Are you practicing “safe cybersecurity”?

The Department of Defense (DoD) is working to extend its own cybersecurity expertise and infrastructure to small and medium-sized businesses. Their current plan is to build a “secure cloud” for company data instead of leaving it to the responsibility of the contractor. (Federal News Network, March 25, 2019)

DoD plans to use their 2020 research and development budget for the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Secure Cloud Managed Services Pilot. The project will start by making the cloud service available to a specified number of small and medium companies that support prioritized, critical DoD missions/programs. (ibid)

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment said, “In contract terms, the Department would treat the secure cloud as Government Furnished Equipment (GFE).” She believes larger companies are already quite savvy and have the funds to create a hardened environment. Ms. Lord is most concerned with small, innovative companies. She said, “we sit down and talk to them about cybersecurity, and sometimes we hear – no kidding, ‘my nephew does my cybersecurity.’ That gets us a little bit worried. And we know that we will either put these small companies out of business, or we will drive them away from the Department of Defense if we give them very, very onerous regulations to meet.” (ibid)

In 2017 DoD began inserting clauses into contracts that require firms to implement the security controls in NIST Special Publication 800-171. Prime contractors are required to impose the same requirements on their subcontractors as they are expected to meet when coming in contact with sensitive, unclassified information. (ibid)

It does not appear as though verification of a company’s compliance with the standards has been accomplished, thus far. However, going forward, spot checks are likely to take place with the hope of getting to a point where DoD certifies third-party cybersecurity examiners to help verify contractors systems meet the existing requirements and that their systems are adequately protected. Currently, about 800,000 systems should be regularly audited. (ibid)

We do know that information is being stolen; but classification levels make it hard to investigate in a reasonable time frame. The details of any individual data theft are classified, making specifics about nature and volume difficult to determine. We also know that sufficient cybersecurity capabilities to protect information must be in place sooner rather than later in order for small and medium-sized businesses to remain contractors to DoD.

Call us with any questions regarding this project at 301-913-5000.