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Choosing A Cybersecurity Provider As A Government Contractor

Government contractors are often contacted by companies that provide cybersecurity services. It is also common for government contractors to need help deciding which company to use for their cybersecurity needs. This can be challenging and requires careful research about the company you are considering hiring for your cybersecurity needs. It is essential to know the latest federal cybersecurity requirements and fully understand those requirements before engaging in any business away from government corporations or contractors. It is also a good idea to make sure the security provider you choose will be able to work with your specific contract.

How FAR and DFARS Impacts Government Contractors

Since government contractors often have sensitive data and systems, it makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals looking to steal information or disrupt operations to gain leverage over the government. Many of the most significant data breaches in history have been perpetrated by foreign governments seeking access to classified or controlled unclassified information. For that reason, the government has updated regulations (FAR – Federal Acquisition Regulation and DFARS – Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement) that hold government contractors to 15 basic cybersecurity safeguards. 

DFARS is a supplement to the FAR that the Department of Defense manages that requires contractors to use cybersecurity practices, policies, and procedures that meet the requirements of NIST Special Publication 800-171 (SP800-171), which is the standard for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in non-federal information systems.

These practices encompass security domains from Risk Management, Security Awareness, and Training to Audit and Accountability.

Contractors who fail to meet these standards could lose their government contracts or prevent the award of contracts. The new regulations also require contractors to provide evidence that they comply with the standards, which is where our team comes in. We’ll help you develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy for your company and implement it properly.

The Department Of Defense and CMMC

If your company holds a DoD contract, the Department of Defense Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification regulation mandates that you meet the applicable CMMC level. The CMMC is a phased rollout that will eventually encompass all defense contractors and is being implemented to manage cybersecurity risk. It includes standards, best practices for cybersecurity, and requirements for certifying compliance with those standards.

The Three Levels Of CMMC Are:

“Foundational” CMMC’s Level 1 is the entry-level and includes 17 practices that defense contractors must meet, which aligns with the 15 basic safeguards required in the FAR. CMMC Level 1 mandates an annual self-assessment.

“Advanced” CMMC’s Level 2 includes 110 practices (controls) in line with NIST SP 800-171. Rev 2 required by DFARS 7012 is needed to protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), which the government creates or controls and needs to be regulated and safeguarded. Level 2 companies must undergo “triennial third-party assessments for critical national security information” and “annual self-assessment[s] for select programs” (Acquisition & Sustainment Office of the Under Secretary of Defense)

“Expert” CMMC Level 3 – is the highest level that requires the 110 practices (controls) from NIST 800-171 and a subset of methods (controls) from NIST SP 800-172 to be met. It mandates “triennial government-led assessments.

Having a cybersecurity provider familiar with CMMC and its regulations is vital for the success of the contracted service. The provider must be able to integrate with CMMC’s existing network and security requirements and provide tailored solutions to ensure a seamless experience for both CMMC implementation and you, its customer.

Cybersecurity Providers Are Not Created Equally

When hiring a professional services firm to provide cybersecurity guidance and management, be aware that not all companies are created equal.

Different types of firms specialize in different areas and have different levels of experience with government contracts. For example, some firms focus on technology solutions, and others specialize in cybersecurity program management or strategic planning for regulated industries like financial services or healthcare. The type of work you need to do will determine the firm you should select for your project.

When working with an unknown company, it is crucial to ensure they understand your industry (i.e., healthcare) and any regulatory requirements (i.e., HIPAA). This will ensure that the company has experience working on projects similar to yours before they provide guidance or manage your program/project.

Standards For Cybersecurity Providers

A good computer security firm should provide the following services (no matter whom they are working for):

  • Identify and assess risks. This will help you understand how vulnerable your systems are to cyberattacks, which can help with mitigation strategies.
  • Develop and implement mitigation strategies. Once you know what the risks are, you can take steps to reduce them. This could include anything from updating software or changing passwords. Still, it may also involve hiring an outside firm to assess your system for weaknesses and make recommendations for improvements (which is why we recommend hiring a professional).
  • Test and evaluate security controls. To verify that these new measures have been successful in reducing vulnerability, it’s crucial for your company’s IT department or outside cybersecurity provider to periodically test their effectiveness. By conducting penetration tests on critical assets or networks under their control—ideally, before any significant changes were made and after. They are doing so that there aren’t any surprises down the road.

When seeking consultants or other partners to help you with your cyber needs, ensure they have experience working with government contractors (or at least complex organizations) and employ certified personnel.

You should have a working knowledge of NIST 800-171 and make sure that your cybersecurity provider or consultant does as well. NIST is the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a US government agency that provides guidelines on managing cybersecurity risk. A company needs to understand these guidelines to do its job effectively.

Look for companies with certifications in various fields like cloud computing or risk management (there are different certificates for each). These credentials can tell you if the firm has experience working with government contractors (or at least complex organizations).

Find out what maintenance is included in any managed services contracts, and ensure it’s enough to satisfy your needs.

  • Make sure any managed services contracts you sign meet or exceed your governance and regulatory requirements.
  • Ensure your maintenance contract has enough support for your needs.
  • Make sure any maintenance contracts you sign include regular audits and assessments.
  • If a provider offers training in addition to its other services, ensure that the movement is helpful for your organization’s cybersecurity needs.

It would help if you had the right people, processes, and technology to manage cybersecurity risk on government contracts successfully.

You can’t have one without the other. That’s because cybersecurity is a collaborative effort that requires a team of professionals with knowledge and experience across the entire spectrum of data security:

For example, an organization interested in improving its data protection practices should consider hiring an experienced compliance manager to oversee these efforts. This role would ensure that your company complies with all applicable federal regulations related to privacy and security—and some state laws—by ensuring that employees are adequately trained concerning these issues. 

When it comes time to execute those training programs (or update them based on changes in regulations), you’ll need someone who has experience designing practical training courses for employees in your organization’s field(s) of interest. These courses will teach them what they need to know about implementing security measures like encryption technologies or multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Why Mad Security Is The Perfect Piece To The Puzzle

Whether through managed services or a dedicated cyber team, there are countless options for government contractors looking to improve their cybersecurity. The key is finding the right one for your needs—and that’s not always an easy task.

As security experts, the MAD team supports defense contractors in protecting their digital data and remaining compliant with the ever-changing cybersecurity governmental requirements. Our goal is to be an integral partner in our client’s operations and provide them with 24/7 cyber monitoring and expert advice on navigating the ever-evolving regulations for defense contractors.

For more information about our services, contact us online.