When it comes to Department of Defense (DoD) contracting, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) assessment framework is now a critical requirement for contractors large and small, and System Security Plans (SSPs) are its key part.
Without a well-crafted SSP, achieving that much-needed CMMC compliance becomes as elusive as a yeti. Let’s embark on a short but enlightening journey to understand the intricacies of SSPs, their pivotal role in CMMC compliance, and what it takes to develop them.
DoD Contractors Guide to CMMC Certification.
What Is a System Security Plan?
A System Security Plan (SSP) serves the same purpose as the architectural blueprint. The only difference is that instead of defining all the construction specifications of a building, it defines an organization’s cybersecurity defenses, painting a vivid picture of how the organization safeguards its systems and data.
Typically, an SSP is created by the organization’s security personnel, and it should contain the following information:
- High-level diagrams: These diagrams provide a bird’s eye view of how connected systems within the organization interact and communicate. It’s essential to understand this network flow to ensure the correct security protocols are in place at each point of interaction.
- Design philosophies: The SSP outlines the guiding principles behind the organization’s cybersecurity approach. These may include defense-in-depth strategies, which involve layering multiple security controls to protect the system. It can also outline the interfaces and network protocols that are permitted for use within the organization.
- Reference to existing policies and procedures: The SSP is a living document that fits within the context of the organization’s broader policy environment. It should reference existing policies and procedures to ensure consistency across the organization.
This information is extremely valuable in and of itself, guiding both staff and leadership to ensure a secure and compliant digital ecosystem. But the true value of an SSP really shines through when it comes to achieving CMMC compliance.
The Role of an SSP in CMMC Compliance
As we’ve established, an SSP is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have for organizations bidding on DoD contracts. The reason is simple: the SSP is a critical part of the NIST 800-171 security requirements, with which the 110 practices described by the CMMC 2.0 Level 2 are aligned.
More specifically, CMMC Practice CA.L2-3.12.4 states that contractors must “develop, document, and periodically update system security plans that describe system boundaries, system environments of operation, how security requirements are implemented, and the relationships with or connections to other systems.”
So any DoD contractor that handles Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and thus is required to meet CMMC 2.0 Level 2 must have a solid SSP in place. This isn’t a mere suggestion, but rather a strict necessity.
6 Critical Cybersecurity Policies Every Organization Must Have
Developing an Effective System Security Plan
Developing an effective SSP can be a challenge for contractors with limited cybersecurity experience and expertise because it demands attention to detail and a keen understanding of your organization’s network infrastructure.
Many contractors underestimate the complexity of their own IT environments, such as where data is stored, how it’s processed, who has access to it, and the potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited. They also sometimes forget that SSP should never be a “set it and forget it” kind of document. The digital landscape is ever-changing, with new threats emerging all the time. As such, SSPs should evolve alongside these changes, ensuring they remain up-to-date and relevant.
Given the complexity and importance of the task, contractors should consider partnering with a managed IT service provider specializing in CMMC compliance, like us at OSIbeyond.
As a Registered Provider Organization (RPO) authorized by the CMMC accreditation body (Cyber-AB), we’re not just an IT company; we’re a cybersecurity partner dedicated to guiding DoD contractors toward achieving and maintaining CMMC certification. Our team includes multiple Registered Practitioners (RPs) and Certified CMMC Professionals (CCPs), so we’re well-equipped to assist any Organizations Seeking Certifications (OSCs) to become CMMC compliant and assessment ready.
Conclusion on System Security
The importance of an effective System Security Plan in achieving and maintaining CMMC compliance cannot be overstated. However, developing such a plan calls for a deep understanding of your IT environment, attention to detail, and ongoing commitment to keeping pace with the cybersecurity landscape.
The good news is that DoD contractors don’t have to do it alone because they can partner with a specialized managed IT service provider to make the journey towards CMMC compliance significantly less daunting.