For many contractors working for the Department of Defense (DoD), the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is nothing more than just another headache. Adopting a new set of cybersecurity standards is no joke, especially for companies that have already invested an enormous amount of effort to comply with the requirements of NIST 800-171 and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).
However, the DoD expects around 300,000 of its contractors to be CMMC compliant by 2021. By the start of the 2026 fiscal year, all new defense contracts will come with CMMC requirements, which is more reason for contractors to start working on their CMMC compliance as soon as possible.
Overview of CMMC Compliance
To fight against evolving cybercrimes, the DoD created the CMMC framework to improve the cybersecurity posture of contractors working throughout the Defense Industrial Base (DIB). The CMMC also aims to safeguard controlled unclassified information (CUI) and federal contract information (FCI) from hackers and rival governments looking to steal and expose sensitive government information. It combines security procedures and practices taken from:
- CERT Resilience Management Model (CERT RMM) v1.2
- Draft NIST SP 800-171B
- NIST SP 800-53 Rev 4
- FAR Clause 52.204-21
- CIS Controls v7.1
The CMMC framework introduced a tiered system that categorizes contractors based on the cybersecurity protocols they have in place to protect CUI. Also, contractors must now be assessed by certified third-party assessor organizations (C3PAOs) before they can get their CMMC certificate. Self-certification is no longer allowed.
The Importance of Complying with CMMC Standards
The DoD began rolling out government contracts with CMMC requirements in September 2020, which is why it’s important for contractors to be CMMC certified. Being CMMC certified entails having the following:
- A Unified Cybersecurity System
As mentioned earlier, the CMMC framework was developed using various sets of security standards. By combining these standards, the CMMC created a unified security system guaranteed to protect vital government information such as CUI from attackers.
- Faster Cyberthreat Response
Contractors with a CMMC certificate are required to implement various cybersecurity controls and processes. This allows them to detect and respond to threats faster compared to non-CMMC-compliant companies.
- Competitive Advantage
With CMMC compliance becoming mandatory for all DoD contracts, being certified allows contractors to bid, win, and work on in-demand government projects. The higher the CMMC certificate, the more contracts a certain contractor is eligible for.
Who Should Comply with CMMC?
All contractors and subcontractors working in the defense contract supply chain must be CMMC certified. The DoD is currently working with 300,000 companies, all of which must have a CMMC certificate level of 1 to 3 before they can be allowed to work on government contracts. Those who fail the CMMC audit are prohibited from bidding on any government projects.
How Can Contractors Prepare for a CMMC Compliance Audit?
Here are some tips that will help contractors prepare for CMMC certification and ensure they're ready for the upcoming audit.
- Determine the Target CMMC Compliance Level
Contractors need to determine the CMMC level they need to achieve. The DoD will assign the CMMC level based on the cybersecurity posture of a contractor.
- Conduct a Self-Assessment
Once a contractor is assigned a CMMC level, the next step is to conduct a self-assessment. This identifies any weaknesses in a contractor's cybersecurity defense, allowing them to make the necessary adjustments before the actual CMMC audit. There are two ways contractors can do this.
Contractors with their own IT staff or those with enough resources can opt for an in-house assessment. The Self-Assessment Handbook - NIST Handbook 162 outlines the assessment process in great detail. The only problem with the handbook is that it does not cover all the CMMC source guidance, but it will provide contractors with a good start.
- CMMC Consultant
For contractors who need a CMMC certificate beyond Level 3, outsourcing the assessment process to a CMMC consultant is the best option. Unlike the NIST handbook, a CMMC consultant can help contractors to comply with the security requirements found in NIST SP 800-171 Rev. B.
- Get a Gap Assessment
Finally, contractors must ensure that there are no weak spots in their cybersecurity protocols. They can do this by partnering with Charles IT and getting a gap assessment. We'll make sure that your infrastructure meets all the requirements of the CMMC framework. Stay ahead of the competition by getting your gap assessment today.