December 2, 2022

Is CMMC Certification Necessary for Your Business?

Does your business work with government agencies? Do you store highly sensitive business data on computers, tablets or phones? Do you have employees or contractors who work remotely, access customer information, or handle financial data? Your business may need to get a CMMC certification to show your security compliance with government regulations about sensitive data your business may store and use. 

What Is CMMC?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a cybersecurity framework used by the U.S. government, specifically the Department of Defense, to determine whether an organization has the security to handle classified, sensitive or vulnerable data. There are five levels of CMMC compliance, though a certificate may not be a requirement at lower levels. 

Sensitive information without a classification is called Controlled Unclassified Data (CUI) and may still contain protected information that may be of interest to unethical operators. Even if a certificate is not necessary, it can identify your company or organization as having the cybersecurity to protect vulnerable information. 

How Do CMMC Audits Work?

Organizations may wonder what is a cmmc audit and how to be certified. Each level requires an audit where your company demonstrates compliance with security requirements. An accredited third-party certifies you as compliant with the CMMC framework on one of five levels of compliance: 

  1. Basic Cyber Hygiene: 17 requirements
  2. Intermediate Cyber Hygiene: 63 requirements
  3. Good Cyber Hygiene (NIST SP 800-171 compliance): 110 requirements
  4. Proactive: 136 requirements
  5. Advanced: 140 requirements

With Level 3 CMMC certification, your company also becomes compliant with NIST Special Publication 800-171, which outlines standards for how contractors and their supply chains handle non-classified government information. While undergoing the audit process, the Department of Defense allows businesses and organizations to hire outside consultants or advisors that help guide your organization through CMMC assessment. 

What Businesses Need CMMC Certification? 

Any business that contracts with a U.S. federal agency or acts in a supply chain capacity may need compliance with CMMC. Those organizations that contract with the Department of Defense must have some level of certification and your ability to win contracts will depend on your certified level. Contracts with the DoD will specify the certification needed. 

Compliance with CMMC certification can have additional benefits. It can make your systems more secure and prevent data breaches. It may make hiring your organization more attractive to other businesses, as proprietary information will be safer on your systems. Your own company data may be more secure and your systems less vulnerable to attack. Some experts believe cybercrime will continue to increase, so early intervention and ongoing prevention may protect your organization’s interest. 

Why Is Certification Important?

Completion of a CMMC level certificate may be necessary for any organization to win bids for government contracts that handle classified information. At lower levels, NIST 800-171 compliance can signal your company’s level of cybersecurity, which builds trust with government agencies and businesses. Your cybersecurity also can protect your organization from data breaches that could lead to lawsuits and financial loss. 

Certification would be a key investment if your organization is interested in winning contracts with the DoD or any government agency. If your business intends to begin the process to gain certification, there are a few steps you can take to facilitate the process. Evaluating your current systems and cybersecurity can help you create a plan to meet the requirements and ameliorate security weaknesses. Compliance with NIST 800-171, includes protocols through the level three certificate and could be a guide to initial certification. While obtaining certification is difficult, building government relationships, getting contracts, and ensuring your security survives a devastating data breach may be worth the effort.

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