New Market Opportunity for MSPs : CMMC

February 23, 2024

Due to limited resources, it is common for most small business Department of Defense (DoD) contractors to opt to outsource their IT capabilities instead of hiring full-time IT staff. This is where Managed Service Providers (MSPs) come in and play a very integral role. MSPs provide essential technical support, maintain hardware and software systems, and ensure that businesses operate smoothly in the digital world.

However, the significance of MSPs goes beyond technical expertise. As contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers seek CMMC certification, they need to onboard partners who can aid in their mission of working with the DoD. Today, they bear the crucial responsibility of handling sensitive client data, necessitating robust cybersecurity practices to protect against constantly evolving cyber threats.

How can MSPs help businesses achieve NIST 800-171 and CMMC?

The NIST 800-171 framework is a stepping stone to protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) under the CMMC guidelines. With its comprehensive set of 110 controls and 320 Organization Actions, implementing NIST 800-171 poses a significant burden, particularly for small businesses. Not only is it an expensive undertaking, but it also requires a substantial amount of time and effort, making it a long and complex journey towards CMMC readiness.

Managing different client’s IT infrastructure and services is a unique role for MSPs. Businesses partnering with an MSP can alleviate some of this burden by leveraging the expertise of an MSP. Thus, companies can streamline their compliance journeys while focusing on their core operations.

CMMC as a framework for MSPs

As Managed Service Providers often juggle numerous responsibilities for hundreds of clients, it can sometimes seem daunting to keep pace with the continuous changes the Department of Defense brings. Nonetheless, MSPs are presented with a remarkable opportunity to offer their services to the vast array of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) within the Defense Industrial Base (DIB).

Do MSPs have to be CMMC compliant?

MSPs play a crucial role in supporting DoD contractor clients and handling sensitive information like CUI. This means that MSPs themselves may be bound to CMMC requirements. While it may initially seem unlikely for MSPs to need CMMC certification, the reason for this requirement is to mitigate the risk of adversaries compromising service providers and gaining access to CUI.

Depending on the level of sensitivity of the information they handle, MSPs may need to pursue different levels of CMMC certification. For MSPs handling only FCI, a Level 1 certification is required. MSPs with clients working on high-value national security programs may need to achieve Level 3 certification. However, large prime contractors often pursue Level 3 certification through internal IT teams.

Overall, MSPs should assess their client’s needs and the sensitivity of the information they handle to determine their own specific CMMC compliance requirements.

CMMC Compliance-as-a-Service

If you’re an MSP looking to offer CMMC compliance-as-a-service practice, here are some things to keep in mind:

Change is the only constant

CMMC 2.0 is expected to be in all new contracts by October 2025, but it is riddled with delays and uncertainty. This particularly affected SMBs who were already preparing and budgeting for assessments.

CMMC 2.0 will now consist of three levels instead of the original five, allowing self-assessments for specific situations at Levels 1 and 2. This aims to streamline the process and reduce reliance on third-party assessors and potential costs. However, CMMC 2.0 is still in its early stages, with a rulemaking period lasting between 9 to 24 months. While MSPs cannot control the DoD’s next moves, they can support their clients by staying informed about the latest CMMC updates and transparently communicating potential changes as the rulemaking process unfolds.

Help clients meet NIST 800-171 requirements

While CMMC is a relatively new regulation, the DoD has previously implemented cybersecurity controls for organizations that handle CUI. Since 2017, businesses working with the DoD have been required to implement the 110 cybersecurity controls outlined in NIST 800-171. However, enforcement of these requirements has been lax, causing challenges for many defense contractors, which now form Level 2 of CMMC 2.0.

MSPs can add value by offering compliance services to help SMBs meet NIST 800-171 requirements. Educating clients about these requirements is essential, as many SMBs find the regulations overwhelming. Aligning with Level 2 of CMMC 2.0, SMBs that address missing controls early will be better positioned once the final rulemaking phase is completed.

Assisting clients in conducting a NIST 800-171 self-assessment and establishing processes for maintaining cybersecurity practices and documentation presents a significant opportunity for MSPs. This is crucial because the DoD can conduct audits on self-assessment at any time. You may also like to read about third-party CMMC assessments.

Automate, automate, automate

To build a successful CMMC compliance-as-a-service business, MSPs need automated tools to reduce manual work and increase profitability. Look for regulatory compliance management software that automates compliance reports, provides ongoing remediation documentation, and streamlines information collection from stakeholders. It’s important to familiarize clients with the solution and empower them to submit documentation through it, minimizing effort. While MSPs still play a role in project management and data collection, automated compliance solutions can streamline these processes. Helping clients navigate NIST 800-171 establishes MSPs as compliance experts and prepares them for success with CMMC 2.0.

Ongoing CMMC Compliance

When it comes to helping SMBs achieve and maintain compliance, the opportunity extends beyond just assisting clients to obtain certification. It is crucial to provide ongoing support to ensure compliance throughout the three-year term of their certificate. Additionally, Level 3 certification necessitates a contractor to conduct continuous security performance assessments, maintain documentation, and regularly update the System Security Plan. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) can seize the opportunity presented by CMMC Level 3 by leveraging their expertise on efficient IT and security services. By offering Compliance-as-a-Service, MSPs can guide SMBs through the evolving CMMC guidelines, thereby enhancing cybersecurity measures while fostering business growth.

MSPs, take advantage of a new market opportunity

SureShield’s ComplyShield is a valuable tool for MSPs helping small businesses achieve CMMC compliance at Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3. MSPs can use ComplyShield as a market differentiator and guide their customers through the certification process. ComplyShield includes features to help document ongoing compliance, perform and score NIST 800-171 self-assessments, and generate the required System Security Plan. It’s easier than ever for MSPs to ensure compliance automation so their clients meet Basic Security Requirements and achieve good cyber hygiene standards.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *