With the introduction of CMMC 2.0 in late 2020, the Department of Defense has significantly raised the cybersecurity requirements for defense contractors. CMMC builds upon the NIST 800-171 security requirements for protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) by adding a comprehensive third-party assessment program and maturity model.
Implementing comprehensive policies and procedures is a critical first step for contractors seeking to achieve compliance with both NIST 800-171 and CMMC. By leveraging CMMC policy templates, contractors can more efficiently develop the foundational policies needed for compliance.
This post will examine the benefits of utilizing CMMC templates to streamline NIST 800-171 compliance.
1. Reducing Administrative Burden
One of the biggest advantages of leveraging NIST 800-171 Policy Templates is reducing the administrative burden of creating policies from scratch. Developing comprehensive cybersecurity policies that meet every NIST 800-171 requirement is arduous. Some estimates suggest developing a compliant set of policies takes over 200 hours of legal review.
CMMC templates eliminate the need to start from a blank page by providing pre-written policy text that addresses NIST 800-171 controls.
Contractors can customize the templates by inserting company-specific details and procedures while retaining language that demonstrates compliance. This significantly reduces the effort required for legal and technical review.
2. Accelerating Compliance Timelines
By leveraging CMMC templates, contractors can shave months off their compliance timelines.
Creating compliant policies from scratch is a lengthy process of drafting, reviewing, revising, and finalizing each policy. Rather than go through repeated iterations, contractors can expedite the process by using templates as a foundation.
The accelerated timeline also enables contractors to focus their resources on implementing critical security controls referenced in the policies. With robust policies, contractors can shift their focus to configuration, system security plans, and educating staff on new requirements.
This results in achieving compliance faster.
3. Enhanced Consistency
When policies are created from scratch individually, it often results in consistency in language, format, and level of detail. However, utilizing pre-formulated CMMC templates promotes consistency across all policies in a system security plan.
Templates enable contractors to ensure their policies match structure, specificity, and vocabulary. This consistency is important for demonstrating compliance and avoiding confusion during audits. Reviewers will have an easier time following and evaluating policies that align in format and terminology.
4. Better Documentation Quality
In addition to consistency, CMMC policy templates improve the overall quality of policies and system security documentation. High-quality templates align with exact NIST 800-171 control requirements and build upon best practices for documentation.
When contractors utilize templates provided by legal and compliance experts, it shows in the output documentation. Policies have better clarity, sufficient detail, and appropriate vocabulary. By starting from a strong foundation, contractors can develop documentation demonstrating their 800-171 security controls to reviewers and auditors.
5. Lower Audit Risk
Clear, high-quality policies directly translate into lower audit risk. Documentation is one of the primary artefacts auditors evaluate when assessing compliance with NIST 800-171. When documentation lacks detail or fails to explicitly address controls, it raises red flags.
CMMC templates enable contractors to author polished, comprehensive policies that check every compliance box. Using templates eliminates audit findings related to inadequate or missing policies and system security plans. With documentation concerns off the table, contractors can have greater confidence going into third-party assessments.
6. Focus on Security, Not Documentation
Achieving NIST 800-171 and CMMC compliance is securing CUI and reducing cyber risk. However, the administrative burden of documentation development often needs to be more focused on this objective.
Rather than getting bogged down in writing policies, contractors should utilize templates to get documentation squared away rapidly. This enables organizations to devote more time and resources to activities that enhance security, such as implementing controls, training employees on secure practices, and performing vulnerability scans.
Choosing the Right Templates
To fully enjoy the above advantages, contractors need to pick up policy templates from reputable, proficient sources in such areas. Here are a few best practices for choosing effective CMMC templates:
- Templates from established cybersecurity consulting companies or lawyers with a track record in NIST 800-171 and CMMC compliance.
- Concentrate on template content that follows NIST 800-171 and CMMC controls rather than general cybersecurity policies.
- Search for templates developed by security controls auditing practitioners.
- Evaluate templates that move toward a controls-based strategy rather than lengthy policy statements with no underlying implementation framework.
- Make sure templates are often updated to reflect NIST 800-171 development and CMMC requirements.
- Verify that template licenses allow changes and adaptability based on your situation.
Manually interpreting and implementing NIST 800-171 security requirements can be ambiguous and burdensome, resulting in inconsistent policy quality across the defense industrial base (DIB).
CMMC policy templates provide the guardrails organizations need to accelerate compliance in a standardized manner. Templates demystify control expectations, while allowing flexibility to tailor policies to specific risks and ecosystems.
Adopting CMMC policy templates enables contractors of all sizes to establish comprehensive and auditable safeguards more efficiently. With its prescriptive yet adaptable approach, CMMC policy templates are critical to scaling robust NIST 800-171 implementation across the DIB.