Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification

Do You Understand Your Company's Role In National Security?

Is your business one of the 300,000 businesses currently conducting business with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)? Do you have plans to bid on future DoD projects? If your answer to either of these questions is "yes," your company is required to achieve the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) in order to maintain existing or secure new contracts.

In an effort to protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) or Federal Contract Information (FCI) from bad actors, organizations and their subcontractors that bid on DoD contracts are required to achieve CMMC compliance at a level identified in the DoD contract. To learn more about each of the five levels of CMMC, scroll down and expand the appropriate section. Generally speaking, however, if your company receives only FCI, at a minimum, you will only need to achieve CMMC Level 1 implementation. However, if your business receives CUI, you will be required to meet a minimum of CMMC Level 3.

The CMMC model framework was developed with the intention of building upon existing guidance and standards for safeguarding information systems and data, such as "FAR 52.204-21, "Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting" and NIST SP 800-171, "Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Non-Federal Systems and Organizations."

To learn more about CMMC and for tips that will help you prepare, click here to download our comprehensive whitepaper.

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Breaking Down CMMC

Defining The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification

To help safeguard the nation's Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), the Department of Defense (DoD) developed the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) as the new standard for cybersecurity controls across the entire Defense Industrial Base (DIB), which includes businesses within the manufacturing and construction industries as well as local government entities. This certification serves to provide increased assurance to the Department of Defense that a DIB company is equipped to “adequately protect sensitive unclassified information, accounting for information flow down to subcontractors in a multi-tier supply chain.”

The CMMC model framework incorporates a risk-based approach to cybersecurity compliance by introducing the concept of maturity, where organizations seeking certification can become certified under a specific maturity level, ranging from one (basic) to five (advanced). The maturity level your organization certifies under will reflect your cybersecurity capabilities in terms of being able to protect the data you handle while executing DoD contracts.

Once CMMC has been achieved, your certification status will be accepted across all DoD agencies and will remain active for three years from the certification date.

How Are CMMC Levels Determined?

Your level of CMMC will be determined by the Department of Defense (DoD) contract, which will explicitly state the level of compliance an organization must meet to secure the work. The contract will also outline the level of CMMC required of an organization's sub-contractors. The CMMC maturity levels are broken down into five categories:

  • Level 1: Safeguarding Federal Contract Information (FCI)
    • Basic: The organization must practice cybersecurity hygiene.
      • Cybersecurity processes are performed but are not documented.
  • Level 2: Transitioning Toward Protection Of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)
    • Intermediate: The organization practices improved cybersecurity hygiene.
      • Cybersecurity processes are repeatable, meaning they are performed and supported by documentation.
  • Level 3: Protecting CUI
    • Moderate: The organization has demonstrated good cybersecurity hygiene.
      • Cybersecurity processes are planned, established, and effectively executed.
  • Level 4: Protecting CUI against Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) with partial adoption of advanced cybersecurity practices
    • The organization takes a proactive stance regarding cybersecurity and has enhanced detection and response capabilities.
      • Established cybersecurity processes are continuously being monitored and measured.
  • Level 5: Protecting CUI against APT with full adoption of advanced cybersecurity practices
    • Advanced: The organization has implemented layered cybersecurity controls and has demonstrated the overall sophistication of its cybersecurity practices.
      • Cybersecurity processes are optimized and monitored to implement continuous improvement.

When The Grade Is Pass/Fail, Are You Prepared To Pass

To prepare for CMMC, your company must embrace cybersecurity within all aspects of your operations. No longer will a "check-the-box" mentality be sufficient. As technology continues to evolve, new threats will arise, new vulnerabilities will be exposed, and cybersecurity practices must evolve accordingly to manage cybersecurity-related risks. This is what we are working toward with CMMC.

Companies that follow continuous, risk-based approaches toward implementing cybersecurity practices across their enterprises will be
better positioned to achieve CMMC certifications at higher maturity levels, which will result in a greater strategic advantage when bidding for work. Therefore, it makes sense to prepare for CMMC now to ensure you are able to achieve CMMC compliance and, ultimately, business continuity.

If you are considering CMMC certification consider taking the following preparatory actions:

  • Establishing a cybersecurity program
  • Formalizing cybersecurity practices
  • Proactively engaging C3PAOs and other third parties
  • Monitoring regulatory developments

For additional insight into the prep work that goes into CMMC compliance as well as more information pertaining to CMMC in general, download our whitepaper.

The Proof Is In The Process - And In The C3PAO's Assessment

Because the CMMC framework is built upon existing guidance and standards, including FAR 52.204-21, DFARS 252.204-7012, and NIST SP 800-171, if you have already made an effort to comply with current cybersecurity regulations, you may only experience minor impacts during the CMMC certification process. However, if you have not put forth similar efforts and/or prepared, you could be facing numerous challenges. Organizations need to be able to identify where they lack visibility and/or have deficiencies within their cybersecurity program, in order to proactively address those challenges in advance of seeking CMMC.

If you are looking to secure your certification, the first step is to reach out to a Registered Provider Organization for CMMC to get in touch with a Certified Registered Practitioner. Together, you will review your existing cybersecurity policies and processes and whether they meet the level of CMMC you are required to achieve to maintain your Department of Defense (DoD) contracts or bid for future DoD work. After a thorough assessment, CMMC registered practitioners will determine if you are ready to obtain the level of CMMC required. If issues are identified, the CMMC team will help you overcome these challenges and help ensure that your organization is in a position to meet the Department of Defense requirements.

In order to achieve CMMC, you must seek the assistance of an accredited and independent Certified 3rd Party Assessment Organization (C2PAO), which will determine whether you meet the necessary requirements to achieve the appropriate level of certification. Organizations seeking certification should anticipate C3PAOs to perform independent testing procedures during their engagements, which may vary in effort and complexity depending upon the desired CMMC maturity level. Furthermore, your organization must be prepared to provide adequate documented evidence to support verifications.

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How Can Rea Help?

Rea & Associates' cyber services team is uniquely positioned to provide businesses with the CMMC preparation support needed to maintain business continuity, avoid fines and penalties for failing to comply with cybersecurity protocol, and maintain the overall security and integrity of the business. In addition to our industry-based expertise, specifically related to construction and manufacturing, today, Rea is one of fewer than 300 CMMC Registered Provider Organizations (RPOs) in the nation with a cybersecurity team that consists of four CMMC Registered Practitioners. As registered practitioners, we have been authorized by the CMMC accreditation body to help companies prepare for formal certification. We are also in the process of becoming a C3PAO organization. Currently, there are no C3PAO organizations in existence.

As regional practitioners with experience in the military supply chain sector and a direct military-laden resume, backed by a firm of construction and manufacturing specialists, Rea in an excellent position to position our clients for success and ongoing CMMC compliance. Give us a call today to start your CMMC compliance journey - or click here to send a direct message.

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