What Is CMMC & How Can You Become Compliant?

Cybersecurity threats are increasing, with businesses small and large at risk of an attack or breach. Because of the escalating threats, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been working to ensure companies that work with them have undertaken certain security steps. The result is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, also known as CMMC. CMMC is a security framework that was introduced in early 2020. CMMC compliance requires any contractor working with the DoD to get certified for certain cybersecurity protocols, as well as their subcontractors. A verified third-party assessor must issue the certification, recognizing that cybersecurity protocols are up to standards. Businesses that ignore CMMC could lose or fail to obtain lucrative DoD contracts. The process requires that every entity doing business with the DoD must be CMMC certified by 2025. So, if CMMC affects you, are you compliant? Do you know how to become compliant? If not, don’t worry; in this blog, we’ll walk through how CMMC works and how to get started on the certification process.

What is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification?

CMMC’s main goal is to ensure that defense contractors do not get hacked because that could result in the loss of sensitive defense information that might make it into the wrong hands. And the wrong information in the wrong hands could increase risks to national security.

Unfortunately, as many business leaders already know, cyberattacks are all too common. In 2016, The White House Council of Economic Advisors estimated that malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion. And cyberattacks didn’t just affect small businesses that have few cybersecurity procedures in place. There have been many large corporations in the news over the past several years for data breaches where bad actors were able to get around their cybersecurity systems. That’s why it’s so important for companies to pay attention to cybersecurity and why the DoD is focusing so heavily on it.

What is the CMMC Framework?

So, the CMMC is important, but what exactly is it? Well, according to the DoD, the CMMC framework includes a

“comprehensive and scalable certification element to verify the implementation of processes and practices associated with the achievement of a cybersecurity maturity level.”

One of the most important things about the process comes from the name itself—it’s a maturity model. Basically, a maturity model means that for businesses, it’s not a checklist of one-time steps. It’s a continual process complete with changing passwords over time, updating software, and more.

There are five CMMC levels, where additional cybersecurity steps are required for each higher level. Level 1 of the CMMC starts with “basic cyber hygiene,” while level 5 consists of advanced cybersecurity measures. Further, level 1 starts with tasks that are “performed,” while level 5 includes tasks for “optimizing.” The level of certification an organization meets will correspond with their access to sensitive information.

CMMC levels can be categorized this way:

  • Level 1: Safeguard federal contract information. This includes limiting system access to authorized users, monitoring and controlling information transfers and communications, and providing protection from malicious code.
  • Level 2:: Serve as a transition step in cybersecurity maturity progression to protection of controlled unclassified information (CUI).
  • Level 3: Protect CUI using “good cyber hygiene.” This includes having a security plan for mitigating threats complete with goals, training, and resourcing.
  • Level 4: Protect CUI and review cybersecurity protocols. In the last two levels of the CMMC certification, organizations must review their security practices and update them in accordance with new threats and trends to ensure they work and conform to cybersecurity best practices.
  • Level 5: Protect CUI and optimize systems to detect and respond to cyber threats. In level 5, these processes will be standardized throughout the organization and include optimized practices to detect and respond to more sophisticated cyber threats such as advanced persistent threats.

The certification addresses multiple aspects of cybersecurity, including:

  • Access control
  • Asset management
  • Audit and accountability
  • Awareness and training
  • Configuration management
  • Identification and authentication
  • Incident response
  • Maintenance
  • Media protection
  • Physical protection
  • Recovery
  • Risk management
  • Security assessment
  • Situational awareness
  • Systems and communications protection
  • Systems and information integrity

How to Become CMMC Certified?

The CMMC process requires organizations to be assessed by a verified assessor—one accredited by the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Accreditation Body. They will come in, evaluate your organization, and certify your company’s cybersecurity maturity level. However, the DoD recommends that companies perform a self-assessment before scheduling their CMMC assessment. This way, organizations can find any holes or gaps in their cybersecurity posture that need to be addressed before the actual assessment.

The best way to do a self-assessment is likely to hire an experienced cybersecurity partner. You can find guides and checklists for performing cybersecurity assessments on the internet. Still, every business is different, and these generic, one-size-fits-all guides don’t account for that fact. Businesses should instead look for a company with experience working in their industry and can help them create a strategic and specialized plan to evaluate and adjust their cybersecurity measures.

If you’re looking to start the process of becoming CMMC certified, reach out to us today and we can perform a free, in-depth CMMC Assessment for your organization!

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