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.

What Does CMMC Implementation Mean for Small Businesses?

The federal government engaged in some second-guessing of its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification rollout and appeared on the brink of issuing a scaled-down 2.0 version. However, after years of hearing about the mandate, business leaders in the military-industrial base still ask who needs CMMC certification and why? And, what does CMMC implementation mean for small businesses? Those are valid questions, particularly for small businesses that do not necessarily bid on the most lucrative Department of Defense (DoD) contracts. What’s interesting from the defense department’s perspective is that the mandated level of cybersecurity required to work in the military supply chain is not necessarily determined by the size of the deal. Instead, the value of the information an outfit stores or transmits the DoD needs to protect. Sedulous’ team of cybersecurity experts stays updated on the CMMC changes and what this means for small businesses.

Who Needs CMMC Certification?

When the Pentagon began rolling out the first version, the lines regarding CMMC certification were clearly defined in the five levels of cyber hygiene. CMMC 2.0 reduces the groups to three, and businesses will likely require an assessment to know whether they store or transmit either of the following types of essential data.

• Federal Contract Information (FCI): “Information, not intended for public release, that is provided by or generated for the Government under a contract to develop or deliver a product or service to the Government, but not including information provided by the Government to the public (such as on public websites) or simple transactional information, such as necessary to process payments.”

• Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI): “Information that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls pursuant to and consistent with applicable law, regulations, and government-wide policies but is not classified under Executive Order 13526 or the Atomic Energy Act, as amended.”

If you work in the defense supply chain at any level, it’s entirely likely your organization handles FCI or CUI in some fashion. That means appropriate cyber hygiene efforts are required to meet CMMC standards. Business leaders should consider hiring Sedulous, an experienced team of professionals with cybersecurity and CMMC expertise, to thoroughly review the entire network’s defenses. Then, after identifying a network’s vulnerabilities, Sedulous will create a plan to strengthen, meet, and then implement the CMMC mandates.

Why Do Small Businesses Need CMMC Certification?

Many small business owners are also homeowners who are required to buy insurance. The relationship between your company and the Pentagon can be pretty similar. For instance, the DoD mandates that businesses in the supply chain gain CMMC certification. In many ways, this echoes the homeowners’ insurance that lenders require — to protect their interests.

Banks require homeowners insurance to protect the mortgage they wrote.

Similarly, The Pentagon mandates CMMC certification to protect national security. Although home and small business owners’ interests may be secondary, there’s a great deal to gain by meeting theCMMC requirements. Here are three benefits that small businesses enjoy from adopting CMMC:

• Gain a risk management approach that minimizes threats from well-funded enemy-state threats and garden variety hackers alike.

• Improve cyber hygiene to deter hackers from stealing valuable military information and sensitive financial information that could be sold on the dark web.

• Develop a strategic cybersecurity readiness protocol that secures digital assets and insulates the organization from ransomware exploitation.

Although the DoD may be trying to protect its national security interests, the benefits to a small business are tangible. Studies indicate small businesses rank as hackers’ primary target, representing 4%of all successful cyberattacks. When mid-sized organizations are added to the statistics, that figure increases to 85%.

Hackers, driven by financial theft, prefer to go after mom-and-pop operations and mid-sized companies because they typically under-invest in cybersecurity. Weak cyber hygiene makes small and mid-level companies the low-hanging fruit cybercriminals are eager to pluck. By conducting an audit and establishing CMMC-level cybersecurity measures, Sedulous would serve outfits in the military-industrial base well. The Pentagon wants to protect the country, but CMMC also deters common online thieves from leveraging bank accounts, learning Social Security numbers, and stealing valuable personal identity information.

Sedulous Delivers Trusted Cybersecurity and CMMC 2.0 Certification

Preparing for and ultimately implementing the CMMC 2.0 standard allows small and mid-sized businesses to participate in lucrative DoD contracts and supply chain activities. Beyond increasing profits, the measures help companies establish a determined cybersecurity culture across sectors. That mindset may prevent a data breach and the devastating losses that follow at the end of the day.

If you work in the military-industrial base or are considering bidding on a DoD contract, contact Sedulous Consulting Services. Our experienced cybersecurity engineers are ready to harden your defenses and help your company prepare for the upcoming CMMC certification.

Why is Cybersecurity Critical for Small Businesses?

It’s not uncommon for small and mid-sized organizations to minimize their cybersecurity investments. Operating on tight budgets, decision-makers sometimes believe hackers are more likely to target larger corporations with a treasure trove of digital assets. But truth be told, cybercriminals would rather take advantage of vulnerable small and mid-sized operations with seemingly weak defenses. Consider the following statistics regarding small and mid-sized companies.

• Small and mid-sized organizations sustain 43 percent of all data breaches.

• More than 60 percent of these companies report being targeted at least once.

• Significant cyberattacks resulted in 40 percent shutting down for a full workday.

• There were more than 800,000 cyberattacks in 2021 alone.

Upwards of 83 percent of small and mid-sized companies are not financially prepared to weather a cyberattack, and 91 percent fail to purchase liability coverage. Compounding the multi-level vulnerabilities, 43 percent do not have a cybersecurity plan.

In terms of cybersecurity defenses, small and mid-sized businesses are the low-hanging fruit a hacker halfway around the world wants to take advantage of. At Sedulous, we understand that If entrepreneurs and other decision-makers are going to avert online disasters, they need to understand cybersecurity and the schemes bad actors deploy.

What is Cybersecurity?

It’s essential for business owners to understand that cybersecurity runs much deeper than purchasing the latest antivirus product. It involves protecting digital assets housed in hardware and the Cloud across various devices. The very laptops, smartphones, and work-from-anywhere connectivity that level the competitive playing field also create pathways for hackers to infiltrate networks and steal valuable information.

Determined cybersecurity tasks company leaders with developing multi-pronged defenses. Given the relatively modest budgets of small operations, the goal may not necessarily be to make massive capital investments. By working with Sedulous, a cost-effective cybersecurity plan can be developed. Once implemented, a cybersecurity plan of action can eliminate the perception you are the low-hanging fruit. That means garden variety hackers will spend their time and energy looking elsewhere for an easy mark.

Methods Hackers Use To Breach Business Systems

Although the small business community remains at risk, it’s important to understand how hackers choose their targets. We all see the splashy headlines about multi-million hacks that large corporations and federal government agencies suffer. The nefarious individuals who pull off those heists are usually highly skilled, intelligent, and well-funded persistent threats. Many are part of an underground cybercrime syndicate, and they go after big paydays. These are not necessarily the individuals targeting small and mid-sized operations.

Rather, low-level hackers and some with average skills usually cast a wide net and wait for someone to make a misstep. These are commonly deployed methods used by hackers who are inclined to target startups and mom-and-pop operations.

• Phishing: This method involves sending thousands of emails and other electronic messages. Some are laced with malware or entice the recipient to take some action. Once a malicious link is clicked on or a file is downloaded, the hacker infiltrates a network and pilfers off digital assets. This remains the preferred method of hackers when targeting small businesses.

• Spear Phishing: A more sophisticated cybercriminal may do some homework about you or your employees to create a more convincing message. It’s stunning how much personal information can be lifted from social media and professional platforms. Using this information, a skilled hacker tries to convince someone a file or link is legitimate. Again, they assume control over your network once someone falls for the deception.

• Zero-Day Exploit: Companies have grown increasingly reliant on software and automation to compete in the global markets. The applications small and mid-sized organizations use sometimes experience hiccups. When that happens, software companies issue what are known as “patches” to cure vulnerabilities. Hackers are keenly aware that busy entrepreneurs may not promptly install these patches. While your software remains unprotected, they exploit it and breach your network.

• Password Penetrations: It’s common knowledge that hackers exploit weak and predictable passwords. But it’s almost ironic that a significant number of employees fail to create complex passwords or change them periodically. The humor of using “password123” is lost when a business suffers tens of thousands of dollars in losses and downtime. A relatively unsophisticated online thief can apply an email-based username and run an automated attack to guess common passwords. Password penetrations rank among the easiest methods to breach a system.

Someone with bad intent sitting in a café halfway around the world is largely immune from prosecution. That’s why they target American companies with malware such as Trojans, ransomware, spyware, and newly-minted viruses. As long as a business system demonstrates less-than-determined cybersecurity defenses, the attacks will continue.

How Can Businesses Improve Cybersecurity Defenses?

Hardening a small and mid-sized outfit’s cybersecurity defenses does not have to strain your budget. Experienced cybersecurity professionals work closely with community members to create cost-effective options that provide protection. These are ways a cybersecurity firm helps insulate digital assets from threats.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Educating employees about phishing schemes, enticements, and complex passwords goes a long way. Cybersecurity experts can teach staff members how to identify the telltale signs of a phishing or spear-phishing message. A third-party firm can also send out alerts when new threats emerge.

Multi-Factor Authentication

One of the ways to protect login profiles involves rendering a hacker’s automation useless. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) requires an authorized person to input their username and password. Once that has been completed, a code is sent to a separate device — usually, a cellphone — and that follow-up code must be manually typed in to open the profile. Hackers can guess your staff member’s password, but they cannot take physical control over the secondary device.

These and a wide range of other strategies are available to small and mid-sized companies. They are considered cost-effective and significantly harden cybersecurity defenses. Just because you may not have the deep pockets of large corporations doesn’t mean you cannot adequately defend your business. By partnering with Sedulous and employing these and other solutions, hackers will run into a brick wall and look for the low-hanging fruit elsewhere. Our team ofcybersecurity engineers can help maintain your reputation while keeping customers’ data secure. Contact our team today toschedule a consultationto discuss the best cybersecurity solution for your business.