Understanding the difference between Classified and Unclassified Information

Partnerships with the US Department of Defense may be enormously beneficial either as a supplier or vendor. After all, the Defense Industrial Base is a large market composed of around 200,000 enterprises.

Obviously, the Department of Defense is careful about who it partners with. After all, state-sponsored malicious hackers are becoming more common, and the Department of Defense is a favored target.

In the interest of national security, the Department of Defense should do everything necessary to mitigate these threats. As a result, they set tight requirements for data protection, security, and confidentiality. Before receiving requests for proposals, any organization that wants to partner with the DoD should be cybersecurity compliant and consult CMMC consulting firms.

The DFARS 252.204-7012 provision mandates that any entity that handles ‘controlled unclassified information,’ or CUI, follow the NIST 800-171 requirements. This is a worldwide recognized administrative system that defines 110 controls spread over 14 areas, such as authentication, access control, and physical protection. By complying with these regulations, your company can participate in, and perhaps win, DoD RFPs.

DFARS adherence extends to any company that collects, maintains, or distributes CUI on account of the Department of Defense. However, it is not always obvious what information is classified as CUI.

Classified and Unclassified Information

In the mass press, classified material receives more spotlight and attention. CUI is not synonymous with classified information. Whereas classified information refers to things like state secret information, CUI can alternatively be regarded as critical but unregulated or for authorized use only. In other words, the material is not highly classified, but it must still be kept secure against unwanted access or use.

Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, frequently create, utilize, and exchange sensitive data that does not explicitly relate to national security or nuclear technology.

This might contain personally identifiable information (PII) about government personnel, technical knowledge about development and engineering, and information about data system vulnerabilities. The Department of Defense, like private enterprises and other government agencies, frequently delegates the care and maintenance of this data to vendors, who may communicate it with subordinates if their contracts permit it.

For example, if your company is an accounting firm that interacts with government agencies, you will be dealing with CUI such as financial and personal information on federal workers. This information must also be secured per other industry requirements. DFARS aims to harmonize controls and match them with other federal and state requirements. As a result, if you already have a high degree of cybersecurity maturity, you should be able to pass a DFARS internal audit with ease.

Why is an organization-wide vulnerability analysis required?

If you have any agreements with government agencies, you are most certainly already required to follow the NIST 800-171 rules. You may validate this by reviewing your deals for the CMMC compliance DFARS 252.204-7012 provision. Even though you do not have a legal need to comply, doing so is highly recommended. Whether or whether you wish to compete on DoD RFPs, becoming certified will allow you to attain and show a better level of information security.

If your company is a private contractor to a DoD vendor, it may not be immediately evident if or not your equipment manages CUI. Likewise, your agreements with the DoD do not indicate your systems can manage CUI. However, because every federal contracting party will have contracts referencing the DFARS 7012 language, it makes no difference in compliance.

These are just a few additional reasons to assess your current information ecosystem thoroughly. A thorough examination of your current environment will disclose the data you manage, the technologies you employ, and the security policies in place to secure them.