Data breaches in every industry need to be taken seriously, which is why several security and compliance standards are specific to different sectors. It is, therefore, natural for the defense industry to have one of its own. And that is where the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) was sanctioned by the Department of Defense (DoD) of the United States to uniformly and consistently improve cybersecurity readiness across the defense industry base (DIB) supply chains of the federal government.
By publishing the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) 252.204-7012, the DoD put into practice procedures for protecting Covered Defense Information (CDI) and reporting cyber incidents since October 2016. The DFARS required DoD contractors to certify on their behalf that sufficient security procedures were put in place within contractor systems to guarantee the preservation of CDI confidentiality.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST highlights in its Special Publication (SP) 800-171, also known as “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Systems and Organizations” the security measures that must be implemented in accordance with the DFARS.
The drafting of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) security guidelines started in 2019 under the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD (A&S)). CMMC version 1.0 was subsequently published in January 2020, and CMMC version 2.0 was announced in November 2021. It is also charted that an “interim rule” will be published in 2023, following the CMMC Certification Assessment Process (CAP) guide in June 2022.
Now that we know what CMMC is and the history behind introducing this regulatory framework, let’s understand the basics better. In this blog, we at Akitra have covered crucial topics under the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, like why it is essential, how it is different, who it applies to, the various certification levels, the components of the framework, and how it benefits the defense industry. If you want certification for this specific security standard, this article is for you!
Let’s get started!
Why is CMMC Important?
DIB contractors hold and utilize sensitive government data to create and provide products and services. The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) ensures that they secure this data like the military and other government organizations do. How is it different? For many years, the U.S. government gave cybersecurity advice to contractors but there needed to be a mechanism for the contractors to demonstrate the effectiveness of their cybersecurity programs. Outside assessors conduct a new set of certifications from CMMC. Before receiving future government contracts, contractors must get certified in this regulatory framework.
Differences Between CMMC and NIST 800-171
NIST 800-171 assumes a cybersecurity program’s maturity (policies, plans, processes, and procedures to manage the environment where the controlled unclassified information (CUI) sits. They play a significant role in assessments under CMMC, and these policies, plans, and other documents ensure the techniques are successfully applied. If implemented, the organization will be able to certify under CMMC.
Four more controls that are not currently covered by NIST 800-171 will also be included in CMMC Domains:
- Asset Management
- Cybersecurity Governance
- Situational Awareness
Who Does CMMC Apply to?
The certification covers both “prime” contractors who work directly with the DoD and subcontractors who work with primes to fulfill and carry out those contracts. The DoD has since stated that contract opportunities are intended to be issued at all levels of the maturity model, which means that some requests will be issued that will only require a low level of certification and some that will require higher levels of certification, even though some level of certification will be a requirement of every contract starting in 2026.
Different Certification Levels of CMMC
In a nutshell, there are three certification levels:
Level 1 – Foundational:
It consists of fundamental cybersecurity ideal for small businesses using a portion of generally recognized industry standards. At the very least, on an ad hoc basis, the processes at this level would involve certain conducted practices. The same 17 controls listed in the first CMMC framework are included at this level, but now only an annual self-evaluation and validation by business leadership is needed.
Level 2 – Advanced:
It covers every control listed in NIST SP 800-171 Rev. 2. Procedures are upheld and followed at this level, and a thorough understanding of cyber assets exists. The DoD reduced the original 110 controls in the NIST 800-171 baseline from the original 130 controls in the CMMC Level 3 baseline. In place of an annual self-assessment with attestation, the DoD is considering a bifurcated process that will identify “prioritized acquisitions” that must go through a separate assessment against the new Level 2 Advance requirements on a tri-annual basis.
Level 3 – Expert:
It contains incredibly sophisticated cybersecurity techniques. At this level, enterprise-wide continuous improvement and machine-speed defensive actions are involved. This level includes a subset of controls from NIST SP 800-172 in cases where an organization already has a Level 2 CMMC Certification and when the Level 3 controls will be evaluated by the DoD rather than a C3PAO.
Benefits of Getting CMMC Certified!
With the mandate stating all contracts with the Department of Defense must comply with CMMC standards by 2025, contractors who engage with the DoD must start working toward their CMMC accreditation. Companies invest in becoming certified to one of the five levels of CMMC for various reasons, not just the mandate.
Enhancing the protection of controlled unclassified information (CIU) and intellectual property (IP) within the supply chain of the U.S. Defense Industrial Base is the actual benefit for businesses that pursue certification (DIB). This will lessen the $600 billion lost intellectual property that our daily DIB hacks cause each year.
Additional benefits of the CMMC framework include the following:
- attaining a decrease in risk from a particular set of online dangers by putting cybersecurity standards, best practices, controls, and procedures into place at various maturity levels, from basic cyber hygiene to sophisticated;
- enhancing the trust-based existing regulations (DFARS 252.204-7012) by including a verification element for the cybersecurity standards; and,
- acquiring a method for small enterprises to achieve lower maturity levels that is both reasonable and cost-effective.
CMMC Compliance with Akitra!
Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today’s era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that the organizations they work with are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk. Compliance certification fills that need.
Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our service helps customers become certified for CMMC along with other frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CCPA, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes, delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently.
The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and cost savings — including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.
Build customer trust. Choose Akitra TODAY!