How Does NIST & CMMC Work Together?

You may have heard about the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) if you are a government contractor.

You may be wondering what it is and if you need it. Read on, and we will tell you all about it in this article.

What is CMMC?

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a common standard guiding cybersecurity implementation across all Defense Industrial Base (DIB) platforms. The CMMC framework comes with a comprehensive, scalable certification component to verify and implement practices and processes associated with attaining cybersecurity maturity.

CMMC is designed to assure the Department of Defense (DoD) that DIB companies are empowered to protect sensitive unclassified data. It also helps account for data and information flow to the subcontractors who form part of the multi-tier supply chain.

CMMC aims at ensuring that DIB companies are implementing appropriate cybersecurity processes and procedures. This is to guard Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and Federal Contract Information (FCI).

What is CMMC Compliance?

DoD is progressively transitioning federal contract information from NIST 800-171 to CMMC. All entities that do business with DoD should get the CMMC to ensure they have the required cybersecurity posture to safeguard FCI and CUI.

CMMC differs from NIST800-171 in 2 ways. It removes the self-attestation option and comes with a 5-level compliance framework.   The levels are described as follows:

  • Level 1- Basic Cyber Hygiene
  •  Level 2- Intermediate Cyber Hygiene
  • Level 3 -good Cyber Hygiene
  • Level 4 – Proactive Cybersecurity
  • Level 5 -Advanced or Progressive Cybersecurity

The first version of CMC was launched in January 2020, with minor changes being made in March 2020. By September 2020, CMMC requirements were included in some RFPs. However, by 2026, all DoD contractors and sub-contractor who handle CUI must have CMMC.

The CMMC accreditation body oversees the certification process in coordination with the DoD. They have developed the procedures they may follow to accredit assessors and CMMC third-party assessment organizations (CP3AOs) to evaluate and certify affected businesses.

Does CMMC Directly Affect You?

If you are a vendor or contractor doing business with DoD, CMMC affects you directly. At some point, you will need CMMC certification.

This applies to all the businesses in the DoD supply chain, whether they are foreign suppliers, small businesses, or commercial items contractors. However, if you produce Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products, your business is exempted from CMMC.

What Do You Need To Get CMMC?

The CMMC process is challenging. That is why businesses have up to 2025 to comply with the CMMC regulations. The first step should be assessing the kind of CUI you handle, as this will determine the certification level you ought to get.

After applying, the DoD informs you of the maturity level you should seek. They assess your business and the CUI they allow you to access to decide your required certification level. You may request certification of the section of employees who handle CUI in your organization or seek certification for the entire organization.

What Does it Cost to Get CMMC?

The preliminary one-time implementation of CMMC is about $500 to $1,000 per employee. In addition, the annual cost may amount to $3,000 per employee.

How Long Does it Take to Get CMMC?

You may have to wait for about six months from the date you make your application to the date when you receive your certification. This tells you that you have to apply early to factor in the waiting time if you need to present your certification documents anywhere.

What Should You Do?

If you are a DoD contractor or sub-contractor, begin by familiarizing yourself with CMMC requirements. However, it will be easier for you to navigate the requirements if you are already practicing cybersecurity hygiene to protect your business from cyberattacks.

Evaluate and document all your cybersecurity procedures and processes. You may realize that some of them comply with CMMC. Note the gaps in CMMC compliance and develop a plan to ensure total compliance.

Your plan will be guided by the requirements of the certification level you want. Ensure you have a plan of the procedures and practices you need to implement to meet the requirements for certification.

Since your business will continue to grow, you may need advanced certifications. Develop a plan for gradual compliance until you achieve the highest certification level.

Is Your In-House IT Team Sufficient to Help You Get CMMC?

CMMC does not give businesses room for self-assessment. You have to work with a third-party accreditation and certification organization to attain your certification.

DoD will keep a record of Registered Provider Organization (RPO), listing all the accredited organizations. However, some businesses may face challenges accessing RPO services due to prohibitive costs or long queues. If this applies to you, you may have to seek alternative means to obtain CMMC.

You may use the NIST’s Self-Assessment Handbook-162. However, this will only guide you to know what you require to prepare for your assessment. The handbook contains information for up to level 3 certification.

If you are a large organization, you may have in-house expertise and resources to meet the CMMC requirements. However, the process may be tedious, requiring your IT team to dedicate a lot of their time at the expense of other business processes and tasks. You may find it easier to outsource your CMMC function to a CMMC pro to save time and money.

Small businesses may lack IT staff and resources to help them comply with CMMC. If you do not have resources or an in-house IT team with the skills needed for CMMC, you can outsource to reliable and experienced IT companies like Orion Networks. At Orion Networks, we offer complete IT solutions to small and large organizations in all industries.

We will collaborate with your business to help you achieve your business objectives, including complying with CMMC. We partner with tech giants like Microsoft, CISCO, Dell, and Google to provide you with high-end IT solutions to enhance your compliance, improve your productivity, and give you a competitive edge.

Call us today to learn more about our services or email us at cmmc-team@orionnetworks.net, and we will reach out to you in no time.