs (a process sometimes referred to as threat modeling). This evaluation process is meant to support the selection of cost-effective controls that will manage risk at a level determined acceptable by the organization. From a quantitative viewpoint, this process is virtually impossible for most organizations to achieve due to the general lack of actuarial-type data for security- and privacy-related threats. Even using a semi- or quasi-quantitative approach, or a purely qualitative approach, it would still be difficult for many organizations to perform the analysis for a comprehensive set of risk responses.

Fortunately, HITRUST provides an easy-to-adopt framework and methodologies to effectively manage data, information risk, and compliance by using the HITRUST Approach. The HITRUST Approach is built around a risk management process that provides a consistent, managed methodology designed to meet the needs of organizations operating in various industries. The HITRUST Approach takes a holistic route to effectively analyze the potential risks to information protection. From this, an organization may establish one or more sets of security and privacy safeguards, also referred to as control baselines, which are intended to address similar threats to common classes of information using similar technologies. Organizations may then select an appropriate control baseline to help protect against any reasonably anticipated threats or hazards to the security and privacy of information.

For more information on risk analysis and tailoring, refer to the Risk Analysis Guide for HITRUST Organizations and Assessors and the ISSA Journal article entitled, Leveraging a Control-Based Framework to Simplify the Risk Analysis Process.

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