What is CMMC Compliance, and How Can I Use It To Grow My Business?
In today’s business world, ensuring that your company complies with cybersecurity regulations is more important than ever. One of the most important compliance standards is CMMC. But what is CMMC, and how can you use it to grow your business? In this blog post, we will answer those questions and more!
Cybersecurity Compliance… What Is That?
Before we dive into CMMC, let’s talk about cybersecurity compliance.
Cybersecurity compliance is a set of practices and policies that companies must follow to protect their data and networks from cyber-attacks. With most industries depending on digital technologies to function, it has become increasingly important for companies to stay up-to-date with their cybersecurity protocols. Companies must comply with the latest security standards to remain competitive and secure.
These security standards typically come from industry associations or government agencies. They are designed to protect customer data and prevent cyber-attacks. For example, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard regulates how companies handle credit card information.
What Is CMMC?
CMMC stands for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. It is a set of practices and standards that any U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) contractors must follow to receive and maintain a contract with the U.S. government. Essentially it is cyber security compliance for government contracting.
The goal of the CMMC is to protect defense contractors from cyber intrusions and prevent confidential information belonging to the U.S. military from reaching America’s adversaries.
The CMMC is divided into five levels, each comprised of processes and practices that range from necessary “basic cyber hygiene” at Level 1 to the more advanced or progressive cybersecurity techniques found at Level 5. These procedures transition from “performed” at level one to a higher degree of “optimizing” by level five.
To reach a particular CMMC level, an organization must demonstrate completion of all the preceding lower levels and exhibit standardized processes and practices. In cases where an entity demonstrates different levels for either one or both components, certification will be given at the lower of the two tiers. Level-ups essentially signify a heightened degree of protection for confidential data.
CMMC levels can be classified as follows:
Level 1 – Safeguarding federal contract information.
Level 2 – As a transition step to protect confidential unclassified information (CUI).
Level 3 – Protecting CUI from malicious actors and threats.
Levels 4-5 – Enhancing the protection of CUI and reducing the risk posed by advanced persistent threats.
Level 1 of the CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification) only encompasses practices that comply with basic federal contracting information safeguard regulations. According to the Department of Defense, Level 2 necessitates organizations create and document procedures to guide their implementation of the CMMC.
Level 3 demands the 110 security requirements that NIST 800-171 sets forth and also includes additional safeguards found in specifications like NIST 800-53, AIA NAS 9933, and CERT’s Resilience Management Model. It calls for companies to construct and allocate resources towards a plan that assures compliance with the DOD criteria.
This strategy can outline objectives, projects, plans of action, resource management strategies, training opportunities, and roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders.
What Makes CMCC Different from Other Cybersecurity Standards?
For years, the U.S. government has provided cyber defense guidance to contractors; however, there was no way for these contractors to demonstrate how secure their security systems were until now. CMMC supplies a certification system authorized by third-party assessors that all prospective contractees must acquire before being eligible for future government contracts.
The CMMC is different from other cybersecurity standards in that it is a tiered system with specific levels of compliance required to receive and maintain contracts. It requires organizations to meet security requirements and document their processes and procedures. This ensures that they can demonstrate the proficiency of their capabilities and comply with the latest security standards.
Additionally, the CMMC emphasizes not only the implementation of security controls but also their optimization and continuous measurement.
Who Will Be Affected by the CMMC?
To participate in government contracts, defense contractors must demonstrate that their security processes comply with the CMMC’s requirements.
While not all organizations that provide products and services to the DoD will be affected, those that deal with controlled unclassified information or classified national security information in any shape or form must abide by the CMMC regulations.
Moreover, subcontractors of any DoD contractors must also comply with the CMMC standards to be eligible for future contracts. As such, all organizations should assess their existing processes and procedures against the CMMC requirements to determine how to adjust their security management practices to achieve certification at a particular level.
Who Can Obtain CMMC Certification, and How?
To receive CMMC certification, organizations must be a U.S. government contractor or subcontractor and have their network audited by an independent third-party assessor. The assessment can be either self-assessed or conducted by an internal team or involve external professionals.
Once all CMMC-level requirements are met, an organization will receive the certification. This accreditation is valid for three years and needs to be renewed periodically.
Organizations can also use automated tools such as cloud-based cybersecurity compliance management platforms or software-as-a-service applications that help assess cybersecurity posture according to NIST 800-171, NIST 800-53, CMMC standards, and other industry regulations. With such tools, organizations can continuously monitor their compliance with security requirements and reduce the time needed for certification or recertification.
Does CMMC Apply To All Government Contracts?
No, not all government contracts are subject to CMMC regulations. However, most future DoD contracts are expected to require vendors to have CMMC certification. As a result, organizations should assess their current security posture and processes against the requirements outlined by the CMMC and take steps to achieve compliance if necessary.
All organizations seeking to participate in DoD contracts should also consider preparing action plans, resource management strategies, training opportunities, and roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders.
By doing so, they can guarantee that their systems comply with the CMMC’s requirements and remain eligible for future government contracts.
How Much Will It Cost to Achieve CMMC Certification?
The cost of achieving CMMC certification depends on the organization’s size, budget, and security posture. Companies may experience additional expenses related to personnel training, hiring consultants or internal employees for compliance assessment and implementation of security controls, and purchasing technology solutions for continuous monitoring.
However, organizations can reduce the cost of achieving and maintaining compliance with CMMC by implementing comprehensive cybersecurity policies, investing in automated security solutions, and taking proactive measures to ensure their systems remain secure. Please remember that CMMC does not authorize contractors to carry out self-certifications.
What Are The Advantages Of Achieving CMMC Certification?
CMMC certification demonstrates an organization’s commitment to data security and compliance with the DoD’s requirements for handling sensitive information. It also helps organizations build trust with clients, increase their credibility in the market, and stay compliant with industry regulations.
Adopting CMMC compliance can unlock several opportunities for your business, including:
Eligibility for government contracts
If you are a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) or other government agency contractor, adhering to CMMC compliance is essential. Becoming compliant makes you eligible for DoD contracts and other associated opportunities requiring this certification. It puts your business in an advantageous position moving forward.
Gain a strategic edge over your competition
Becoming CMMC compliant sets you apart from competitors not meeting the criteria, giving you a considerable advantage in the marketplace.
Strengthened credibility and trustworthiness
Obtaining Certified CMMC compliance demonstrates to your customers and partners that you value protecting their data and increases trust in your company’s credibility. This creates a more reliable connection with them, leading to more business opportunities for you.
Exploring untapped territories
Companies in highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance must meet strict data security mandates. If your business is CMMC compliant, you can explore new opportunities by tapping into these growing markets.
Shield your business against cyber threats
In the face of rising cyber threats, CMMC compliance is your greatest ally in protecting your business from potential data breaches and security risks. Avoiding reputational damage requires more than luck; it demands an effective strategy for safeguarding assets and identity. These same principles can help you protect what matters most to sustain success today — now and into the future.
These are just some of the great advantages of achieving CMMC certification. By adhering to this standard, companies can provide a secure environment for customers and partners while gaining a competitive edge in the market.
Now is the right time to start planning your organization’s CMMC strategy. The DoD has already started awarding contracts with CMMC compliance as a condition, so getting certified is no longer just a nice-to-have. It’s critical to protecting your business and remaining eligible for future government contracts.
How Can I Use CMMC To Grow My Business?
Now let’s move on to the most important question. How can your business use CMMC to grow and succeed?
First, we should recognize that CMMC fundamentally differs from other compliance frameworks. It was specifically designed to address supply chain cyber security threats and offers a stable foundation for companies of all types to manage these risks effectively. Sticking to these strategies can significantly enhance your organization’s security.
Companies that cannot display CMMC conformity could be perceived as unprotected by their partners and suppliers. Establishing Vendor Disclosure Programs needed by customers to manage supply chain risks may also become a problem for them. Failing to do so might even render financial damages due to the risk of supply chain breaches!
CMMC is excellent for demonstrating an organization’s commitment to data security and compliance with the DoD’s requirements for handling sensitive information. It also ensures trust, credibility and increased business prospects.
Organizations certified as CMMC compliant enjoy access to a wider range of government contracts, plus other opportunities in heavily regulated industries such as finance and healthcare. And let’s not forget the competitive advantage you gain over companies that are not yet CMMC compliant!
How To Prepare For CMMC Certification
Now that you know the importance of obtaining CMMC certification, it’s time to start planning your organization’s CMMC strategy. Ensuring you understand and implement the security protocols will be essential to this process.
You need to document all processes and procedures, assign roles and select resources for implementation. Planning can also help you identify areas to improve or clarify before starting the CMMC certification process.
You may also consider hiring a third-party provider to assist with the compliance process. An experienced specialist can provide valuable insight into what is expected from your organization, helping you understand and adhere to the requirements needed for CMMC certification.
CMMC compliance is a process, not an event. And while it can be intimidating at first, there are some tips to help make the journey easier:
- Understand your current level of security and the scope of your environment. This will give you a great starting point for figuring out what level of certification you need and which requirements you need to meet.
- Create a comprehensive security policy and data protection plan as the first steps to compliance. This should include standardized procedures for managing access control, system monitoring, patching, end-user training and incident response.
- Bring in an expert to assess your environment’s compliance with the CMMC standard.
- Develop a roadmap with milestones to help break down the process into achievable chunks. This will help you track your progress and stay on course.
- Test your system regularly to ensure your security processes are up-to-date and aligned with best practices.
CMMC compliance is essential for any business that wants to maintain its competitive edge in today’s digital landscape and take advantage of lucrative DoD contracts. By embracing this standard, your organization can protect itself from cyber threats, boost trust and create new business opportunities.
Of course, getting CMMC certified is not a walk in the park—it requires careful planning and an eye for detail throughout the process. But with a comprehensive security policy, data protection plan and support from third-party providers, you can ensure your organization stays compliant with all of the DoD’s requirements.
It is a lot to take in but if you find yourself needing a little help along the way or if you want to outsource the whole project, simply contact us. We have the compliance portal and IT services to make it happen ASAP.
(Some information in this article will be outdated with the coming CMMC 2.0 framework. Once the DoD completes drafting and enacting the CMMC 2.0 we will revise this article to match the new standards)