CMMC for small business

Table of Contents

    John Minnix

    December 14, 2023

    CMMC for Small Business

    Cybersecurity is a critical concern for businesses of all sizes. If your small business works with the US Department of Defense (DoD), your cybersecurity posture has national security implications. The DoD introduced the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) as a framework for enhancing cybersecurity practices for organizations working with them. This article explores CMMC for small business and outlines what small businesses must do to meet CMMC requirements.

    CMMC for small businesses

    What is CMMC?

    The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, is designed to evaluate and enhance the cybersecurity readiness of organizations engaging with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Its overarching objective is to standardize cybersecurity protocols throughout the defense industrial base (DIB), ensuring contractors and subcontractors meet the requisite cybersecurity standards. 

    The CMMC aims to shield Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) shared with contractors and subcontractors participating in Department of Defense acquisition programs. These two categories of information, FCI and CUI, constitute critical components of government operations and national security. Organizations within the defense supply chain empower themselves to meet and maintain the stringent cybersecurity requirements necessary to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of FCI and CUI by implementing the CMMC framework.

    The original CMMC framework was unveiled in 2019, encompassing five escalating levels of maturity (ranging from 1 to 5), each associated with increasingly demanding cybersecurity requisites. However, in November 2021, the Department of Defense introduced CMMC 2.0, a revised version that simplified the compliance structure into three distinct tiers: Levels 1, 2, and 3.

    CMMC is based on the NIST SP 800-171.172 framework. Once the rule-making process is complete, more than 300,000 businesses are expected to be required to adhere to CMMC 2.0.

    CMMC compliance for small business

    Understanding CMMC Levels

    CMMC 2.0 comprises three maturity tiers, each with distinct requirements:

    1. CMMC Level 1: Level 1 represents the foundational tier and encompasses 17 practices sourced from NIST 800-171. Companies achieving Level 1 compliance must conduct an annual self-assessment. Bright Defense is well-equipped to assist you with implementing these 17 controls and guide you through the assessment process.
    2. CMMC Level 2: Aligned with NIST SP800-171, Level 2 introduces a more comprehensive set of 110 controls. Organizations dealing with critical national security data must undergo third-party assessments every three years, alongside annual self-assessments.
    3. CMMC Level 3: The highest level of rigor, Level 3, encompasses over 110 requirements derived from NIST SP 800-171 and 800-172. Contractors at this level will undergo government-led assessments every three years.

    It’s important to note that CMMC 2.0 is currently undergoing the rule-making process. Companies seeking to engage with the defense industrial base will be required to meet CMMC 2.0 standards once these rules are enacted, a development anticipated to occur in 2024.

    Why CMMC Matters for Small Businesses

    Access to Lucrative DoD Contracts

    The DoD is one of the largest purchasers of goods and services globally. For small businesses aiming to secure a share of this lucrative market, CMMC certification will be a prerequisite. The DoD has made it abundantly clear that only certified organizations will be eligible for contracts once CMMC is fully ratified and integrated into its procurement process. These opportunities may potentially affect small businesses’ growth prospects and financial stability that need to attain the required CMMC level, locking them out.

    CMMC Provides a Competitive Edge

    Beyond mere eligibility, CMMC certification provides a competitive advantage for small businesses that achieve compliance. CMMC demonstrates to the DoD and other potential clients that your organization takes cybersecurity seriously, offering additional trust and assurance. This edge can distinguish between winning contracts and falling behind in a marketplace increasingly shaped by cybersecurity concerns.

    CMMC compliance for small businesses

    Businesses that Need CMMC 2.0 Compliance

    CMMC 2.0 compliance is not limited to large corporations. It casts a wide net to encompass a variety of organizations crucial to the defense industrial base and the security of sensitive data. Here are some key categories of businesses that necessitate CMMC 2.0 compliance:

    Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs) Handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)

    Small and medium-sized businesses play a pivotal role in the defense supply chain, often contributing specialized expertise and innovative solutions. Many of these SMBs deal with Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in their operations. Achieving CMMC 2.0 compliance is imperative for these businesses to protect CUI effectively and remain eligible for DoD contracts, ensuring their continued growth and viability in the defense sector.

    Managed Service Providers (MSPs) Supporting the Defense Industrial Base

    Managed Service Providers are vital in delivering essential IT and cybersecurity services to organizations within the defense industrial base. Their ability to secure sensitive data and protect against cyber threats directly impacts the overall resilience of the supply chain. To meet the evolving demands of the DoD and maintain the trust of their clients, MSPs must adhere to CMMC 2.0 compliance, ensuring that the support they provide aligns with the highest cybersecurity standards.

    small business compliance

    The Costs of CMMC Compliance

    Many small businesses are concerned about the financial burden of CMMC compliance. The good news is that the majority, perhaps 220,000 of the expected 300,000 businesses, should only need to achieve Level 1 compliance. This includes the vast majority of small businesses.

    CMMC Level 1 Costs

    Level 1 is designed for the protection of FCI. It only requires organizations to implement policies and technology to achieve basic cyber hygiene. These include:

    • Access control, including physical and systems access.
    • Limiting who can access, view, or edit company files.
    • Verifying identities of users who access information systems containing CUI.
    • Physically or logically separating networks.
    • Protecting information systems from malware.
    • Performing periodic scans of the network and information systems.

    Your organization may be doing many of these things already. If you do not, you can accomplish many of these items for free with some changes to your cybersecurity policies. A CMMC assessment from Bright Defense is a great first step to assess your current level of readiness for CMMC 2.0. 

    Expenses that may be necessary include:

    In total, the entire process may cost as little as nothing, and as much as $15,000 or $20,000 for the average small business.

    Once you are confident you meet CMMC 2.0 Level 1 requirements, you must deliver a self-assessment. Bright Defense can also help with the self-assessment process. It is critical to be honest in the self-assessment process. The Department of Justice has been pursuing companies that fail to follow required cybersecurity standards.

    CMMC 2.0 Level 2 and 3 Costs

    CMMC Levels 2 and 3 are focused on protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). It requires your business to meet 110+ NIST controls. If you are receiving marked as “CUI”, you will likely need to comply with Level 2 or 3.

    These levels also require third-party assessments from outside auditors. As such, costs increase greatly. One estimate puts the cost of the assessment portion only at $28,050 for Level 2 and $60,009 for Level 3.

    CMMC small business compliance

    Conclusion

    CMMC offers small businesses a structured framework to enhance their cybersecurity posture. Achieving CMMC certification safeguards sensitive data and demonstrates a commitment to security that can enhance competitiveness. As you embark on your CMMC journey, remember that cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and staying vigilant is critical to long-term success.

    Bright Defense Delivers CMMC Compliance Solutions!

    If you are looking to develop a cybersecurity program to achieve or maintain compliance with CMMC, Bright Defense can help. Our monthly engagement model will improve your security posture and meet frameworks including CMMC, SOC 2, HIPPA, ISO 27001, and NIST. We include a compliance automation platform that increases efficiency and lowers the cost of compliance.

    Additionally, we offer CMMC assessments, Virtual CISO (vCISO) services, and managed security awareness training. Bright Defense protects our customers from cybersecurity threats through continuous compliance.

    If your small business is ready to achieve CMMC 2.0 compliance, contact us today! We appreciate the opportunity to partner with you.

    CMMC compliance solutions for small business

    FAQs: CMMC and System Security Compliance

    What is CMMC, and who does it apply to?

    CMMC, known as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, is a framework designed to enhance cybersecurity practices. It applies to defense contractors, including prime contractors and managed service providers, handling sensitive information supporting defense contracts.

    What is the significance of CMMC for managed service providers (MSPs)?

    MSPs play a crucial role in maintaining the cyber hygiene of organizations within the defense industrial base. CMMC compliance is essential for MSPs to ensure the security of sensitive information systems.

    How does CMMC align with federal requirements?

    CMMC aligns with federal requirements, particularly NIST SP 800-171, serving as a roadmap for organizations to comply with security requirements set forth by the government.

    What are the specific security practices included in CMMC?

    CMMC comprises a range of security practices, from basic cyber hygiene to advanced controls. These practices are designed to be continuously improved upon to ensure information system security.

    Do defense contractors need to update their practices on an annual basis?

    Yes. Defense contractors must continuously improve their security practices annually to meet the evolving cyber threat landscape.

    What is a System Security Plan (SSP) under CMMC?

    An SSP is a crucial document detailing how an organization plans to implement security practices. It outlines the strategies and measures in place to protect sensitive information.

    Can MSPs help defense contractors comply with CMMC?

    Yes, MSPs can provide valuable assistance in helping defense contractors understand and comply with CMMC requirements. Their expertise in cybersecurity is instrumental in achieving and maintaining compliance.

    Are there additional practices beyond CMMC requirements that organizations can adopt?

    While CMMC outlines essential security practices, organizations may further implement additional measures to enhance their cybersecurity posture, aligning with the principle of continuous improvement.

    In summary, CMMC is a critical framework that defense contractors, including managed service providers, must adhere to to comply with federal requirements, safeguard sensitive information, and win defense contracts. The model promotes continuous improvement and annually outlines specific security practices to protect information systems.

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