What are CMMC Framework and NIST Cybersecurity Framework and How to Comply?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a uniform cybersecurity benchmark designed to improve the security preparedness of government supply chain enterprises.

The Defense Department is gradually shifting from the NIST 800-171 standard to the CMMC requirement. By 2026, all new DoD agreements must be CMMC compliant.

The CMMC qualification applies to DoD contractors and subcontractors at any level of subcontracting.

The CMMC framework has three degrees of maturity.

  • Level 1 – Fundamentals
  • Level 2 – Advanced¬†
  • Level 3 – Expert¬†

DoD contracts specify the level (one, two, or three) a defense contractor must fulfill to propose or operate under an agreement. A supplier operating for a primary contractor may not have to satisfy the same standards as the prime. For instance, a prime may need to be at Level 2 to win a contract, while a supplier to a prime may just need to be at Level 1 if that vendor never gets or touches data that must be secured.

The distinction between NIST SP 800-171 and CMMC

Consider NIST 800-171 to be the cornerstone for CMMC. NIST 800-171 has 14 families of requirements, with a total of 110 distinct criteria spread among the 14 families. The CMMC model is made up of 14 domains that correspond to the families stated in NIST SP 800-171.

There is a clear association between NIST 800-171 criteria and CMMC Level 2. 

How Does a Company Know If It Needs to Meet CMMC?

You must be qualified to CMMC at the agreement award period for projects that require subcontractors to fulfill CMMC. Before that, a contractor can demand you to be licensed at the bid time.

If a contract needs CMMC, it will be specified in sections C and L of the RFP.

How to Meet the CMMC Requirements?

Your approach to CMMC compliance will differ depending on whether you are safeguarding FCI or CUI, as well as the relevance of the project in which you are partaking.

DoD companies at the Level 1 CMMC level can self-attest to CMMC.

Some Level 2 CMMCs can self-attest, while others will require an independent examination.

A government-led evaluation will be required for all Level 3 CMMC organizations.

Level 2 enterprises that require an external evaluation must collaborate with a “CMMC Third Party Assessment Organization,” or C3PAO, which is an authorized and impartial third-party institution.

A list of accredited C3PAOs competent to undertake CMMC assessments may be found on the CMMC Accreditation Body’s website (CMMC-AB).

The following is the procedure for achieving CMMC compliance:

  • Determine the CMMC level you intend to achieve.
  • Internally, prepare to meet the chosen standard.
  • Choose a C3PAO from the Marketplace of CMMC Accreditation Bodies (CMMC-AB).
  • Hire a C3PAO to do the evaluation.
  • The C3PAO sends the assessment to the CMMC-AB for consideration.
  • Your firm has received certification.

How to become CMMC compliant?

Follow these steps to prepare your organization to bid on future federal contracts with CMMC criteria.

Examine any present government agreements under which you are operating to establish the level of qualification required in a future contract. Your federal agent, prime contractor, or supplier may be able to help you with this.

At the very least, you must meet CMMC Level 1.

Look for strategies to minimize the quantity of CUI you get in executing a contract if you handle CUI. Try to limit the CUI you acquire to only the information you need to execute your job. The fewer CUI you have, the easier it is to keep it safe.