As a contractor with the Department of Defense, effective cybersecurity is one of your most critical responsibilities. In order to protect the interests of the country, the DoD has outlined very clear standards for its contractors to follow. Making sure that you remain compliant will help your business remain competitive when vying for contracts and ensure that your employees and interests remain secure. While you’re expected to put forth great products and services, DFARS compliance is also a crucial part of your operations. Now that the DoD has amended its expectations around CMMC, now is a good time to refresh yourself on all that you need to do in order to remain secure.
DFARS stands for Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. Think of DFARS as the big picture when it comes to cybersecurity. It is the official language from the Defense Department that outlines your duty to protect Controlled Unclassified Information. Your professional relationship with the DoD can make your firm a target for adversaries of the United States. Understanding this, the US Government sought to provide a means for the DIB to protect itself and the country’s interests by extension. The center point of the DFARS is a document called NIST 800-171, and it is every contractor’s guide to approved cybersecurity operations.
When it comes to DFARS compliance, NIST 800-171 is the most important thing to understand. Formally known as National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-171, this document lists the practices, procedures, and requirements approved by the DoD in relation to cybersecurity. Within its pages are 110 security standards organized into 14 categories. If your internal cybersecurity networks reflect this document, you’ve completed the most crucial part of adhering to your obligations under DFARS. Additionally, you’ll be prepared to meet your additional responsibilities under the upcoming CMMC framework.
If the DFARS establishes your duty to protect sensitive information and NIST 800-171 tells you how to protect it, then CMMC is the means to prove that you are meeting these expectations. CMMC aims to manage risk in the cybersecurity space by holding all DIB contractors accountable for thier internal cybersecurity networks. Originally, it was conceived as a system that subjected contractors to third-party audits.
In many ways, this is still the case. However, the inception of CMMC 2.0 has allowed for some important changes. If you are a contractor that does not handle sensitive information like CUI or HVA, you’ll only need to self-certify. Depending on their unique circumstances, firms that do handle CUI and HVA will either self-certify or be audited by a third-party or government organization.
Your compliance with the DFARS is crucial, but it does not need to be frustrating. While thinking of fulfilling your cybersecurity obligations in individual categories is helpful, it is never a bad idea to work with a compliance management service for support and reassurance. When it comes to the long term health and safety of your operations, compliance management is never a bad investment.