What Is the DoD’s Data Security Compliance Program, and Who Does It Affect?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is an integrated standard for employing better cybersecurity measures across all the 300,000+ companies involved in the defense industrial base (DIB). It is essentially the U.S. Department of Defense’s answer to the rising threat of hacks. Since the recent release of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), the term “data security” has become a common buzzword.

In the past, plenty of sensitive information has been hacked from contractors’ information systems. Such cyber-attacks on the DoD supply chain are often from foreign countries. Hence, international cybercriminals are leading the list of national security concerns for the United States.

According to the Department of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, more than $600 billion has been stolen from the U.S. by cybercriminals from foreign adversary countries like North Korea, Russia, and China in the past decade.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has stolen some attention from these nefarious activities in the past few months, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or simply CMMC, is set to prevent such massive amounts of money from being stolen.

What Is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification was released on January 31, 2020, by the DoD. Multiple federally funded research and development (R&D) institutions created these standards. In the past, contractors had the responsibility to implement the security layers on their IT systems.

Now, all sensitive DoD data stored on their systems need to be CMMC-compliant, i.e., contractors have to meet certain cybersecurity requirements. The DoD (as per the CMMC directives) will have third-party access to these systems. They will assess whether a contractor’s IT system is compliant and capable enough to tackle the ever-evolving cybersecurity threats that hamper the DoD every year.

Who Needs to Comply? 

Every DoD contractor has to obtain a CMMC certification — the faster, the better. Everyone from foreign suppliers to small business owners needs to develop cyber secure IT systems that third-party assessment organizations will verify before anyone is deemed “qualifiable” for federal contracts. Currently, there are over 220,000 DoD contractors, and all need to adapt to CMMC’s major changes.

Steps DoD Contractors Must Take 

With the Department of Defense stepping up its efforts to ensure all large, small, and medium-sized businesses involved with federal contractors are compliant with the CMMC standards, many are feeling confused about the process. Here are the initial steps that will help them enter the data security compliance program:

  • Learn the CMMC’s technical requirements.
  • Prepare for short-term certification.
  • Create long-term cybersecurity plans per CMMC requirements.
  • The CMMC has created five separate certification levels that echo the dependency of contractors’ cybersecurity infrastructures. Of course, meeting all five levels of criteria overnight is impossible. So, contractors must have a long-term plan to improve how they safeguard sensitive DoD data on their systems in the long run.
  • Evaluate the amount of time, effort, money, and brainpower it will take to reach level-five of compliance.
  • Partner with competent information security compliance program experts who can help position them better to address the obligatory CMMC contract requirements for future projects.

Third-party CMMC experts and consultants can help contractors prepare for CMMC audits that will start rolling out very soon.

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