C3PAO: 5 Key Things to Know About Third-Party CMMC Auditors

C3PAO: 5 Key Things to Know About Third-Party CMMC Auditors

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) was introduced to establish consistent cybersecurity standards throughout the Defense Industrial Base (DIB). Every organization in the DIB must achieve a minimum level of security maturity before they can win contracts. The framework specifies five levels, with the highest typically opening the door to the most lucrative contracts. You can determine the appropriate level for your organization based on any existing contracts you have with the DoD. However, it makes sense to aim for a higher level to expand your business opportunities.

What is C3PAO?

C3PAO stands for CMMC Third Party Assessor Organization, an organization authorized by the CMMC accreditation body to deliver CMMC compliance assessments. To help you achieve compliance, you will need to enter into a contract with a C3PAO as an organization seeking compliance (OSC). You may also need to work with a Registered Provider Organization (RPO) who will provide pre-assessments and consulting services to help you prepare for evaluation from a CMMC auditor.

Here are the most important things you need to know about working with a C3PAO:

#1. How advanced is your existing security?

You cannot expect to make any significant improvements to your existing security architecture until you know where you currently stand. This is why you should start with a gap assessment to evaluate your current environment for any potential security holes. Doing so will save a lot of money and hassle in the long run by ensuring you are ready to meet the demands of CMMC compliance. For this to work, it is best to hire outside help, since this will give you an external perspective and likely uncover issues you might have missed.

#2. How should you prepare for a CMMC auditor?

Once you have evaluated your existing technology environment and fixed any vulnerabilities, it is time to look for further areas in need of improvement. First, you should familiarize yourself with the controls and requirements for each CMMC level and determine which level is best for your business. This largely depends on any current contracts you have. If, for example, your organization handles controlled unclassified information (CUI), then you must be ready to meet the demands of CMMC level 3.

#3. When should you engage with a C3PAO?

You should only engage with a C3PAO when you are confident in your abilities to meet the demands laid out by any existing contracts or the CMMC level you are aiming for. While CMMC does not become fully effective until 2025, it makes sense to engage with a C3PAO far earlier, since compliance is already specified as a requirement in many DoD contracts. However, it is best to avoid engaging with a C3PAO until you have recruited an RPO to assess your current security architecture and you have implemented the latest security controls.

#4. How much does it cost to get a certification?

C3PAOs are free to determine their own assessment fees. However, the fees vary depending on the CMMC certification level. These fees are meant to cover the costs that the C3PAO is responsible for, which include insurance, background checks, and obtaining their own CMMC certifications of level 3 or higher. C3PAOs must also employ or have a contract with at least one Certified CMMC Assessor (CCA), who will be the person responsible for carrying out the assessment.

#5. Where can you find a C3PAO?

You can find a C3PAO through the CMMC Accreditation Body (CMMC-AB), which maintains a marketplace meant to serve the entire DIB. The marketplace currently lists more than 100 organizations with completed C3PAO applications. The marketplace is also a good place for finding licensed training publishers, training providers, registered practitioners, and any other certified CMMC providers (CCPs).

Charles IT helps you prepare for your CMMC audit by thoroughly assessing your network for vulnerabilities and providing tailored advice and services to get your security up to standard. Get in touch today to find out more!

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