Keeping up with the demands of compliance is a constant challenge, especially for companies operating in a highly regulated sector like the Defense Industrial Base. DFARS 252.204-7012 compliance, which is based on the NIST 800-171 framework, comes with many responsibilities and obligations. To maintain your existing contracts, as well as win requests for proposals for lucrative new projects, it is essential to regularly evaluate your security with a gap assessment.
Related article: What Is DFARS and What Does it Mean to Be Compliant?
What is a gap assessment?
Not to be confused with more business-orientated gap analyses, a security gap assessment is a complete evaluation of your current security posture. Its purpose is to locate any ‘gaps’ in your security infrastructure, such as outdated software or lax access controls.
The assessment begins with a discussion about your current business priorities before building an inventory of your data assets. Next, the assessor will review your existing security systems to compile a list of recommendations for improving your security posture.
A gap assessment as a proactive approach that aims to continuously improve your security to keep up to date with new and emerging threats. Hiring an external company will also give you a fresh view of your security systems and architecture, likely revealing things you may have missed.
#1. Fix potential vulnerabilities in your network
While every business should have round-the-clock monitoring in place to proactively scan for vulnerabilities and potential exploits, a gap assessment will also look for those that might get overlooked. An assessment will also evaluate the risk that each vulnerability presents.
A gap assessment will look at your network and data systems as a holistic entity to determine which systems, user accounts, and people have access to which data. To that end, it will help find any potential issues with access rights and controls as well.
#2. Evaluate your security awareness training
Even the most secure network can end up being highly vulnerable to attack if employees are not adequately trained to protect it. After all, most attacks involve social engineering elements, which target people rather than technology. Your team must be adequately prepared for this and should undergo an effective security awareness training program.
Gap assessments are not all about technology. They take into account people and processes too. To that end, an assessment will also evaluate the training processes you have in place to ensure they conform to widely recognized security frameworks like NIST 800-171.
#3. Implement the latest cybersecurity controls
Popular international security standards like NIST 800-171 are regularly updated to align with and standardize the best practices. This is necessary due to the constantly evolving nature of technology and the threats against it. An assessment will also help ensure you are up to date.
An assessment is simply the first stage of establishing or evaluating compliance with DFARS 252.204-7012. By discovering potential vulnerabilities, the assessor will be able to recommend which steps you need to take to get your security architecture up to scratch.
#4. Optimize your security spending and assets
Every business faces a certain level of cyber risk, no matter how hard it tries to mitigate them. The goal is not to completely eliminate risk, but to bring it down to an acceptable and compliant level. This means it is often necessary to prioritize.
For example, a gap assessment might find that, while certain non-essential systems might be secure, another that stores or transmits highly sensitive data might have a glaring vulnerability. With a bird’s eye view of your infrastructure, you will be able to prioritize your spending and the way you allocate critical security assets.
#5. Develop an effective incident response plan
No matter how careful you are, there will always be a (hopefully very small) risk of something going wrong. This is why you also need a fully documented incident response plan that covers what you are supposed to do if an incident occurs.
Incident response plans themselves must be regularly assessed and updated. For example, if your plan references systems that are no longer in operation or people who have left the company, then it will probably not be very useful in the event of a disaster.
Charles IT helps you prepare for the data security benchmarks mandated by the Department of Defense. If you are looking to work with the Defense Industrial Base, we can help ensure that your security systems are ready for the job. Request your first consultation today to find out more!