NIST V CMMC: Understanding the Differences for Your Company
July 27, 2023 at 4:00 AM
Code review @NESA || Victor x Temilola

In today's digital age, the threat of cyber-attacks has become a rising concern for organizations worldwide. Among those at the forefront of safeguarding sensitive information is the United States Department of Defense (DoD). As the DoD relies heavily on contractors to support its operations, these companies are required to adhere to strict cybersecurity measures to ensure the protection of classified data and maintain national security.

That’s where the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) comes into play. This article will outline what these protocols entail and how the two standards differ from each other.

Why are contractors bound by strict cybersecurity measures?

The DoD handles vast amounts of sensitive information, ranging from military strategies to personal data of soldiers. With the increasing threat of cyber-attacks, it is essential for contractors to have robust cybersecurity systems in place to safeguard this valuable information and prevent unauthorized access. The consequences of a security breach can be severe, potentially compromising national security and endangering the lives of military personnel.

The role of NIST cybersecurity standards.

For many years, the DoD has relied on the NIST cybersecurity framework as a set of guidelines to ensure the protection of sensitive information. The NIST framework provides flexible guidelines and best practices for organizations to assess and improve their cybersecurity posture. It focuses on identifying and mitigating risks, establishing policies and procedures, and implementing continuous monitoring practices.

However, as cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, the DoD recognized the need for enhanced security measures. This led to the introduction of the CMMC.

Image of someone typing at a computer, providing outsourced cybersecurity compliance management.

What is the CMMC?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification is a new unified standard introduced by the DoD to strengthen cybersecurity requirements for contractors. Unlike the NIST framework, which provides guidelines, these protocols are a mandatory certification that all DoD contractors must obtain to bid on or win contracts.

The framework is designed to assess and measure the cybersecurity maturity of contractors on a five-level scale, ranging from basic cyber hygiene practices to advanced and proactive cybersecurity capabilities. Each level includes specific requirements that companies must meet to achieve certification.

Key Differences between CMMC and NIST.

One of the key differences between the two is the mandatory nature of CMMC certification. While contractors were previously encouraged to align with NIST cybersecurity standards, the new standards now require them to obtain a certification from an accredited third-party assessor to demonstrate their cybersecurity maturity level.

Another significant difference is the focus on cybersecurity maturity in the updated framework. While NIST provides guidelines and best practices, the CMMC takes a more comprehensive approach by assessing an organization's actual cybersecurity capabilities. This ensures that contractors are not only implementing security measures but also maintaining them at an appropriate level.

Complying with the new standards.

As the DoD transitions to the revised framework, contractors are faced with the challenge of complying with the new standards. It requires thorough evaluation and implementation of cybersecurity measures based on the desired certification level.

To successfully navigate this complex landscape and achieve compliance, many contractors are partnering with experienced IT companies specializing in cybersecurity. These companies have the expertise and knowledge to assist organizations in assessing their current security posture, implementing necessary controls, and preparing for the necessary certification audits.

Keep your company compliant with new DoD frameworks.

If you do any work with the DoD, then you need to ensure your security measures are meeting the latest requirements, and the experts here at It’s Just Results can help you do just that. We provide no nonsense results for corporate security, corporate compliance, risk mitigation, threat analysis, and developing actionable security policies. Learn more about the services we offer online, or contact us to schedule a consultation.