CMMC Certification: How Defense Contractors Can Prepare For It

Organizations that are a part of the defense line and work under the US Department of Defense need the CMMC certification to get contracts or maintain their existing contracts with the department.

Now the big question is what is CMMC?

CMMC or Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, is a standardized model for the implementation of strict cybersecurity measures across all organizations in the defense industrial base. It applies to approximately 300000 organizations that are operating in the defense supply chain. The CMMC is presently the most significant need for DoD (Department of Defense) contractors to protect the sensitive defense-related information in their IT (information technology) systems.

Previously DoD contractors were accountable on their own for implementing, tracking, and ensuring the security of their critical information stored in their IT systems or transmitted to other departments or contractors. While the responsibility of contractors regarding the cybersecurity controls remains same as before, with the CMMC certification there is a major change introduced. Now the contractors need to go through third-party assessments of their cybersecurity controls with a set of regulations and practices. Those regulations and practices are mandatory to make contractors able to deal with evolving cyber threats and adapt to changing technology adversaries.

DoD contractors hence now are required to obtain the CMMC to prove their commitment to information security. The next section explains what you should do for it if your organization is required to obtain it.

Preparations that DoD Contractors Need for CMMC Certification

If your organization is one of the DoD contractors, the first step for you is to understand the CMMC requirements and prepare for complying with them to gain both short and long-term conformance to cybersecurity. For this, you should contact a certification consultancy having specialized CMMC consultants. They can help you learn about all technical requirements of CMMC and at the same time help you through the assessments. They can evaluate your processes, cybersecurity practices, and identify the gaps compared to the maturity model. Following the assessment, they can recommend corrective actions and make sure that that your organization’s cybersecurity controls and capabilities are meeting the CMMC requirements.

To help you further, here are four key steps that can help your organization to get prepared for the certification.

Step 1: Decide the Level of Certification Required

There are 5 defined levels of CMMC certification based on the maturity of cybersecurity needs of DoD contractors. The lowest level (level 1) is for the contractors that need basic cybersecurity requirements while the highest level (level 5) is for contractors that require the most advanced controls as they face severe threats. Clearly, the certification maturity level increases as the need for cybersecurity controls or practices for a contractor evolves.

By evaluating your cybersecurity needs and information systems or how the information is stored and exchanged, determine the certification level required for your organization. Each of the levels needs certain investment, policy, and different security controls. So it is essential that you know which CMMC level is appropriate for your organization.

Assessing your current contracts and the type of information you deal with in them is critical to determine the appropriate level. If you do not have to maintain CUI (Controlled Unclassified Information) with your contracts, then level 1 or level 2 is appropriate. However, if you do have to maintain CUI along with other confidential information, your organization needs level 3 or higher.

Step 2: Know Your Relationships with Sub-contractors

Sub-contractors are equally important as your primary contractor and so your CMMC compliance depends on them too. It is also your responsibility to ensure that your subcontractors also comply with the CMMC requirements. In order to do so, you should evaluate agreements with your subcontractors and include cybersecurity compliance conditions in the agreements. You need to ask for CMMC compliance for all agents in your supply chain and if anyone of them is not certified, then make sure that their data systems and information exchange procedures are in line with the CMMC requirements.

Step 3: Define Your Information System Boundaries

You need to define the information system boundaries for the reduction of the threat surface. The goal is to minimize the chances of threats by defining a restricted enclave where all sensitive data can be stored. It is also equally crucial to develop and enforce a strong policy for data classification and storage management. It helps to ensure that every new dataset is passed on to the appropriate and safest segment of your IT environment.

Step 4: Make CMMC an Enterprise-wide Objective

Achieving the CMMC certification compliance must be the result of combined effort by all in your organization. Everyone including the CEO, general counsel, information security officers, and other lower-level executives must be aware of the compliance requirements and act responsibly to address them. Whether some security controls just need to be updated in the existing policies or some need new adjustments have to be made in configuration settings for compliance, it becomes easier to do everyone in the organization cooperates, participates, and accepts the changes in their information security protocols.

Bottom Line

All organizations in the defense line today need the CMMC certification to validate their cybersecurity controls and practices to their contractors. This includes both small and large suppliers across the defense supply chain, commercial item contractors, and international suppliers in the DIB (Defense Industrial Base). The goal for CMMC is not to burden you with extra controls or regulations but to streamline your cybersecurity system or framework to increase efficiency and ensure greater information security.

Do you need CMMC for your organization? We, at Compliance Consulting LLC understand this certification model inside and out and so we can prepare your organization to the level needed to get your organization certified with an appropriate CMMC level. Talk to our CMMC consultants today to know how to get started and make your organization’s information processes and systems secure.

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