There are many benefits to achieving higher CMMC trust levels.

CMMC Maturity – Understanding What is Needed to Level Up

At its core, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is designed to protect mission-critical government systems and data and has the primary objective of protecting the government’s Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) from cyber risk.

CMMC goes beyond NIST 800-171 to require strict adherence to a complex set of standards, an attestation, and a certification by a third-party assessor.

The Cybersecurity Model has a framework with five maturity (or “trust”) levels. As you likely know, the certification level your organization needs to reach is going to be largely situational and dependent on the kinds of contracts you currently have and will seek out in the future.

The CMMC compliance process is still so new that many organizations are just prioritizing what baseline level they need to reach. For most, that’s level 3. With that said, there is certainly value to gain from an incremental approach to leveling up.

Why Seek CMMC Level 4 or 5 Compliance, Anyway?

First, let’s define our terms and understand the meaning behind the jump from Level 3 up to 4 or 5. CMMC trust levels 3-5 are defined as:

Level 3: Managed

  • – 130 practices (including all 110 from NIST 800-171 Rev. 1)
  • – Meant to protect CUI in environments that hold and transmit classified information
  • – All contractors must establish, maintain, and resource a plan that includes their identified domain

Level 4: Reviewed

  • – Additional 26 practices
  • Proactive and focuses on the protection of CUI from Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and encompasses a subset of the enhanced security requirements from Draft NIST SP 800-171B (as well as other cyber-security best practices). In Splunk terms, that means a shift from monitoring and maintaining compliance to proactively responding to threats. This puts an emphasis on SOAR tools such as Splunk Phantom to automate security threat response in specific practice categories.
  • – All contractors should review and measure their identified domain activities for effectiveness

Level 5: Optimizing

  • – Additional 15 practices
  • – An advanced and proactive approach to protect CUI from APTs
  • – Requires a contractor to standardize and optimize process implementation across their organization. In Splunk terms, this means expansion to more sophisticated threat identification algorithms to include tools such as User Behavior Analytics.

The benefits of taking an incremental approach and making the jump up to Level 4 (and potentially 5 later) are two-fold:

  1. It can make your bids more appealing. Even if the contracts that you are seeking only require Level 3 compliance, having the added security level is an enticing differentiator in a competitive bidding market.
  2. You can open your organization up to new contracts and opportunities that require a higher level of certification and are often worth a lot more money.
  3. It puts in place the tools and techniques to automatically respond to security-related events. This shortens response times to threats, shortens triage, increases accuracy and visibility, automates tasks that would typically be done manually by expensive security resources, and makes you safer.

Plus, with “allowable costs” in the mix, by defraying the spend on compliance back to the DoD, you get the added financial benefit as well.

How Do You Move Up to the Higher CMMC Trust Levels?

Our recommendation is to start small and at a manageable level. Seek the compliance level that matches your current contract needs. As was highlighted earlier, for most, that is Level 3.

To have reached Level 3, you are already using a single technology solution (like Splunk) or a combination of other tools.

Getting to Level 4 and adhering to the additional 14 practices is going to be an incremental process of layering in another tool or technique or technology that goes on top of all your previous work. It’s additive.

For TekStream clients, that translates to adding Splunk Phantom to your Splunk Core and Enterprise Security solution. It’s not a massive or insurmountable task, and it is a great way to defray costs associated with manual security tasks and differentiate your organization from your fellow DIB contractors.

TekStream Can Help You Reach the Right Certification Level for You

Ready to start your compliance process? Ready to reach Level 3, Level 4, or even Level 5? Acting now positions you to meet DoD needs immediately and opens the door for early opportunities. See how TekStream has teamed up with Splunk to bring you a prescriptive solution and implementation consultancy.

Visit the CMMC Resource Page

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