In today’s evolving threat landscape, organizations are often required to remain compliant with government and industry-based regulations, standards, and policies pertaining to data security and privacy. Therefore, attaining an industry-wide certification for your corporate cybersecurity posture is critical to maintaining a good reputation as well as assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical and sensitive information within your computing infrastructure.
It is estimated that cybercrime causes global damages of over $600 billion per annum, thus it is now more important than ever for organizations to protect their information supply chain infrastructure, especially supply chains that process controlled unclassified information (CUI). For organizations looking to conduct business with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), there are special cybersecurity regulations that must shape handling of DOD-developed digital assets, and the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a prime example.
The CMMC consists of five maturity levels, which is used as a guide to protect DOD critical data from a range of cyber-threats, including sophisticated threats posed by advanced persistent threats (APTs). The CMMC framework aligns your organization’s cybersecurity response with security control-measures deemed sufficient by the DoD to protect sensitive information against emerging cyber threats, thus allowing Defense Industrial Base (DIB) companies to provide reassurance to the U.S. government that all CUIs are being monitored and secured with at least the basic controls that are recognized by the CMMC maturity levels.
The Importance of CMMC
Being CMMC-compliant not only protects your reputation, but it also mitigates against the financial burden of a breach. The CMMC framework allows you to leverage new operations and applications with the confidence that they are secured by your existing cybersecurity measures.
In terms of the industry-specific benefits, CMMC compliance will reassure clients that you are adhering to the latest cybersecurity recommendations, which will help you win new contracts and gain a competitive advantage over your competitors. Software vendors will be able to reassure enterprise clients that their security framework meets DOD guidelines, and the same applies if you operate in industries with a complex supply chain.
Another benefit of being CMMC-complaint relates to managing risks across your supply chain. If you know of other organizations in your supply chain that are not yet CMMC-compliant or are not prioritizing cybersecurity, you can recommend that they get an audit. This allows for better protection across your whole supply chain, instead of just your organization.
The main goal is to document all processes and constantly improve them, so there is no “weakest link” left within the supply chain. Having a common understanding of how every element of your supply chain operates from a cybersecurity perspective is hugely reassuring, as you can use this knowledge to maintain DOD contracts, expand your client network, and benefit from the subsidized nature of CMMC audits.
Particulars of the CMMC Framework
The CMMC framework consists of 171 practices mapped across five different levels of maturity. The more practices your organization implements, the better you become at protecting all unclassified data within your infrastructure. For the majority of subcontractors of DOD, the first level of the CMMC framework is what you can expect to be recognized when you invest in an audit from a trusted vendor. This level contains all of the common cybersecurity practices.
As you begin to approach the higher levels of the CMMC model, the processes become more documented and proactive. The main aim is to actively manage, review, and optimize cybersecurity processes to protect all of your devices and data points from the growing sophistication of APTs and their growing attraction to supply chain attacks.
Differences Between Each Level of the CMMC Framework
As mentioned earlier, level 1 CMMC states that organizations follow basic cyber hygiene. This is essential to assuring confidence in your supply chains, or to assuring DOD, that you follow basic cybersecurity practices on (at least) an ad hoc basis. The processes are not documented or actively expanded upon by your IT department, but your employees do adopt the recommended processes as and where possible.
Level 2 CMMC measures involve documenting any cybersecurity processes, so that there is proof that people are trained to implement DOD’s best practices for protecting CUI across your organization’s network.
A level 3 compliant subcontractor would have gone one step further than those in level 1 or 2, as their cybersecurity practices adhere to the NIST 800-171 framework. This model contains various security measures that must be undertaken for you to achieve the best protection for all of the CUI you store and manage. For example, instead of simply implementing security measures from a selective standpoint, you will roll the measures out to any section of your infrastructure that may store/move CUI, to enhance your protection from APTs.
If your organization has maturity level 3 CMMC, all of your cybersecurity practices are documented, assessed, and rolled out to the whole organization, while being reviewed on an ad hoc basis.
Furthermore, a level 4 compliance posture differentiates good cyber hygiene from proactive cyber hygiene: the risk from APT actors is managed in real-time with a “constant improvement mindset.” This maturity level combines all of the processes contained in levels 1–3 while using a forward-thinking approach, surrounding the developing sophistication of APTs and the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) they implement.
Lastly, level 5 maturity will require your organization to implement all of the previous levels of the CMMC framework while leveraging the controls and procedures to ultimately lower the risk and burden caused by APTs on your CUI—essentially before the risk to your reputation or finances becomes anything more than minimal.
Required IT Controls for Each CMMC Level of Certification
Each level of the CMMC framework implies a different (and more managed) level of IT control. As a guide, here is what you may be expected to implement depending on your industry:
- Level 1 maturity can include staff updating passwords, updating/patching critical applications, and installing antivirus or other free/low-cost cybersecurity tools.
- Level 2 maturity ensures that procedures to protect CUI are documented and actively encouraged by your IT department. Best practices may be taught via security awareness training.
- Level 3 IT controls may include multi-factor authentication (MFA), meaning the NIST 800-171 framework is adhered to. Your organization will identify and implement cybersecurity controls across all data points that may contain CUI.
An organization with level 4 compliance can be expected to implement forward-thinking measures, such as cybersecurity controls on emerging technology, mobiles, or IoT. These are areas of your infrastructure that may have previously been under-prioritized from a cybersecurity standpoint.
Lastly, to become a level 5 compliant entity, your IT department must implement 24-hour controls, to minimize the impact of any form of cyber-threats. For example, a security operations center (SOC) may be created, leveraging both human and automated mechanisms, to actively manage threats. With this type of dualistic data security and privacy countermeasure, security goals remain dynamically-aligned with the needs and objectives of your organization.
Being able to certify your cybersecurity posture is now more important than ever, and the newly implemented CMMC framework offers this opportunity for DOD subcontractors and other eligible organizations to do this. With 5 different levels of maturity, the CMMC model can help your organization to understand what is required of your IT department, and it can help your team proactively manage, detect, and improve against the TTPs of APTs.
Becoming CMMC certified at any level provides immense reassurance to your clients, contractors, and anyone you interact with, as it shows you are fully compliant as an organization with what the DOD recommends. Not only will CMMC certification serve as a route to gain a competitive advantage in your industry, but it can also help you to obtain knowledge about your entire supply chain.
You can use this framework to identify any existing weak links and recommend procedures to implement to further minimize the threats against your organization and anyone else you work with within your industry. If you would like to find out more about the CMMC framework, and how to become certified, contact SecurIT360 today to see how we can help you obtain the audit you need to gain a competitive advantage in your industry.