With the Department of Defense (DoD) moving away from self-certification models, industries now have new issues facing them if they choose to continue supplying the Defense Industry Base (DIB). The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), is now a requirement for all DoD contractors.
Before the CMMC, vendors, and contractors could self certify, using the NIST 800 SP framework. Although the CMMC is an amalgamation of the NIST 800 SP framework and other cybersecurity frameworks, it differs in its approach to integrated cybersecurity processes and practices.
The model is a measure of how the cybersecurity process is engendered within the culture of the organization, over a simple requirements checklist. The primary difference between previous models is, now the DoD requires certification from a Certified Third-Party Assessment Organization (C3PAO). In this article we shall explore the best way to find a C3PAO cybersecurity maturity model certification partner.
The Model Basics
Without going into too much detail, in this section, we’ll provide a basic overview of the CMMC. If you wish to learn more about the CMMC, check out some of the articles on the blog.
The cybersecurity maturity model is a tiered model that is broken down into five levels, that become more advanced in ascending order. Each level is broken down into processes and practices.
The practices are the “to-do” list of the model, and each control should be implemented to pass certification. But this is not enough. The maturity of the model comes from the processes, however well the organization implements the practices then becomes a process within the organization, which should essentially become second nature to the overall business and daily activity of the organization.
It may seem a little complicated which is why the DoD has decided that it requires third-party certification, to best assess the overall cybersecurity maturity of the organization in an unbiased manner.
Choosing the Right Partner
When it comes to cybersecurity maturity model certification, the success of achieving certification boils down to two things; is the organization capable of integrating the cybersecurity practices into the culture of the organization, and can their partner help them achieve that.
Although, as mentioned above, you do not want a partner who is a “yes” man, they must remain unbiased for your organization to deliver the best for the DoD and the DIB as a whole.
With that in mind here are a few things you should be looking for in a CMMC partner.
Certified Third-Party Assessment Organization (C3PAO)
This one should go without saying, but it is a vital point nonetheless. Your CMMC partner must have C3PAO, without this they are not qualified to give cybersecurity maturity model certification. At the time of writing this article, you will not find anyone with C3PAO as the DoD has yet to release the certification process. RSI Security will be undergoing the C3PAO, and it is never too early to begin a consultation! Especially considering there are still current requirements to be NIST 800-171 self certified.
Hire an Assessor With a Cybersecurity Background
C3PAO isn’t only restricted to one industry, anyone who meets the requirements and pays the fees can acquire C3PAO. This does not necessarily mean they are the best fit for you, or that they can deliver the services required effectively.
Imagine a scenario where you are craving a pizza, in most cases, you would order from an Italian pizza restaurant to ensure the best quality, and not from a Thai restaurant who does pizza on the side.
So, imagine a similar scenario for CMMC. Company A is a general IT services company and company B is a cybersecurity specialist business, even though they both vaguely fall under the IT industry and are also C3PAO, company B has the knowledge and skill to deliver the certification efficiently.
This is because company B has specialist knowledge of the broader application of cybersecurity not only for CMMC, but for your business as a whole. They are more effective at analyzing the gaps within your security, they fully understand the needs of both the DoD and your organization, and most importantly cybersecurity companies are passionate about what they do. Consider employing our skills for your cybersecurity needs.
Another subcategory, within hiring an assessor with a cybersecurity background, is reputation. Make sure you choose a partner that has your best interest in mind. Business is built on trust and reputation is a great measure of trust. A reputable cybersecurity organization will push your organization to supersede its expectations, and this is the kind of thing the DoD will be looking for in a certified organization.
Prior Framework Knowledge
Lastly, it is best to employ a partner who has previous experience with the frameworks the CMMC model is based on. The two main frameworks that the cybersecurity maturity model builds upon are the NIST 800-171 and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation (DFARS, which is a regulation and not a framework).
There are other frameworks and regulations that the model cherry-picks from, but these two are quoted to be the main ones. So when finding and choosing a partner for certification, be sure to check if they have prior experience, particularly with the NIST 800-171 framework. This is the framework that the DoD currently requires an organization to adhere to if they wanted to engage within the DoD supply chain.
Even though it is possible to self certify, many organizations still employ a specialist to ensure that the process was done correctly and effectively. The only difference with the release of CMMC is that certification from a C3PAO has become a legal requirement for any contractor that does business with the DoD.
Choosing a cybersecurity maturity model certification partner does not have to be a daunting task. There are a few key things that your organization should be looking out for when going through the hiring process and those are:
- Does the assessing organization have Certified Third-Party Assessment Organisation (C3PAO) accreditation?
- Look for a C3PAO that has a strong background in cybersecurity over an organization that might just offer cybersecurity as a secondary or tertiary service.
- Do your due diligence, ensure the organization you are employing is reputable, and leverage that reputation to ensure maximum effectiveness.
- Look out for previous knowledge and experience in the NIST 800-171 framework and DFARS.
These are some of the qualities that we have discussed in this article, there are more nuanced qualities that your organization may be looking for depending on the level of certification that is required, but regardless, the CMMC partner should instill trust through the outlined principles.
Whether your organization is looking for cybersecurity maturity model certification or you are concerned over the cyber health of your network or organization, RSI Security can be that partner. With years of experience in the field, we know the ins and outs of frameworks and regulations, contact us today and book a free consultation!