The modern threat landscape has evolved significantly in the past few years. Cybercriminals launch increasingly sophisticated attacks, which have only gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to remote work.

Think about all the sensitive information and critical assets that organizations store and handle as part of their business operations: personal information on your employees and customers, proprietary material, intellectual property, financial information, and so much more. This data is precious for savvy cybercriminals.

Why Is Cybersecurity Important for Companies?

Today’s cybercriminals are intelligent, clever, and sophisticated. They aren’t targeting companies purely for financial gain; many aim to create chaos and plant a seed of distrust within society.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven increasingly targeted cyber threats, especially against the healthcare industry. Cybercriminals have taken advantage of reduced staff and remote work to develop careful phishing and ransomware campaigns that lure victims into downloading malicious software so they can gain access to a company’s internal networks.

Every company is a potential target for ransomware and malware attacks, and the consequences of these cyber threats are significant. Aside from financial losses, there may be legal penalties, loss of customer loyalty, and reputational damage, which will degrade your business over the long run.

Moreover, when a business has been compromised by a data breach, board members and investors often demand that those in charge of cybersecurity resign. For example, when Target suffered a data breach in 2014, Beth Jacob (CIO) and Gregg Steinhafel (CEO) resigned months after the attack.

Proactive cybersecurity is foundational, and no business can afford to ignore cybersecurity to reduce costs. Therefore, business leaders must be able to educate their employees to be more aware of good cybersecurity practices and provide learning opportunities.

The Relationship Between GRC and Cybersecurity

Governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) offer a strategic approach to businesses as they develop their cybersecurity programs by providing an opportunity to ask questions such as:

  • “Do we need to provide training for our employees?”
  • “Which policies and protocols should we implement to reduce cyber threats?”
  • “Are there any regulations that my business must comply with?”

Cybersecurity governance poses a heightened challenge for security teams due to increasing cyber risk, management of cybersecurity policies, and compliance with a growing number of cybersecurity regulations and industry frameworks.

Cybersecurity policies must map the company’s risk profile and the desired future state. Then the IT and security teams, along with the C-suite, must monitor the performance of the policies.

From a risk management standpoint, it’s critical to understand that every sector comes with its challenges based on the type of data assets organizations in that sector use and their customer profiles. So you must identify the specific cyber risks that pertain to your organization and define a mitigation plan for those risks.

Lastly, organizations must comply with cybersecurity regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or industry frameworks, such as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). As a result, you must thoroughly understand which compliance directives apply to your organization and how you plan to achieve compliance.

What Is the CMMC?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a common cybersecurity standard across the defense industrial base (DIB), which stands to affect as many as 500,000 federal contractors, suppliers (aka prime contractors), and their subcontractors along the supply chain.

The CMMC is the latest Department of Defense (DoD) verification mechanism ensure that cybersecurity controls and processes adequately protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) residing on DIB systems and networks.

CMMC compliance is required for ongoing DoD relationships and must be renewed every three years. Failure to comply could result in the loss of valuable DoD contracts and expose the contractor to cybersecurity weaknesses.

What Is the CMMC framework?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliance framework is a set of standards to protect national security that organizations must adopt if they want to participate in supply chain contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The specifications outlined in the CMMC come from the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Special Publication 800-171 Revision 2 and are intended to limit security risks in the government sector.

For example, the CMMC includes authentication requirements for security controls that an organization must implement to protect information systems and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). It also contains other cybersecurity and risk management practices, such as incident response and continuous monitoring.

What Are the 5 Levels of CMMC?

Not all companies are the same. Recognizing this, compliance requirements are divided into the five CMMC levels of maturity, with the least mature organizations at Level 1 and the most mature at Level 5.

Smaller businesses are often categorized at Level 1, where a company’s maturity assessment starts. From there, companies can strive to improve their cybersecurity practices and reach higher levels, depending on their size, resources, and capabilities.

The required level for your organization depends on its contract with the Department of Defense. For example, Level 1 and Level 2 entities can only access FCI (Federal Contract Information), while Level 3 certification allows them to receive CUI.

Meanwhile, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has stated that it expects its contractors to achieve Level 3 or Level 4 certification.

  • CMMC Level 1: This fundamental level entails businesses implementing “basic cyber hygiene” to safeguard FCI by FAR, federal rule 48 CFR 52.204-21.
  • CMMC Level 2: At this transition level, companies establish policies and practices to comply with the CMMC. Entities at this level conform to the 65 security requirements of NIST 800-171 following DFARS clause 252.204-7012, which contains the CMMS standard, seven of the CMMC practices, and two CMMC processes.
  • CMMC Level 3: The organizations have “good cyber hygiene” and may handle CUI at this level. These entities have a security plan for meeting NIST 800-171 requirements and other standards for mitigating threats.
  • CMMC Level 4: At CMMC level 4, an entity has documented its security processes, drafted a plan to comply with NIST 800-171, reviewed its security practices to ensure they are working correctly, and updated for new trends with cybersecurity best practices.
  • CMMC Level 5: At the highest maturity level, an enterprise’s security processes are standardized across the organization. They include practices optimized to detect and respond to more sophisticated cyber threats, such as advanced persistent threats (APTs).

How Do You Obtain CMMC Certification?

An organization seeking certification must use licensed or accredited C3PAOs (CMMC 3rd Party Assessment Organization) found using the CMMC-AB (accreditation body) Marketplace website. The C3PAO and other marketplace providers, such as a Registered Provider Organization (RPO), will take the organization through the process to final certification.

The CMMC-AB website suggests starting the process by completing a self-assessment based on the CMMC Assessment Guidelines before scheduling a CMMC assessment.

The process steps for CMMC certification at a chosen level typically encompass:

  1. Determine the CMMC level needed for your company to submit a proposal for DoD contracts.
  2. Select a qualified CMMC-AB market vendor to assist your company with the procedure and carry out a pre-assessment activity. In most cases, an RPO can help with this.
  3. Use the CMMC-AB Marketplace to find a C3PAO with accreditation.
  4. The C3PAO evaluates your organization by the selected CMMC maturity level standards.
  5. The CMMC-AB reviews the C3PAO’s assessment via a quality auditor. Your firm must fix any flaws discovered during the formal examination within 90 days.

Your organization will receive a CMMC certificate of compliance from the CMMC-AB once the evaluation has been found to match the requirements for the selected CMMC level. The three-year expiration date of this certification.

Cybersecurity Considerations for Enterprise vs. Small Business

When cybercriminals target large enterprises, they typically use well-orchestrated attacks designed to gain entry into highly secure environments. As a result, enterprises must consider threats such as supply chain attacks, advanced persistent threats, and insider threats when establishing their cybersecurity programs.

That said, small businesses are not immune to cyber threats. For example, the 2019 Ponemon Institute report stated that 76% of small to medium-sized companies were attacked the prior year, up from 55% in 2016.

This is because small businesses tend to rely on outdated technology with less secure networks, making them easy targets for cyber attacks. Small businesses may not have the financial resources to provide corporate devices, such as laptops and mobile devices, to their employees. They may also use inexpensive platforms for cloud storage (such as Google Drive or Dropbox).

10 Cybersecurity Best Practices for Businesses to Prevent Cyber Attacks

Regardless of the organization’s size, cybersecurity best practices must be implemented to reduce cyber risk, such as:

  1. Educate employees to recognize phishing emails through rigorous cybersecurity training.
  2. Test employees with social engineering tactics regularly and report the results to senior leadership and all employees for added transparency.
  3. Improve access controls and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all corporate accounts so that even if cybercriminals get a hold of login credentials, they cannot successfully access the network.
  4. Implement virtual private networks (VPN) to mask the IP addresses and locations, especially as employees continue to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember, VPN is not restricted to laptops; if your company provides mobile devices to employees, a VPN can still be used.
  5. Always backup sensitive data and test the backups regularly.
  6. Ensure that your company complies with industry frameworks (such as the CMMC and NIST frameworks) and that compliance is maintained.
  7. Establish a cybersecurity-aware culture and lead from the top down. If employees see senior leaders follow the cybersecurity policies, they’re more likely to.
  8. Patch all vulnerabilities as soon as they are discovered, mainly if your company uses legacy software applications or systems.
  9. Ensure that all corporate devices have some form of antivirus software installed.
  10. Set up a firewall between the external traffic and internal data to protect your critical data assets. Go a step further and provide employees with the means to install a firewall on their home networks, especially if you plan to continue a hybrid or remote work environment.

Prevent Cybersecurity Attacks with Reciprocity’s ZenComply

Reciprocity’s ZenComply all-in-one platform allows businesses to stay ahead of the threat curve by gaining deeper visibility into their networks and tracking compliance requirements.

Security leaders can quickly assess risk across various threats and vulnerabilities, detect, monitor, and remediate any risks found with real-time updates, and continuously monitor the regulatory compliance of third-party vendors. Insightful reporting and dashboards enable quick and easy updates for stakeholders.

In addition, ZenComply enables self-assessments and self-audits across an array of industry frameworks, such as NIST and HIPAA, and monitors current cybersecurity requirements.

ZenComply for CMMC Compliance solution delivers insight, guidance, and instruction from pre-assessment to CMMC audit readiness. The fully integrated ZenComply platform provides a single source of truth to manage and streamline CMMC requirements, eliminating tedious manual processes and reducing the resource time required to achieve positive audit results.

Schedule a demo to learn how ZenComply can drive your CMMC program.