What is CMMC Level 3 and Why is it Important?

February 9, 2024

As the wave of digitization takes over, the cybersecurity space continues to evolve. The influx of information and sensitive data makes individuals and organizations susceptible to cyber security risks and the need to protect themselves against data theft and loss. Organizations must also be in cyber compliance and adhere to industry regulations to safeguard their businesses, especially those working in line with government bodies. This is especially necessary for US Department of Defense (DoD) organizations.

Gaining an Understanding of the Concept

With a comprehensive understanding of the industry and market players, the DoD formulated the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework to standardize cybersecurity practices for DIB (Defense Industrial Base) partners. It has been designed and developed to protect sensitive information shared by the department with its contractors and subcontractors. The CMMC program includes three levels: foundational, advanced, and expert. The level of certification that these organizations require is determined by the kind of information they handle and the type of work involved. Each level of certification uses a set of practices, focus areas, and processes to measure the cyber maturity levels of the organization. Businesses that deal with the most sensitive data are required to achieve the top level of the CMMC program (level 3).

CMMC Level 3 Explained

CMMC Level 3 is built upon CMMC Level 1 and CMMC Level 2 practices. Businesses need to effectively use CMMC Level 3 to understand and comply with the myriad of regulatory processes. This helps securely handle Federal Contract Information (FCI) or Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), which is more sensitive information. This approach is necessary because these specific organizations are involved in very critical defense programs. This could include engineering nuclear submarines or even fighter jets. Organizations at this level are expected to have an institutionalized management system for improved cybersecurity practices.

Implementing CMMC Level 3 Best Practices

The framework is designed with a set of security standards and best practices. Organizations must implement several practices mapped out by the framework. Each practice focuses on a specific sector of cybersecurity. These practices include access control, access management, audit and accountability, awareness and training, security assessment, identification and authentication, incident response, maintenance, recovery, risk management, system and information integrity, and more.

Successfully implementing this framework displays the organization’s ability to protect sensitive data with a high level of commitment to cybersecurity. It also indicates that the organization can comprehensively implement the various cybersecurity practices and actively monitor and upgrade them.

Additionally, it enhances the organization’s competitiveness when bidding for DoD contracts. Specific contracts mandate Level 3 certification, ensuring any critical defense information is adequately protected from financially motivated, unethical hackers and any potential cybersecurity risks.

The Benefits of Achieving CMMC Level 3 Compliance

Businesses hailing from the defense industry reap numerous advantages by complying with CMMC Level 3 standards. Implementing this framework’s key benefit is that it assures the DoD that the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) contractors process, transmit, and store critical information securely and protect it from any unauthorized access. This also proves that the organization is cybersecurity-ready.

In addition to this, adhering to CMMC level 3 compliance also enables businesses to access government contracts. Maintaining such high levels of cybersecurity makes these businesses strong contenders and potential partners for organizations in the defense industry as well as opens up opportunities in the private sector.

Is CMMC Level 3 Compliance Mandatory?

Businesses that are involved in dealing with the DoD are required to meet specific security standards that have been mapped out by the CMMC. However, the level of certification required depends on the services outlined in the organization’s contracts. It then depends on the security requirements defined in the contract on exactly which level of CMMC certification the organization needs to achieve (Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3).

CMMC Level 3 Domains and Requirements

This framework includes a comprehensive suite of 130 tools. These tools are required to help effectively manage the risks in various sectors. Multiple measures like procedures, policies, practices, guidelines, and organizational structures, whether technical, legal, administrative, or management in nature, are included in these controls.

The CMMC Level 3 requires adhering to 58 specific strategies that add up to 130 tools for an advanced protection strategy. Of these 58, 45 are defined by the NIST SP 800-171, while the remainder come from different sources. These encompass certain technical activities performed to achieve cybersecurity maturity required in a specific capability domain.

Gearing Up For the Future

Organizations are required to provide substantial evidence to certified, independent assessors, demonstrating full compliance with their cybersecurity responsibilities as per CMMC’s set standards. If the requirements are unmet, the organization may lose its eligibility to participate in or bid on certain DoD contracts. In addition, such non-compliance could lead to disqualification from future opportunities or even current contract termination.

However, companies exclusively supplying commercial off-the-shelf products to the DoD do not require CMMC compliance certification. Overall, the CMMC framework is not just designed for this specific sector but can be implemented across industries so that organizations can continually improve their cybersecurity practices. Achieving this certification is not a one-time event but an ongoing commitment to maintaining cutting-edge security in the years to come. With copious amounts of critical data being generated within this industry and as cybersecurity threats evolve, so must the protective measures of organizations, especially those handling sensitive governmental data. Learn about how ComplyShield, the best tool for CMMC compliance can keep your organization in a state of audit-readiness.

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