Government contractors play a critical role in supporting various agencies and handling sensitive information. To safeguard this data from cyber threats, the U.S. government has established guidelines and frameworks. One such framework is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171, which outlines requirements for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). In addition, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) program has been introduced to assess the cybersecurity maturity of government contractors.
In this blog post, we will explore the latest updates to NIST SP 800-171 as they relate to CMMC, providing insights into how these changes impact government contractors and their journey towards certification.
Overview of NIST SP 800-171
NIST SP 800-171 focuses on safeguarding CUI in non-federal systems and organizations. It outlines a set of 110 security requirements across 14 control families. These requirements cover various aspects of cybersecurity, including access control, incident response, security awareness, and more. Contractors working with the U.S. government must comply with these requirements to protect CUI.
Introduction to the CMMC Program
The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) program builds upon NIST SP 800-171 and introduces a tiered approach to assess the cybersecurity maturity of government contractors. CMMC includes five levels, ranging from basic cyber hygiene practices to advanced and proactive security measures. Contractors must achieve the appropriate CMMC level to bid on contracts, depending on the sensitivity of the information they handle.
Alignment between NIST SP 800-171 and CMMC
The latest updates to NIST SP 800-171 have been made to align with the CMMC program. The revised publication incorporates enhanced security controls and updates from the current version of the NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF). This alignment ensures that contractors who meet the requirements of NIST SP 800-171 will be on the path to achieving CMMC certification.
Impact of the Updates on Government Contractors
The updates to NIST SP 800-171 introduce additional security controls and guidelines that contractors must address to enhance their cybersecurity posture. Some of the notable changes include requirements for multifactor authentication, incident response testing, encryption, and supply chain risk management. Contractors need to evaluate their current practices and implement necessary changes to comply with the updated controls.
Navigating the Certification Process
To achieve CMMC certification, government contractors must undergo a rigorous assessment conducted by authorized Third-Party Assessment Organizations (C3PAOs). These assessments evaluate an organization’s implementation of security controls outlined in NIST SP 800-171 and additional CMMC requirements. Contractors should leverage the guidance provided by NIST and engage with experts to prepare for the certification process.
The evolving cybersecurity landscape demands continuous improvements in protecting sensitive information. The updates to NIST SP 800-171 demonstrate the government’s commitment to strengthening cybersecurity measures for government contractors. By aligning with the CMMC program, these updates provide a clear roadmap for contractors to enhance their cybersecurity maturity. It is essential for government contractors to stay informed about these updates, evaluate their current practices, and invest in the necessary measures to achieve compliance and certification, thereby ensuring the protection of sensitive government information.
SME will work with your team to achieve compliance with these four straightforward services:
- NIST 800-171 Compliance Assessment
- Plan of Action and Milestones (POAM) Development
- Cybersecurity Policy Development
- Employee Training and Awareness
Let’s get started with a complimentary consultation to discuss where you are today and where you need to be with your cybersecurity posture. Contact SME today at (703) 378-4110 to discuss the next steps in your action plan.