The growing threat of cyberwarfare has driven the federal government to enforce much tighter cybersecurity controls across the public sector. In no industry is this more apparent than in the defense of the nation. With a global supply chain counting over 300,000 organizations, the DoD faces a monumental task to counter threats posed by state-sponsored attackers and the many other threats it faces. Therefore, getting a DFARS assessment is a must if you want to start bidding on requests for proposals (RFPs) with the DoD.
What are the DFARS compliance requirements?
Information security is a rapidly evolving and increasingly complex field. That’s why the DoD is committed to standardizing the requirements contractors must adhere to. To meet the bare minimum requirements, would-be contractors must ensure adequate security processes and controls are in place throughout their organization and that any incidents are reported promptly to the media and the authorities.
While this might sound straightforward enough, it’s important to remember that what defines ‘adequate security’ covers an enormous amount of ground. DFARS is based on the globally recognized NIST SP 800-171 cybersecurity rules and guidelines. The guidelines include 14 categories ranging from access control to system and information integrity. To ensure you’re ready to meet the demands, you’ll need to include a DFARS assessment in your company’s average IT budget.
Including DFARS assessment in your average IT budget
#1. Prepare for a third-party CMMC audit
DFARS was launched in 2016 as a federal effort to protect DoD contractors against the rising tide of cyberattacks. It largely concerns the protection of controlled unclassified information (CUI), but applies to any organization that does business with the DoD. Achieving compliance means establishing the controls documented in NIST SP 800-171, after which the organization would conduct a DFARS assessment.
In 2020, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) was launched to enhance and certify security based on adherence to the NIST framework. However, the main difference is that DFARS establishes the guidelines for self-assessment, while CMMC requires a third party audit. That’s something that starts with a comprehensive DFARS assessment to ensure you’re ready for the first round of official CMMC audits.
#2. Reduce operational risk with tighter security
Having a DFARS assessment isn’t just for technology companies or even DoD contractors. It is one of the most comprehensive sets of cybersecurity guidelines in the world. Compliance is as much an important learning experience as it is about staying on the right side of the law. It will help reduce operational risk and let you innovate without increasing your susceptibility to cyberattacks.
While all aerospace and defense contractors need to be DFARS compliant by law, basing your cybersecurity strategy on the NIST publication offers a proven way to bolster your defenses no matter what industry you’re in. After all, cyberattacks can target any business of any size in any industry, and their effects can be catastrophic. Conducting a DFARS assessment can help you reduce the risks to your operations, your supply chain, and your reputation.
#3. Win more lucrative contracts
The better your company’s cybersecurity, the higher are its chances of winning more lucrative contracts. For example, if you can achieve the highest certification level under CMMC, you’ll be able to bid on the most valuable RFPs with the DoD. Even if you’re not currently contracting in the defense sector, achieving DFARS compliance is an important selling point in its own right by validating your commitment to cybersecurity.
If you want to bid on any RFPs that involve the storage, processing, or transmission of CUI, you will need to achieve a CMMC level of three or higher. These contracts tend to be far more lucrative than lesser ones, but they also require adherence to many more of the information security controls and processes outlined in NIST. Working your way up the ranks, starting with a DFARS assessment to evaluate your current situation, can fuel business growth later on.
How to get started with your DFARS assessment
You can carry out a DFARS assessment in house or enroll an external consulting firm. Getting the help of an experienced consultant is the best way to get a fresh look at your current security posture, which will likely reveal opportunities for improvement you didn’t know existed. A third party assessment also serves as a practice run for when DoD contractors need to obtain their CMMC certifications in the coming months. It will uncover any issues and provide the solutions you need to mitigate them before they can become a problem.
Charles IT is ready to help you achieve DFARS compliance so you can take on contracts that are essential to the growth of your business. Contact us today to schedule your first security assessment!