Three things to look for in a security partner to achieve CMMC compliance
By Bassam Al-Khalidi
If you’re a defense contractor, you’ve likely heard a new regulatory framework—the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC)—is about to take effect. Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to prepare for and select the right security partner to help you meet compliance. So, here’s a quick guide on CMMC basics and how to choose the right company to help you get over the regulatory hurdles.
The CMMC combines, consolidates, and expands existing DoD contractor compliance standards. You can read in-depth about the standards and what will be required from you here. To distill it in its most simple terms, these are the essentials.
In order to respond to RFPs (starting now for many contracts, but universally so by 2026), you need to be CMMC compliant.
You’re no longer allowed to self-report. You have to pass an audit by a certified third-party assessment organization (C3PAO).
There are five levels of security compliance called maturity levels (one being the lowest, five being the highest). You can bid on any contract at or below the level you’ve demonstrated, but not above your maturity level.
What to look for in a security partner
Many contractors are already busy working to make sure that they’re compliant. Since you’ll have to be in order to respond to RFPs, it’s smart to be proactive now and ready to hit the ground running when the CMMC takes full effect. Most are turning to outside companies to help them achieve compliance, as the new mandates can be difficult to understand and implement.
Since there are varying maturity levels, which one you wish to achieve will dictate what type of outside assistance you need. The sweet spot for many companies seems to be level three, and of paramount import for this level are identity security and multi-factor authentication (MFA). If your company previously had to deal with NIST SP 800-171 Rev 1, it’s likely you’ll want to achieve at least this maturity level.
Look for someone with experience
There aren’t yet any companies certified as C3PAO’s for CMMC, but the first companies are currently in training, and are expected to be ready soon. The CMMC Accreditation Body will provide updates on the process, and information on C3PAOs once they are registered. Because you’re eventually going to have to pass an audit by a C3PAO, it’s absolutely essential that you meet the standards set in the CMMC.
For this reason, it’s imperative to find a partner well versed in helping companies achieve government compliance, particularly one with experience with NIST SP 800-171 Rev 1. Look for someone that not only says they can help you achieve CMMC compliance, but has a proven track record to back it up. Axiad has a long history of helping DoD contractors pass audits, and our previous work specializing in NIST SP800-171 has us well positioned to help you transition to CMMC compliance.
Find a turnkey, scalable solution
Whether you’re a DoD contractor, or a private enterprise, leveling up your security profile can be daunting. The costs have to be achievable, and the new solution can’t be overly disruptive to the daily operations that keep your doors open.
For the above reasons, look for a company with a turnkey solution that will take less time to implement and seamlessly integrate with your existing IAM. Turnkey doesn’t mean something that won’t fit your company and it’s needs. It means easy deployment of a solution already developed, with adjustments customized specifically to your company.
You’ll also want a partner with scalable solutions, for a few reasons. First, while you’re choosing a maturity level now, the level that you wish to maintain may change with time. The security solution that you implement should have the elasticity to change to your company’s future needs. The technologies used for business—and the threats to security—are growing at such an incredible pace that any solution worth your money has to have an eye on future needs. And, while the CMMC has released its guidance, there’s no assurance that there won’t be tweaks to the framework as it rolls out or future national security threats arise.
Get an MFA solution with ongoing support
As we said above, identity security and MFA are central components of achieving maturity level three within the CMMC framework. Your company and all of your subcontractors are required to institute MFA. So, what’s the deal with MFA?
It’s much more than a trivial requirement for government contractors. It’s a best practice for any business or enterprise that takes their security seriously. The chances of a data breach, which in the private sector can be costly, but in the DoD can have massive geopolitical consequences, are significantly reduced by implementing an MFA solution.
While you’re required to implement MFA, it’s important to note that not all MFA solutions offer the same flexibility and capabilities. At Axiad, our solution provides users access to their workstation in both online and offline modes, so that work can continue even if your internet connection is disrupted. We also enable digital email signature, which
significantly reduces phishing threats and spam. And because not all users require the same level of system access (your CEO, for instance, will likely need access to company assets that your subcontractors shouldn’t be able to view), we offer authentication and assurance levels for users with varied privileges.
You can achieve MFA without a major disruption to your workforce, and without onerous steps on an ongoing basis. The key is getting set up correctly by an expert in the space, and having support at the ready should any issues arise in the future. While our solutions are fast and easy to adopt, we’re a long-term partner that will be there for you if your circumstances and needs change.
We’ve been a leader in identity security and MFA solutions for over a decade, working with both private sector enterprises and DoD contractors to achieve higher levels of security and pass audits. While the CMMC framework is new, our solutions were built with an eye on the future, and can help you breathe easy as you get ready for your audit by a C3PAO.