CategoriesDefense

Cybersecurity for Government Contractors

Cybersecurity has become one of the most important concerns for companies of all sizes, and for good reason. A data breach can not only be financially devastating but can also damage your organization’s reputation. However, there is an additional risk for government contractors, as sensitive government data is often involved. Therefore, contractors must take extra precautions to ensure that their cybersecurity protocols are up to date.

The General Services Administration (GSA) manages numerous  IT security programs, which help government agencies implement IT policies. These policies promote public safety and enhance the resiliency of the government’s systems and networks. Also, several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), have issued acquisition regulations that impose new cybersecurity requirements on contractors. Below are the top five requirements with which your organization should be familiar: 

1. FAR 52.204-21 – Basic Safeguarding of Covered Contractor Information Systems 

2. DFARS 252.204-7012 – Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting 

3. NIST 800-171 – Protection of Controlled Unclassified Information 

4. CMMC Model – Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification 

5. Executive Order (EO) 13800 – Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure 

Each of these requirements is discussed in more detail below: 

1. FAR 52.204-21 – Basic Safeguarding of Covered Contractor Information Systems 

The FAR 52.204-21 regulation requires contractors to put basic security measures in place to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)/Covered Defense Information (CDI) stored on their information systems. Some security measures include multi-factor authentication, least privilege principles, and physical security controls. 

2. DFARS 252.204-7012 – Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting 

The DFAR Clause 252.204.7012 regulation requires contractors to take additional steps to safeguard CUI/CDI, including implementing a plan for detecting, reporting, and responding to cybersecurity incidents. This regulation also requires contractors to have a written information security program that includes specific security measures and procedures. 

3. NIST 800-171 – Protection of Controlled Unclassified Information 

The NIST 800-171 regulation is a set of security standards that contractors must meet to protect CUI/CDI. These standards cover access control, incident response, and system documentation. 

4. CMMC Model – Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification 

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a new cybersecurity framework that will soon be required for all DoD contractors. This framework consists of five levels of maturity, each with its own set of requirements. Contractors must earn certification at the appropriate level to bid on specific contracts. 

5. Executive Order (EO) 13800 – Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure 

EO 13800 requires federal agencies to improve the cybersecurity of their networks and critical infrastructure. This includes risk assessments, incident response plans, and cyber threat information sharing. While this Executive Order does not directly apply to contractors, it is vital to be aware as it will likely indirectly impact how contractors do business with the government. 

Tips for Meeting Contractor Cybersecurity Requirements

  • Get certified and accredited. Certification is essential in demonstrating to the government that your organization is serious about cybersecurity. The most common certification for contractors is the ISO 27001 standard. 
  • Limit access to those with a need-to-know. One of the best ways to protect CUI/CDI is to limit its access. Make sure that only those who absolutely need access to CUI/CDI have it and only have access to the specific information they need. 
  • Implement strong security controls. Strong security controls are essential for protecting CUI/CDI. This includes multi-factor authentication, least privilege principles, and physical security controls. 
  • Have a plan for incident response. In the event of a cybersecurity incident, it is crucial to have a plan in place for how to respond. This plan should include containment, eradication, recovery, and communication steps. 
  • Stay up to date on new requirements. The landscape of contractor cybersecurity is constantly changing, so it is essential to stay current on new requirements. One way to do this is to sign up for updates from the Center for Internet Security (CIS).

As a government contractor, cybersecurity should be one of your top priorities. If sensitive government data falls into the wrong hands, the consequences could be disastrous – not just for your business, but also for national security. By ensuring your systems are certified and accredited, that access is strictly limited to those with a need-to-know, and that vulnerabilities are promptly remediated, you can help protect yourself against cyberattacks and maintain compliance with government regulations.


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