Working with the United States Department of Defense (DoD) is a lucrative opportunity for any company, but it’s also a move that requires a serious overhaul of your cyberdefenses. Namely, you’ll need to become compliant with the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a robust framework published by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)). Luckily, there are CMMC compliance tools to make it easier.
How to Use CMMC Compliance Tools
The kinds of tools and resources available to companies looking to contract with the DoD vary widely. Some are geared toward mapping your controls from one cybersecurity framework onto another; others are tailored to building out the specific infrastructure needed for CMMC compliance. Some of the best tools available are flexible, all-in-one CMMC services (more on this below).
In this blog, we’ll break down how to use any CMMC compliance tools into 3 simple steps:
- Understanding the entire CMMC framework and domains
- Recognizing and addressing compliance needs by level
- Building out your cyberdefenses and achieving certification
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Understand the Whole CMMC Framework
In order to use any CMMC compliance tool available to you, you’ll need to establish a baseline understanding of exactly what the CMMC is and what it requires. Some tools are geared toward providing that understanding; others assume such knowledge and empower you to activate it.
To that end, the core of the CMMC comprises 17 cybersecurity domains, which themselves comprise 43 essential capabilities and 171 unique practices. Here is a synopsis:
- Access and Control (AC) – There are 4 AC capabilities and 26 AC practices that govern an organization’s approach to granting or restricting access to information.
- Asset Management (AM) – There are 2 AM capabilities and just 2 AM practices that govern the ways in which an organization inventories its assets and systems.
- Audit and Accountability (AU) – There are 4 AU capabilities and 14 AU practices that govern an organization’s audit and audit logging practices for accountability.
- Awareness and Training (AT) – There are 2 AT capabilities and 5 AT practices that require training and specify particular areas of awareness needed for all staff.
- Configuration Management (CM) – There are 2 CM capabilities and 11 CM practices that govern the way an organization should approach settings across all systems.
- Identification and Authentication (IA) – There is just 1 IA capability and 11 IA practices that govern the ways in which identities are verified for access purposes.
- Incident Response (IR) – There are 5 IR capabilities and 13 IR practices that govern an organization’s approach to detection, analysis, and response to cybersecurity events.
- Maintenance (MA) – There is just 1 MA capability and 6 MA practices that govern the various requirements and protocols for regular and special maintenance on systems.
- Media Protection (MP) – There are 4 MP capabilities and 8 MP practices that govern the particular attention an organization should pay to the protection of sensitive media.
- Personnel Security (PS) – There are 2 PS capabilities and 2 PS practices that govern the ways in which an organization should prevent insider threats from personnel.
- Physical Protection (PE) – There is just 1 PE capability and 6 PE practices that govern the mechanisms in place to limit the scope of proximal/ physical access to information.
- Recovery (RE) – There are 2 RE capabilities and 4 RE practices that govern the approach an organization should take to recovery during and after an attack on systems.
- Risk Management (RM) – There are 3 RM capabilities and 12 RM practices that govern the approach an organization should take to monitoring for and mitigating risks.
- Security Assessment (CA) – There are 3 CA capabilities and 8 CA practices that govern the particular requirements and thresholds for internal assessment.
- Situational Awareness (SA) – There is just 1 SA capability and 3 SA practices that govern the extent to which cybersecurity context must be understood by stakeholders.
- Systems and Communications Protection (SC) – There are 2 SC capabilities and 27 SC practices that govern special attention paid to communications-related risks.
- System and Information Integrity (SI) – There are 4 SI capabilities and 13 SI practices that govern the approach an organization should take to correcting inherent flaws.
Any tools you use should empower you to understand and eventually implement all 171 practices. However, you don’t need to take them all on at once. Unlike other frameworks, the CMMC enables a stepwise progression over 5 phases. This brings us to the next step…
Step 2: Recognize and Address Compliance Needs
Once you have an understanding of what the CMMC requires, the next step toward compliance (and making use of dedicated tools) is understanding your own security posture relative to its Maturity Levels. Once you know where you stand, you’ll be able to plan your ascent to Level 5.
To that effect, the 5 Maturity Levels all involve a particular focus that defines the main goals for each. They are also thresholds for the implementation of practices and the institutionalization of processes, or the extent to which practices are systematized across the entire organization.
Here is a synopsis of the Levels’ focuses and thresholds for processes and practices:
- Maturity Level 1 – Focused on the protection of federal contract information (FCI).
- There are 17 practices that constitute “basic cyber hygiene.”
- Processes must only be “performed,” but not measured in any way.
- Maturity Level 2 – Transitioning to protecting controlled unclassified information (CUI).
- There are 55 new practices (72 total), constituting “intermediate cyber hygiene.”
- Processes must be “documented,” introducing assessment.
- Maturity Level 3 – Focused on full protection of CUI.
- There are 58 new practices (130 total), constituting “good cyber hygiene.”
- Processes must be “managed,” including planning and resource allocation.
- Maturity Level 4 – Focused on CUI and preventing advanced persistent threats (APT).
- There are 23 new practices (156 total), moving into a “proactive” security posture.
- Processes must be “reviewed,” involving ongoing assessment and correction.
- Maturity Level 5 – Focused on APT and optimizing FCI and CUI safeguards.
- There are 15 new “advanced/progressive” practices, for a final total of 171.
- Processes must be “optimizing,” or in a constant state of improvement.
No matter where you are starting from, the CMMC compliance tools you use should be getting you to the next level, eventually achieving full process institutionalization at Level 5. But just accomplishing each Level’s threshold isn’t enough; you need official certification to comply.
For that, you’ll need to make use of assessment tools in particular.
Step 3: Build Defenses and Achieve Certification
Finally, the last step to using any compliance tools available to you is leveraging them to actually achieve full compliance. In CMMC terms, compliance is defined as certification. To get certified, you’ll need to contract the services of a Certified Third Party Assessment Organization (C3PAO), themselves certified by the CMMC Accreditation Body of OUSD(A&S).
The certification itself is a tool, in that it involves the application of a particular means (assessment) to achieve the end of compliance. In the best scenarios, though, certification is bundled together with a robust suite of advisory and design capabilities that get you ready for certification.
RSI Security’s dedicated CMMC services provide just such an all-in-one value.
We are a C3PAO who knows what it takes to get companies ready for DoD contracts. We’ve helped countless firms achieve preferred status with the DoD for years. Whether you’re just getting to Level 1, on the cusp of Level 5, or anywhere in between, we’ll get you there.
Ensure Your CMMC Compliance, Professionally
Here at RSI, we’re happy to help with CMMC certification and all compliance, but also all other cybersecurity solutions you need to keep your stakeholders safe. We’re keenly aware of how important that is for DoD contractors, as your security impacts the safety of the country, too.
To that effect, we are happy to work with you on everything from holistic programs, like managed detection and response and virtual CISO, to more niche concerns, like cloud security and technical writing. No matter what cyberdefense solutions you need, we’re your best option.
Contact RSI Security today to see how simple CMMC compliance tools can make your certification process, as well as how powerful your overall cyberdefenses can be!