Over the past few years, cyberattacks have become a valid concern for all Americans. In fact, a recent study by the Pearson Institute and The Associated Press confirmed that 90% of Americans fear a breach involving any of their personal or financial information stored online.
To make matters worse, 2021 has seen a rise in cybercriminals due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising trend of working from home. This year alone, there were over five thousand data breaches, resulting in over $4 billion in losses. Because of this, cybersecurity has become a top priority across the country.
The federal government has also taken security measures to the next level. The U.S. Department of Defense has recently implemented the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. This certification will soon become a requirement for any contractor or vendor involved in the DOD’s business.
To become certified, not only must a company adhere to a specific level of security compliance, but it must also prove the soundness of its cybersecurity through an audit. But what level of security is right for your business, and what is a CMMC audit?
5 Levels of CMMC Security
To ensure CMMC compliance, any contractor or vendor working with the DOD must prove that their data and information is completely safeguarded and seal-tight. Working alongside the Pentagon involves access to sensitive information from the federal government. This information, called Controlled Unclassified Information, can include any government data from finances to central intelligence.
Businesses working with the DOD could come into contact with some or all of this data, depending on their role in the supply chain. This means that some businesses require higher security than others, resulting in five distinctive CMMC levels.
- Levels 1 and 2: The most basic levels ensuring the protection of government data. This lower-level certification is provided to businesses like resellers, who do not handle Controlled Unclassified Information. They must adhere to “basic cyber hygiene” such as required password changes, antivirus installation, and employee phishing training.
- Levels 3 and 4: A certification required for any business handling classified information like equipment schematics or military capabilities. They must adhere to good cyber hygiene and implement all requirements from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology’s 800-171 Revision 2 plus additional controls.
- Level 5: This is the highest certification level provided to businesses requiring advanced cybersecurity. These contractors or vendors commonly deal with classified schematics or data, such as weapon manufacturing specifications. This protects them from targeted attacks or “advanced persistent threats.”
CMMC Audit for Accreditation
If your business works with the DOD, you will need to ensure it adheres to CMMC guidelines. The department will assign you a certification level requirement based on your current access to controlled information. Once you have met all CMMC requirements for your level, your business can apply for a CMMC audit. This audit provides official certification.
A third-party organization called a C3PAO will assess your cybersecurity and determine if your business qualifies for certification. Please note, since CMMC accreditation is still in its early stages, it may take some time before a C3PAO conducts your audit. This gives your ample time to ensure your business’ cybersecurity is airtight. While this process may seem straightforward, it can take time to complete.
Any business currently working with the DOD must attain its CMMC accreditation by 2025. Since there are hundreds of thousands of other organizations clamoring to receive certification, these audits will soon be in high demand. It’s imperative that you start the process right away so your business can be one of the first to obtain its CMMC accreditation.