Compliance with CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification) goes beyond cybersecurity practices; it serves as a validation of a company's security measures. In the automobile industry they feel that a car's safety isn't just in its design, but proven in the crash test. Similarly, in the realm of information security, "Security isn't real until it's validated." This principle underpins the rationale behind the development of CMMC for the protection of the United States Department of Defense (DoD). CMMC compliance ensures that a company's cybersecurity practices are not just theoretical but have been rigorously assessed and verified against standardized criteria. This validation is crucial for companies working with the DoD, ensuring that they meet the stringent requirements needed to protect information. It underscores the importance of not just implementing security measures but also of having these measures evaluated and certified, thus affirming their effectiveness in the real world.
Understanding the repercussions of not meeting compliance with CMMC Level 1 safeguarding Federal Contract Information (FCI) and Level 2 protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)is crucial for contractors and subcontractors within the DIB.
It is imperative to consider what's at stake if CMMC compliance is not met.
Loss of DoD Contracts
The most immediate and direct consequence of failing to meet CMMC compliance is the potential loss of DoD contracts. The DoD has made it clear that adherence to the required CMMC level will be a prerequisite for contract awards. This means that if an organization does not meet the specified CMMC level required for a contract, it simply will not be eligible to bid or partake in that contract. For many businesses within the DIB, this could result in significant financial losses and could potentially jeopardize their future business with the DoD.
The recent release of the 234-page proposed CMMC rule in the Federal Register on December 26, 2023, accompanied by detailed CMMC assessment guidance documents, signals a significant milestone in the Department of Defense's (DoD) ongoing efforts to implement the CMMC program. Although the rule awaits finalization, with a 60-day public comment window concluding on February 26, 2024, its publication is a clear indicator that the integration of CMMC requirements into DoD contracts is on the horizon. This proposed rule is instrumental in setting the stage for a phased incorporation of CMMC standards, aiming to enhance the security of contractors' networks and safeguard critical government information from adversarial threats. As the rule undergoes public scrutiny and feedback from the industry and other stakeholders, it underscores the DoD's commitment to a collaborative approach in refining and implementing these vital cybersecurity measures in the near future.
Legal and Regulatory Repercussions
While the primary focus of CMMC compliance is securing DoD contracts, failure to adequately protect FCI and CUI can also have legal and regulatory repercussions. Organizations might face penalties, fines, or legal action for failing to comply with federal regulations governing the handling of sensitive information. Moreover, breaches involving sensitive information can lead to regulatory scrutiny and may necessitate costly remediation efforts to address security deficiencies.
Posting an inaccurate SPRS score could lead to a company being liable under the False Claims Act. Which is a federal law that imposes liability on individuals and organizations for submitting false or fraudulent claims to the government. Failure to comply with CMMC 2.0 can lead to fines of $10,000 per control, with a minimum of 110 controls in Level 2, under the False Claims Act.
Non-compliance with CMMC not only affects direct opportunities with DoD contracts but also places companies at a competitive disadvantage. As CMMC becomes a standard across the industry, organizations compliant with higher CMMC levels may be favored over those that are not, even for non-DoD related work. This is because CMMC compliance demonstrates a company's commitment to cybersecurity best practices, making them a more secure and trustworthy partner or supplier.
Increased Vulnerability to Cyber Threats
The practices and processes outlined in CMMC Level 1 and Level 2 are designed to protect organizations from prevalent cyber threats. Non-compliance, therefore, inherently means that an organization's defenses against such threats are weakened. This increased vulnerability can lead to data breaches, intellectual property theft, and compromise of sensitive information, which can have devastating financial and reputational consequences.
Erosion of Trust
Trust is a critical asset in the defense supply chain. Non-compliance with CMMC can erode trust between a company, its partners, and customers. Restoring this trust can be a long and challenging process. Organizations may need to demonstrate substantial improvements in their cybersecurity posture and compliance efforts to rebuild relationships and regain opportunities.
Don't Wait to Start
The implications of not meeting CMMC Level 1 and Level 2 compliance are far-reaching and can significantly impact an organization's operations, financial standing, and reputation. The estimate to implement and meet CMMC compliance is around 12 months or more. It is imperative for companies within the DIB to understand these repercussions and take proactive steps toward achieving and maintaining compliance. This involves not just meeting the minimum requirements but fostering a culture of continuous cybersecurity improvement.