The world of technology has advanced, but with it comes the issue of cybersecurity. Companies that deal with sensitive information are therefore required to put measures in place to protect themselves, the information they keep, and their customers. One of such measures is the CMMC.
What is CMMC certification?
The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a verification framework that measures an organization’s advancement (maturity) in terms of how they protect unclassified information. Such unclassified information includes Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).
CMMC generally is a set of cybersecurity standards covering many other security standards and best practices. The certification is proof that the organization in question observes these security best practices and standards.
The Department of Defense (DoD) created and manages the CMMC. They look at it as their benchmark whenever sensitive information on the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) systems has been compromised. It’s like a code of conduct, a constitution regarding information security.
Who needs CMMC certification?
Like many other models and certifications, not every company needs CMMC certified. CMMC applies to anyone or any organization in the defense contract supply chain. So if you handle contracts for the Defense Department, you fall into the category of who needs CMMC certification, and it’s crucial you get it quickly from an accreditation body. The DoD is aware there are risks involved with handling contract information out to third parties.
Since such information involving defense and cybersecurity would typically be sensitive, a breach can affect national security and the economy.
Therefore, the DoD is focused on protecting such unclassified information. They’re unclassified because they’re available to your company as a contractor but not ideally to the general public or those with ill intent.
The DoD developed the CMMC framework to protect, assess, and improve the cybersecurity status of organizations within the DoD contractor community.
The CMMC certification is important because it positions you as an organization worthy of being contracted by the DoD. Since the CMMC framework is new, soon, all companies in the DoD’s contract list will be required to obtain it.
Preparing for CMMC accreditation
Before getting certified, the accreditation body will put your organization through a training course to ensure you meet the model’s requirements.
A CMMC training course will typically help you:
- Understand the concept of the CMMC framework
- Understand the processes, practices, and domains involved
- Determine the CMMC requirements applicable to each unique contractor organization
- Get the skills to implement and manage the CMMC’s requirements in your given organization.
Why are there talks about CMMC 2.0?
There are plans to introduce CMMC 2.0 as a revised version of the original framework, CMMC 1.0.
The DoD developed this revised framework after receiving public feedback regarding the need to enhance CMMC by:
- Reducing cost;
- Increasing trust;
- Clarifying and aligning the requirements with other existing accepted standards.
How does the CMMC framework work?
According to the DoD, The CMMC framework works to verify the implementation of processes and practices to achieve cybersecurity maturity level. The essence is to ensure that contractors can protect all sensitive information they obtain by working with the Defense Department.
Of course, most contractors have subcontractors, so the flow of information must be protected throughout the entire supply chain.
The CMMC works as an advanced embodiment of security rather than a simple list of dos and don’ts. It’s more than telling someone about changing their passwords or using complex ones.
CMMC as a model “aligns processes and practices with the type and sensitivity of the information to be protected and the associated range of threats,” says the DoD.
What are the 5 CMMC levels?
The CMMC framework consists of 5 maturity levels. The levels are like a buildup, in which each level contains practices and processes in addition to those included in the previous level. The levels range from CMMC Level 1 to CMMC Level 5.
The first level is basic and progresses up to advanced cybersecurity at level 5.
CMMC levels take the following format:
- CMMC level 1: BASIC CYBER HYGIENE — to safeguard federal contract information
- CMMC level 2: INTERMEDIATE CYBER HYGIENE — transitions into protection controlled unclassified information
- CMMC level 3: GOOD CYBER HYGIENE — protects CUI
- CMMC level 4: PROACTIVE CYBER HYGIENE — protects CUI and reduces the risk of advanced threats
- CMMC level 5: ADVANCED/PROGRESSIVE CYBER HYGIENE — protects CUI and reduces the risk of advanced persistent threats.
Most organizations would not need level 4 or 5 CMMC certifications as they typically apply to companies dealing with information targeted by foreign nations.
How to obtain different CMMC levels
For you to obtain any CMMC level, your accrediting body will assess your processes and practices. If they see that your organization demonstrates all the processes and practices of a lower level, they can then certify you with the higher level.
For example, you get CMMC level 2 certification if you tick all the boxes for level 1.
How easy is it to obtain the certification?
Obtaining CMMC is often a lengthy and complicated process because not many contractors have been accredited. It takes time for the few accrediting bodies available to train, assess, and then certify an organization. This cybersecurity concept is new, so that is expected.
Since more contractors would rush to get CMMC certified as soon as it goes mainstream, you’d be in tough competition. If you’re among those who need to get certified, now is the best time to do so.
It’s also advisable to familiarize yourself with the CMMC requirements before applying for accreditation. That can ensure you don’t run into jams that may slow you down.
Also, you must make CMMC a continuous part of your operations because, indeed, cybersecurity is critical. Ensuring all defense contract information remains protected at all times is essential for compliance. Furthermore, you must stay compliant to retain your certified status.
Although compliance doesn’t guarantee security, it shows you’ve done all that’s necessary to secure things. Breaches may happen, but then, it wouldn’t be because you were negligent.
As a government contractor with the DoD, it’s vital to get the CMMC certification to stay relevant in that niche in the coming years.