All DoD contractors need to make sure that they are complying with the new CMMC regulations before official audits begin later this year. The trouble is, these regulations can be tough to implement, and if you are finding yourself a little confused by the new changes, you are not alone.
With these changes, it is important to take them one at a time to ensure that you know you are properly preparing for an official audit and complying with the applicable level of cyber hygiene for your organization. Here are 6 best practices that can help you best prepare for a CMMC audit:
1. Determine the Level of Hygiene You Need to Meet
The CMMC model measures cybersecurity by focusing primarily on five distinct levels of cyber hygiene. These levels are cumulative, meaning that if you want to reach, say, Level 4, you need to comply with all the controls outlined in Levels 1 through 3 as well.
At the base Level 1, which all contractors are required to meet, you will be able to bid on all Level 1 contracts. At Level 4, you would be able to bid on contracts for Level 4 as well as the levels below. You need to understand how your own organization handles CUI in order to determine which Level your own company should meet and then put in place the applicable controls.
2. Familiarize Yourself with the CMMC Model
At first glance, this new model can be a little intimidating. Looking at the basic goals of each of the five levels is an important starting point; from there, you can see which level you are trying to certify for and start to work out the applicable necessary controls for that level.
Here are the goals of each level according to the official CMMC guidelines:
Level 1: Safeguard Federal Contract Information (FCI)
Level 2: Serve as a transition step in cybersecurity maturity progression to protect CUI
Level 3: Protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)
Levels 4 & 5: Protect CUI and reduce risk of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
For more information on how to achieve each level of compliance, see the official CMMC model.
3. Complete An IT Risk Assessment
Cybersecurity is all about understanding and mitigating risks, and that means that you need to be very clear on which specific risks are likely to pose a problem to your business at any one time. By completing an IT risk assessment, you can answer the following 3 questions:
- What are your critical IT assets?
- What are the top 5 processes that require that data?
- What threats could disrupt those functions in their operation?
Getting clear answers through a risk assessment will help you to figure out what weaknesses need to be addressed and in what order. Solutions that remedy these security vulnerabilities can then be implemented.
4. Get CMMC Preparation Services from a DoD IT Expert
This is one of the most important practices to follow while preparing for an official CMMC audit. To prepare as well as possible, it’s vital that you get help from a DoD IT expert who fully understands the compliance and governance controls outlined by the CMMC and how they will be enforced.
This expert can then offer a CMMC assessment service to determine the current state of your network and see where it stands in relation to the level of cybersecurity hygiene you need to achieve under the CMMC. They will then implement whatever remediation strategies you need in order to become fully compliant and prepare for an official audit.
5. Update Your Business Continuity Plan
A well-structured business continuity plan lists the steps that you need to take to keep your business fully operational in the event of an unforeseen occurrence, including how to keep your data fully protected.
If you don’t already have a BCP, it’s critical to work with a professional to outline a plan that will work best for your unique organization and that keeps your systems compliant with the CMMC regulations. If you do already have a plan, you will need to update it based on the CMMC controls your organization is required to meet.
6. Prepare for an Official Audit
While you may not receive an official CMMC audit this year, the coming years will be dedicated to making sure every DoD contractor is audited, and you need to be as prepared as possible.
That means working to continually improve all of your systems and keep your practices up to date to best meet the controls outlined in the CMMC model. Continual improvement is key in order to remain compliant and pass an official CMMC audit.
If you follow these best practices, not only will your business face fewer threats and lowered risk, but you can also ensure you are ready for an official audit by fully complying with the CMMC regulations. These cybersecurity controls will help your business thrive by keeping your data protected, allowing you to continue working on government contracts, and improving overall efficiency through consolidation of siloed data.