The CMMC is a certification created by the Department of Defense (DoD) to enhance cybersecurity against ever-changing threats in the defense sector. It was designed to protect sensitive, unclassified information that the department or other government entities exchange with contractors and subcontractors.
If you’re unfamiliar with CMMC, you may wonder what the requirements are or why compliance with them matters. This blog will delve into the crucial details of the CMMC and the reasons organizations should have these requirements on their radar.
About the CMMC
The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) was introduced in 2020 to ensure that defense contractors comply with a baseline level of cybersecurity practices. The certification’s goal is to protect sensitive defense information. Because the tools that hackers use to access information are constantly evolving, the CMMC has seen quite a few changes to keep up with them.
Cybersecurity protection is essential to national security, but malicious cyber activity also hemorrhages money from the economy. A report from The White House Council of Economic Advisers claims that the US economy lost anywhere between $57 and $109 billion in 2016 due to cyberattacks.
The DoD developed the CMMC in response to the national security, and economic menace cybersecurity breaches were causing. CMMC is essentially an endorsement for a contractor that states they make cybersecurity a priority in their work.
The CMMC Structure and Requirements
The certification features five levels, and each level models a set of processes and practices that prove the contractor has achieved specific cybersecurity habits.
It’s less of a list of must-dos and more of a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity; the DoD needs its contractors to be aware of a range of threats and take measures to protect sensitive information and documents from falling into the wrong hands.
The CMMC model’s five levels are cumulative – level 1 showcases a basic understanding of cyber hygiene, while level 5 is the most advanced and considered optimal. The more proof of protection an organization accomplishes, the more trust they demonstrate. The CMMC levels are as follows:
- Level 1: Basic protection of federal contracts
- Level 2: Enhanced cybersecurity maturity; transitioning to the protection of controlled unclassified information (CUI)
- Level 3: Protection of CUI
- Levels 4 and 5: Diminish the risks of advanced threats
Level 1 is what any company will likely achieve, provided they have some foundation created for cybersecurity.
If you’d like to upgrade to Level 2, you’ll have to document your cybersecurity policies to prove your efforts.
Levels 4 and 5 include everything from previous levels and a way to show a proactive approach to threats and auditing processes put in place to improve security infrastructure constantly.
Contracts that require a level 4 or 5 are relatively rare, but having the certification does present your organization as an ironclad environment that takes cybersecurity threats seriously.
Aiming high in these situations is beneficial, as higher certification levels ensure you’ll be considered for virtually any government contract.
How You Can Get and Stay Certified
Contractors seeking CMMC certification will undergo third-party vetting and analysis. Organizations should perform a cybersecurity audit before they attempt certification; the audit will give you a chance to identify and fix any issues, so you’re more likely to have success during the third party’s audit.
It’s also recommended that your organization is familiar with all of the requirements. It’s much easier to hit a specific certification level if you’re focusing on honing the details associated with that level.
CMMC certification is valid for three years, but you’ll want to maintain security measures to stay certified. Not only for future certifications but also to have a standardized process for security to train new personnel and ensure consistency throughout the organization.
You’ll want to prove that you’re capable of securing sensitive information, so it’s always in your best interest to document everything and keep up with new threats or cybersecurity information.
Why Organizations Should Aim for Compliance
An organization looking to work with the government or DoD will likely need some level of CMMC compliance. The compliance level will vary between contracts, but those requiring higher certification are usually the most lucrative.
However, CMMC isn’t just exclusive to government work. Proving your commitment to cybersecurity practices is something worthwhile for any client. And operating within CMMC guidelines is sure to enhance your security measures, improve your credibility, and give you some extra peace of mind.
With the recent changes, CMMC certification is becoming a popular security certification. But it’s less about getting a title and more about sustaining good business practices. CMMC requirements will outline how you can receive certification. Yet, it’s still up to the organization to prove to the DoD that they can stay CMMC compliant throughout the contract’s duration.
So while CMMC certification is valuable for securing contracts right now, CMMC compliance is essential for building your reputation, making it easier to acquire even more contracts in the future.