What Is CMMC?
The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a framework designed to ensure that contractors adhere to data protection requirements. This framework applies to companies contracted by the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government agencies.
It unifies existing standards with new requirements to maximize safeguards for organizations handling contract information and controlled unclassified information (CUI). Previously, the DoD and other agencies based assessments of cybersecurity compliance on assurances by contractors. However, increased threats of cyberattacks on defense entities have compelled the government to introduce stringent requirements.
The DoD has set aside 2026 as the deadline for the full implementation of the framework. In the meantime, contractors need to implement the necessary changes to their data protection practices. By doing so, organizations prepare for future assessments. Failure to comply with requirements compromises companies’ ability to participate in the lucrative defense industrial base (DIB) supply chain.
The government released the first details of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification in January 2020. The release followed several years of development. Contractors qualify for certification after rigorous assessments handled by third-party assessors, including accredited individuals and organizations.
CMMC Levels and Framework
The framework assigns levels for contractor certifications, depending on the cybersecurity requirements associated with the work handled by an organization.
Level 1: Basic Cyber Hygiene
Contractors handling state or federal work with a level one cybersecurity requirement must implement basic data protection safeguards. These measures include user security awareness, strong passwords, keeping software up to date, and anti-malware software deployment. Level one focuses on protecting federal contract information.
Level 2: Intermediate Data Safeguards
This level compels contractors to maintain records of data protection practices. These measures help protect controlled unclassified information (CUI), which requires robust safeguarding or disseminating controls. Level two standards are identical to NIST 800-171 r2 security requirements. Thus, organizations that meet compliance for the earlier framework should find it easier to qualify for level two certification.
Some of the requirements associated with this level include access control, regular audits, user training, configuration management, and personnel security. Contractors also need to bolster physical security, communication protection, and incident response capabilities.
Level 3: Enhanced Cyber Hygiene
When looking for answers on what is CMMC, you need to familiarize yourself with all levels’ enhanced cyber hygiene requirements. Contractors facing level three conditions must implement 47 cybersecurity requirements to pass assessments.
Level 4: Proactive Cybersecurity Controls
Level four focuses on adopting a proactive approach to assessing, detecting, and counteracting cyber threats. CMMC guidelines replicate several data protection requirements associated with DFARs. The controls enable contractors to prevent risks posed by government-sponsored cybercriminals. Sophisticated attacks carried out by advanced persistent threats (APTs) take advantage of variable attack vectors.
These threats necessitate the adoption of a proactive approach to detect and thwart evolving cybersecurity risks. APTs leverage cutting-edge tools and high-level skills to launch attacks against hardened cyber defense measures.
Level 5: Advanced/Progressive
This level covers advanced or progressive security standards linked to federal work that requires maximum security. It enforces 30 additional data protection controls to complement requirements listed under level four. Contractors certified at this level typically possess exceptional cyber defense capabilities. They can deal with evolving threats launched by sophisticated state adversaries.
Contractors conduct thorough auditing and other non-technical processes. It is no surprise that many analysts foresee these requirements becoming the future of defense cybersecurity control. However, small businesses are more likely to face challenges complying with the level five stringent requirements.
CMMC Certification Procedures
Accredited CMMC Third Party Assessment Organizations (C3PAOs) conduct rigorous assessments of companies to determine compliance with requirements applicable to one of the five levels. Contractors undergo the preparation phase before the evaluations. This phase enables organizations to make the necessary changes to cybersecurity practices.
Once the accredited assessors complete the evaluation, the CMMC Accreditation Body (AB) performs quality checks on the certification assessment. The body can approve or disapprove certification based on the assessor’s report.
Why Partner with tca SynerTech
Founded in 1997, tca SynerTech is one of the leading IT service providers in Niles, MI. It offers a variety of services aimed at established enterprises, including DoD or federal contractors. IT experts at tca can help companies understand what is CMMC and prepare for certification assessments.
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