What is the Difference Between CMMC and DFARS

Cybersecurity problems are getting more complicated, especially for government and defense information. To tackle the increasing risks of hacking and cyberattacks, the Department of Defense (DoD) has set out DFARS and CMMC guidelines. These rules are about managing information and making sure there’s good cybersecurity. The goal is to lower the chances of government agencies and the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) getting their systems compromised. If government contractors follow these rules, they can do a better job of preventing security breaches and keeping the important data they handle safe, like government and military information.

What Makes DFARS and CMMC Different?

Both the DFARS and CMMC frameworks focus on safeguarding data through security controls, but they differ in assessing compliance.

DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 requires organizations to monitor their own systems without external inspection or validation of proper data handling, storage, and transmission. On the other hand, CMMC 2.0 involves both self-assessment and evaluations by Third Party Assessment Organizations (3PAOs) that determine an organization’s eligibility for a specific maturity level.

Another distinction lies in the levels incorporated in CMMC compared to DFARS. DFARS Clause 7012 includes a single tier that outlines rules for handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and enhancing security in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB). CMMC, however, introduces maturity levels to categorize the extent of cybersecurity measures. The initial CMMC 2.0 level has fewer requirements than the NIST SP 800-171, which forms the basis for DFARS Clause 7012. Level 2 mirrors NIST SP 800-171 and is almost identical to DFARS Clause 7012, except for additional assessments. The highest CMMC level, level 3, requires more protective measures.

Additionally, NIST is in the process of updating security requirements and supporting information for safeguarding CUI in SP-800-171, which is expected to take effect in Q2 of 2024. Contractors need to stay informed about these changes to stay compliant.

While there are similarities, DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 and CMMC are distinct standards. Meeting the requirements of one does not automatically mean qualification and compliance with the other.

The Importance of CMMC and DFARS?

Implementing DFARS Clause 252.204-7012 and adhering to CMMC guidelines extends beyond merely meeting DoD contracting requirements. These guidelines aim to safeguard national security, fortify the economy, and establish a robust foundation for data and cyber health within participating organizations. This not only enhances their credibility but also bolsters their reputation in the field.

The impact of integrating DFARS Clause 7012 and CMMC is substantial for the DoD contracting industry, potentially affecting a considerable number of companies. In fiscal year 2020, the DoD spent over $665 billion on contracts. Cyber-attacks pose a significant threat, with the potential for the national economy to lose over $1 trillion by 2026, according to the US Council of Economic Advisors. By adhering to regulations like DFARS Clause 7012 and CMMC, contractors contribute to strengthening data security and, consequently, national security.

Implementing sound cyber hygiene practices, including regular server health checks, multi-factor authentication, and employing zero trust user profiles, not only helps companies meet DoD mandates but also shields organizations from escalating hacking risks.

While the adoption of CMMC 2.0 is anticipated to occur gradually over five years and is not an immediate universal requirement, it is crucial for contractors to assess their compliance status and initiate preparatory work to meet their desired maturity level requirements. Planning ahead allows organizations to budget adequately for compliance, providing a proactive advantage and ensuring readiness before all contracts officially shift to requiring CMMC compliance.

Non-compliance can lead to severe consequences for companies, including fines, a suspension of ongoing contracts, and potential future bans on working with the DoD. Disqualification from contracts not only results in revenue loss but also damages an organization’s reputation in the industry. Additionally, a lack of cybersecurity information management standards exposes companies to the risk of significant data breaches and the associated remediation costs.

Why Both CMMC and DFARS Are Needed for Government Contractors?

As a government contractor, navigating the complex landscape of cybersecurity compliance can be daunting. While both CMMC and DFARS aim to protect sensitive information, their approaches and scopes differ, necessitating adherence to both.

CMMC Builds Upon DFARS

Think of DFARS as the foundation, establishing basic cybersecurity requirements for handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). CMMC then elevates this foundation by introducing a tiered maturity model, demanding increasingly stringent security controls. This means achieving CMMC compliance automatically satisfies DFARS compliance for the corresponding CUI protection level, providing an additional layer of security assurance.

Emphasis on Proactive Risk Management

CMMC encourages proactive risk management through continuous improvement in cybersecurity practices. Rather than simply fulfilling minimum requirements, it encourages organizations to proactively identify and address vulnerabilities before they evolve into threats – a crucial approach in today’s dynamic cyber landscape.

Enhanced Cybersecurity Maturity

Implementing CMMC’s rigorous security controls and processes significantly improves an organization’s overall cybersecurity posture. This not only safeguards CUI but also protects other sensitive information and critical assets. Achieving higher CMMC levels demonstrates a stronger commitment to cybersecurity, potentially increasing access to lucrative government contracts.

DFARS Compliance Remains Mandatory

Even with CMMC in place, many government contracts still require DFARS compliance. This is because DFARS encompasses a broader range of security requirements beyond CUI protection. Ignoring DFARS compliance can risk penalties, contract termination, or even legal action.

Tailored Security for Specific CUI Levels

Each CMMC level corresponds to a specific level of CUI sensitivity. This ensures that organizations implement security measures proportionate to the information they handle. DFARS, however, takes a general approach, requiring adherence to specific controls regardless of CUI sensitivity.

Combined Benefits of Compliance

By complying with both CMMC and DFARS, government contractors reap significant benefits:

Enhanced Security Posture: Implementing the combined security requirements of both frameworks strengthens and bolsters an organization’s cybersecurity posture.

Increased Trust and Reputation: Demonstrating compliance with both CMMC and DFARS reflects a strong commitment to protecting sensitive information, enhancing trust with government agencies and potential clients.

Improved Competitive Advantage: Achieving a higher CMMC level offers a competitive edge in bidding for government contracts, especially those involving highly sensitive information.

Reduced Risk of Cyberattacks: Implementing CMMC’s proactive risk management approach helps organizations identify and address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by attackers.

Compliance with Legal Requirements: DFARS compliance remains mandatory for many contracts, and achieving CMMC compliance automatically demonstrates DFARS compliance for the same level of CUI protection.

In conclusion, while CMMC builds upon and expands DFARS, both frameworks play critical roles in protecting sensitive information and enhancing the cybersecurity posture of government contractors. By adhering to both, organizations can reap significant benefits and demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding sensitive information entrusted to them.

Prepare for CMMC and DFARS Compliance with Intech Hawaii

Intech Hawaii is the premeir and cost-effective provider designed to assist businesses in handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), a crucial requirement for collaborating with the federal government. The CMMC accreditation body mandates continuous adherence to DFARS requirements, irrespective of the specific CMMC certification level.

For Intech Hawaii, this solution serves as an economical and practical CUI risk management tool for their supply chain. Subcontractors within the company can also leverage Intech Hawaii to align with DFARS, facilitating a smoother transition to CMMC certification in less time and at a fraction of the cost compared to handling the process independently.