When it comes to Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), there are many questions that arise about who needs it, what it’s for, and how to get it. Learn more about the certification process and what compliance looks like below.
What is CMMC?
CMMC is a standard cybersecurity implementation protocol that businesses and organizations working with the government are required to follow. CMMC was first created to enhance cybersecurity measures, and it verifies that companies in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) use the right protocols to protect Federal Contract Information (FCI) within their networks.
Who is Required to Obtain CMMC?
CMMC is required for any person or company that is within the defense contract supply chain. This often includes Department of Defense subcontractors, suppliers, and assessors. CMMC requirements are still relatively new, though the full program will continue to roll out through October 2025.
Many people and organizations still feel confused about whether or not they need CMMC, and how they can even begin the certification process. Fortunately, third-party CMMC compliance agencies can help you with the entire process, including keeping you up-to-date with the latest information.
How Will My Organization Obtain Certification?
Companies subject to CMMC requirements will have to visit the CMMC-AB marketplace to select one of the C3PAO organizations to conduct their audit. From there, the organization and C3PAO must plan a CMMC assessment and complete relevant tasks. Once the assessment is complete without deficits, the organization will be given a CMMC certification.
Plans are currently in place for CMMC certificates to be valid for 3 years before undergoing another assessment.
What is a C3PAO?
A C3PAO stands for Certified Third Party Assessment Organization, and these entities coordinate with organizations needing certifications to conduct CMMC assessments. In order to comply with CMMC standards, a C3PAO must adhere to the CMMC Accreditation Body requirements and become authorized to assess and issue certifications.
If you’re ready to work with a C3PAO to test compliance, you must visit the CMMC-AB marketplace to find an authorized third-party assessment organization.
Is CMMC Different from NIST SP 800-171?
Yes, the CMMC requirements have higher security standards than NIST SP 800-171. CMMC also has five levels of compliance, the lowest consisting of more basic security standards, and the highest requiring the most comprehensive security.
Each higher level includes the requirements outlined in lower levels. For example, Level 3 security requires protocols like processing Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in addition to all of the requirements placed on Level 1 and Level 2.
Additionally, CMMC also entails continued monitoring and assessments as a company continues to grow in its security processes.
How Do I Know Which Level of Compliance I Will Need?
When the Department of Defense issues a Request for Information (RFI) and Requests for Proposals (RFP), it will include information about which level of CMMC certification your organization will need.
What Can I Do Now to Prepare for CMMC Certification Requirements?
The first thing your organization should do is prepare your NIST 800-171 documentation. The requirements for NIST 800-171 contain many of the same requirements as CMMC level three, so this act alone can set your organization up for success.
Next, take a closer look at the CMMC requirements that you are currently missing, and devise a solution to address any of those issues. You won’t know for sure which level you will sit at until an RFI or contract is issued, but you can still estimate where you think it will place you by looking at the level guidelines.
Much is still unknown about CMMC requirements, but it’s best to look ahead and be prepared when they do roll out, instead of sitting back and waiting for it to all hit you at once.