3 Ways to Prepare for the CMMC

To harden our national security, the Department of Defense (DoD) launched the rule-making phase of Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) 2.0 on November 17, 2021. Reports indicated that a final set of mandated rules would take 9-14 months to complete and that date is quickly approaching. 

As the month’s pass, an increased number of industry leaders are asking how to prepare for CMMC 2.0. Of course, the answer depends on your position in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) and the level of cybersecurity it warrants. For example, suppose you are a military contractor or benefit from lucrative government supply chain contracts. In that case, it’s crucial to take proactive measures to have your cybersecurity vetted by a qualified Certified Third-Party Organization (C3PAO).

Who Needs To Be CMMC 2.0 Compliant?

The first incarnation of CMMC was set aside because it placed a heavy burden on companies that handled only peripheral military supply chain services. CMMC was built on the idea organizations would meet stringent guidelines based on five cybersecurity levels. The CMMC 2.0 update streamlines the cyber-hygiene levels from five down to three. It also takes a more flexible approach to meeting the federal standards to remain in the military supply chain.

A panel of CMMC 2.0 experts reportedly said everyone would need to be certified. But how to prepare for CMMC 2.0 and how an organization proves its readiness may differ significantly. These are recommendations and information put forward by the ABA Section of Public Contract Law’s Committee on Cybersecurity, Privacy & Data Protection regarding CMMC 2.0.

  • Panelists noted that cybersecurity threats are escalating and present a persistent threat to contractors and encouraged contractors to take action now.
  • The panelists highlighted that despite streamlining and implementation changes, the basic practices required under CMMC have not changed from version 1.0 to version 2.0.
  • All members of the DIB will have to certify, and the only difference is who is doing the certification.
  • In addition to the triennial certification requirement, CMMC 2.0 will require all contractors to make an “affirmation” of compliance annually.
  • The Department of Justice’s Cyber Fraud Initiative will heighten the risk of liability for non-compliance under the False Claims Act.
  • DoD is considering incentives to encourage early certification, which include providing a 4-year expiration of certification rather than a 3-year certification for early adopters.

The experts appeared optimistic that qualified third-party assessors would fill the growing need for certification and compliance. However, the panel members also urged companies to take proactive measures to prepare for CMMC 2.0 and that those who do would more efficiently and cost-effectively navigate the mandate.

How To Prepare For CMMC 2.0

Initial assessments by C3PAOs are slated to begin over the summer months. Contractors must have no more than one year to pass a formal assessment. Failing to gain certification could result in being sidelined and losing revenue from DoD and other federal contracts.

Some were optimistic that more than enough firms with expertise in cybersecurity — specifically CMMC 2.0 — would step forward. Unfortunately, such has not necessarily been the case. Those who procrastinate enlisting a C3PAO could find themselves in a supply-and-demand logjam similar to America’s backlogged container ports. The following are good starting points on how to prepare for CMMC 2.0.

• Identify Your CMMC 2.0 Level: Review the CMMC 2.0 documentation materials and decide which cyber-hygiene level applies to your company. Each of the three levels tasks an operation with meeting best practices, aka “controls,” from the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171. CMMC 2.0 Level one requires an organization to meet 17 controls. Level 3 calls for 110 controls based on NIST 800-171 and yet-to-be-disclosed NIST 800-172 items.

• Follow The Cyber AB: Previously known as the Accreditation Body, the group publishes essential information about critical dates and next steps. It also warns DIB contractors, “the process of accreditation is rigorous. It culminates with an assessment conducted by a team of experienced and qualified professionals to affirm the standards are satisfied.”

• Work With A Cybersecurity Firm: The best way to prepare for CMMC 2.0 is to work with an experienced cybersecurity firm that has already earned C3PAO status. A third-party cybersecurity organization can start preparing your network, end-user devices, data storage security, and transmission methods and educate key stakeholders about the best practices that will be required.

By preparing today for the rollout, you won’t get caught in a backlog of DIB contractors trying to maintain their contracts.

Contact An Experienced Cybersecurity Firm For CMMC 2.0 Compliance

Once the rollout of the DoD cybersecurity mandate begins, the clock starts ticking. Organizations in the DIB are likely to rush and hire a firm to identify their cyber-hygiene level, make necessary upgrades, educate the workforce, and schedule a certification assessment.

Rather than delay, Sedulous Consulting Services knows how to prepare for CMMC 2.0 because we’re an accredited C3PAO assessment firm and cybersecurity experts. Contact Sedulous Consulting Services today.

How would a Cyberattack Affect your Business?

The mainstream media coverage of multi-million cyberattacks creates a false perception that hackers primarily target larger corporations with deep pockets. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Cybersecurity for small businesses remains light-years behind large corporations, and online criminals are well aware of that fact. If you still think heightened cybersecurity for small businesses isn’t worth the investment, consider the following statistics.

Approximately 47 percent of companies with 50 or fewer employees budget specifically for cybersecurity.

Only 18 percent of organizations with 250 or more staff members possess a dedicated cybersecurity budget.

More than 40 percent of cyberattacks target small businesses.

Following a data breach, 60 percent of small businesses shut their doors within six months.

Rather than think about splashy headlines about Russian hackers pilfering off millions, look at cybersecurity for small businesses from another lens. For example, the mainstream media and digital platforms routinely post horrific crashes involving massive tractor-trailers. But you don’t know that there are about 500,000 total truck accidents annually, compared to more than 11 million passenger vehicle crashes. Small businesses, metaphorically, are the millions of unreported car wrecks.

How Do Hackers Target Small Businesses?

Small Business Administration survey indicates that 88 percent of business owners are concerned their operation is open to a cyberattack. And because few business leaders have an IT background or expertise in cybersecurity, it isn’t easy to know where or why to invest in online defense. However, by looking at how hackers target similar-sized organizations, you may be able to make informed decisions.

Social Engineering: Digital thieves know that over 95 percent of all data breaches result from human error. That’s essentially why hackers send out thousands of electronic scam messages designed to trick an employee into clicking on a malicious link, downloading an aggressive file, or giving away login credentials.

Ransomware: One of the key tools hackers deploy is malware that locks owners and employees out of their network. Cybercriminals usually ask for a large sum in cryptocurrency before sending decryption, allowing a company to resume operations. The average ransomware demand spiked from about $136,000 to nearly $600,000 in 2021.

Weak Login Credentials: “Password123” and other weak login credentials are still real. Every day, people have profiles across dozens of platforms, including banks, credit card companies, and e-commerce platforms. Not being able to remember them all, some use easy-to-recall passwords. Hackers guess by reviewing their online presence or using a bot to run possibilities. Once inside a small business network, valuable and sensitive information can be stolen and sold on the dark web.

Whenever a hacker believes a small or mid-sized operation has poor cybersecurity or untrained employees, they treat that organization like low-hanging fruit. The result is a devastating data breach.

What is the Small Business Fallout of a Cyberattack?

As more companies store valuable information digitally, improved cybersecurity for small businesses becomes increasingly essential. And while 60 percent of organizations shuttering is shocking, these are other ways companies are typically affected. These include the following.

Profit-Driving Endeavors Disrupted

The indirect cost of a cyberattack can ruin a business. While the network remains inaccessible, your company cannot adequately provide client goods and services. The tip of the spear is the lost revenue associated with going offline for an extended period. In addition, impatient customers may go elsewhere and continue to patronize a competitor after you regain operational control. 

Small Businesses Suffer High Recovery Costs

Cyberattacks are uncommon to leave equipment and data storage devices damaged. However, a small business may need to repair or replace an entire system following a hack. Cloud-based operations that bypass in-house networks may sustain fewer equipment losses. But cybercriminals usually attempt to expand their reach and steal from your business-to-business partners. If a business stores critical information about others in its orbit and hackers leverage those files, your small business could face a civil lawsuit.

Forced to Rethink Your Business Model

Should a small business survive the brunt of a cyberattack, the leadership team members will likely need to overhaul the entire operation. Online cybersecurity practices such as data collection, storage, transmission, and who has access need to be closely examined. In all likelihood, you will need to bring in a third-party managed IT and a cybersecurity firm to create an entirely new system and set of best practices. 

Perhaps the worst qualitative hit a small business and its leadership team takes is a tarnished reputation. Professionals in your industry will consider working with you and your organization risky. Unfortunately, a damaged reputation lingers long after the initial damage has been repaired.

Reliable Cybersecurity for Small Businesses

Entrepreneurs and small business leaders make difficult decisions about where to re-invest. However, given the rising ransomware demands, downtime costs, and suffering a tarnished reputation, cybersecurity for small businesses needs to be a priority.

Don’t allow your business and livelihood to get harvested like low-hanging fruit by cyber criminals. Sedulous works diligently with companies of all sizes to implement affordable, determined cybersecurity.