You have doubtless heard and read all about the looming requirement for all Department of Defense government contractors to become compliant with Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) minimum security standards derived from NIST SP 800-171 Rev 1 by Dec 31, 2017- or else risk losing their contracts. DFARS Clause 252.204-7012, Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reporting, will be a mandatory clause in all contracts except for contracts solely for the acquisition of COTS items.
This requirement applies to any DoD Contractor, subcontractor, and supplier ALL THE WAY DOWN THE SUPPLY CHAIN that processes, stores, or transmits Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). Not just security contractors. Not just companies that have clearances. Not even just IT contractors. If you have a landscaping business and you are performing work at a DOD facility, and have access to blueprints that are or may be considered CUI, you’re subject to this requirement. CUI includes the categories outlined in the NARA CUI Registry, but as you can probably imagine, is not limited to that. your government customer can identify additional categories and data, and you as a contractor, should err on the safe side and identify potential CUI so that you can protect and segregate it just in case.
Note: civilian contractors are not subject to this requirement (there are only 15 security controls outlined in FAR part 52.204-21 compared to 109 in the DFARS clause), but that may be changing to synthesize the compliance requirements to the more complete set that the DOD/DFARS adopted.
Ultimately, it is the contractor’s responsibility to determine whether it is has implemented the NIST SP 800-171 (as well as any other security measures necessary to provide adequate security for covered defense information). Third party assessments or certifications of compliance are not required, authorized, or recognized by DoD, nor will DoD certify that a contractor is compliant with the NIST SP 800-171 security requirements.
The protections required to protect government information are dependent on the information DoD is protecting and the kind of system on which the information is processed or stored.
There is no single or prescribed manner in which a contractor may choose to implement the requirements of NIST SP 800-171, or to assess their own compliance with those requirements. For companies new to the requirements, a reasonable first step may be for company personnel with knowledge of their information systems security practices to read through the publication, examining each requirement to determine if it may require a change to company policy or processes, a configuration change for existing company information technology (IT), or if it requires an additional software or hardware solution.
Some resources and tools to help you determine whether you’re subject to the requirement, and what you can do next:
- DOD Office of Small Business Cyber resources and news – especially the 49-minute video and the presentation slides
- DOD Procurement Toolbox – Cyber security section (including how to approach evaluating each requirement)
- Georgia Tech PTAC 20-min Instructional Video
- A handy presentation [from a law firm] that translates the major requirements into easy-to-understand terms
- The Safeguarding Covered Defense Information one-pager to ease you into the basics.
- The Cybersecurity Evaluation Tool (CSET) that provides a systematic approach for evaluating an organization’s security posture through a step-by-step process to evaluate their control system and information technology network security practices. The tool will allow you to select a standard (e.g. NIST SP 800-171) – and CSET will generate specific questions to those requirements and present you with assessment results.
- A Self-assessment guide when you’re ready for the deep dive
- OSD Memorandum: DPAP Guidance for DoD Acquisition Personnel that instructs DOD buyers how to implement and evaluate vendor cyber compliance (and since it’s going to be an evaluation factor in source selection, you need to know what your customers expect).
- For subcontractor and supplier reference – Lockheed Martin’s notice to its supply chain that you may find informative and applicable regardless of who your prime is.
- And if you heard the rumors of possible delay and were wondering if they have merit — sadly, no.
PTAP counselors can help you walk through these steps. While we’re not technical experts on network security, we could help you walk through the self-assessment and determine what steps you need to take to bring your business up to compliance.
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