DoD contractors have a significant responsibility under the new CMMC regulations. They must protect federal contract information (FCI) and controlled unclassified information (CUI) from being breached and stolen by cybercriminals.
To ensure contractors are adequately protecting confidential data, the Department of Defense created the CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification). Its purpose is to enforce cybersecurity rules and regulations for DoD contractors to abide by and permits audits on contractors systems to measure their security level.
The CMMC Accreditation Body (CMMC-AB) is responsible for overseeing assessors and selecting Certified Third Party Assessment Organizations (C3PAO) to conduct audits on DoD contractors’ systems. Passing the CMMC audit will be mandatory to continue bidding on contracts.
To ensure your contracting firm achieves CMMC certification, preparation is critical for success. Being equipped with the knowledge and tools to pass CMMC will allow contractors to better prepare for official CMMC audits, which are already beginning to be rolled out.
Here are four strategies DoD contractors should be employing now to be prepared for these audits:
1. Understand the level of hygiene you need to comply with.
To prepare for the CMMC audit, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the different levels of cyber hygiene distinguished by the Department of Defense.
There are five levels of maturity which determine the technical practices your company must follow to protect FCI and CUI. The different levels are outlined briefly below (each level also includes the previous level’s requirements):
- Basic Cyber Hygiene: Contractors must incorporate 17 controls from NIST 800-171.
- Intermediate Cyber Hygiene: Contractors must use 48 controls from NIST 800-171 plus 7 new controls.
- Good Cyber Hygiene: Contractors must incorporate 45 controls from NIST 800-171 plus 13 new controls.
- Proactive Cyber Hygiene: Contractors must combine 11 controls from NIST 800-171 plus 15 new controls.
- Advanced Cyber Hygiene: Contractors will need to incorporate the last four controls from NIST 800-171 plus 11 new controls.
Understanding what level of hygiene you are required to meet will help you better meet the compliance regulations as they are set forth in the CMMC model.
2. Get an IT risk assessment.
A risk assessment of a DoD contractor’s current IT operations will provide a better understanding of the firm’s cybersecurity levels compared to the standards set by the CMMC. A risk assessment evaluates the current health of your systems and any weaknesses that may prohibit you from becoming compliant.
Additionally, a risk assessment will help you prioritize which weaknesses need to be resolved first, such as siloed or unprotected data.
3. Use a preparation tool such as PreVeil.
According to a BitSight report, since 2016, 5.6 percent of defense contractors recorded a data breach. Accruing, maintaining, and assessing proficient cybersecurity is essential not just to gain CMMC certification but also to protect the confidential information between a DoD contractor and defense services.
To enhance security that is compliant with CMMC guidelines, many contractors are turning to DoD-focused tools to help them achieve that goal. However, many believe that GCC High—though extremely expensive and difficult to implement—is their only option.
On the contrary, there are cost-effective alternatives that can help. PreVeil is an easy-to-implement alternative that equips companies with the highest level of cybersecurity without sacrificing quality. PreVeil, a long-standing, reputable IT service, provides services such as secure file sharing and has become the gold standard in end-to-end encryption (such as for email).
4. Get expert CMMC preparation services.
To better guarantee your organization’s compliance with CMMC guidelines and make sure you are able to pass an audit, it’s recommended by the DoD to hire a knowledgeable IT professional service specializing in CMMC compliance to help you get ready.
A CMMC consultant caters exclusively to DoD contractors and is highly familiar with the NIST, DFARS, and now CMMC controls you need to meet to continue bidding on contracts. CMMC consultants use industry-specific tools (such as PreVeil) to ensure your systems meet the level of hygiene you need before an official audit takes place.
Preparing for a CMMC audit is essential to ensure an organization not only gains certification to continue operating and prevent downtime rectifying their IT processes, but also to remain secure from increasing cyber threats. As audits are just around the corner, it’s best to start now.