NIST 800-171 Compliance

Contractors Expected to Meet DFARS NIST 800-171 Compliance

Emerging cybersecurity threats prompted stringent requirements that DoD contractors are expected to meet. Failing an audit could result in harsh penalties.  

There are hackers who target the low-hanging fruit and those that go after the Crown Jewels. If you have a lucrative contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) or own a business in the military supply chain, your operation has a bull’s eye on its back. Cybercriminals and rival nations work relentlessly to penetrate DoD-related networks and steal sensitive data.

That’s why the DoD continues to mandate enhanced cybersecurity protections for supply chain organizations under subsection 800-171 of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The NIST Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) has been in effect since January 2018, and compliance is mandatory. The DoD appears to be putting an even more heightened focus on cybersecurity going forward, and companies that fail to prove DFARS NIST 800-171 compliance face an uncertain future.

DFARS 800-171 Compliance Crucial for DoD Contractors

From a cybersecurity perspective, operating a company that secures DoD contracts or one in the supply chain is like being the target in a Terminator franchise film. Hackers will never rest until you are breached.

To protect sensitive data housed across third-party networks, the DFARS NIST 800-171 increased cybersecurity requirements by introducing upwards of 110 stringent rules in 14 sections on how to protect networks and implement cybersecurity policies, regardless of an operation’s size. Failure to meet or exceed the DoD’s threshold during a random audit could have substantial consequences. These may include high fines, administrative penalties, termination of government contracts, and even criminal prosecution.

How To Earn DFARS 800-171 Compliance

It’s important to understand that the NIST 800-171 regulates two types of data, referred to as either controlled technical information (CTI) or controlled unclassified information (CUI).

The CTI category includes space or military data often accessed by people with high-level clearance. The CUI category relates to common business data such as personnel files, and financial records, among others. Although access rarely requires a high-level clearance, CUI is expected to be secured under the mandate. In order to meet the standards and continue working in the DoD supply chain, these are strategies a managed IT cybersecurity expert can employ.

  • Analyze Network: A cybersecurity expert can scrutinize the way data is stored, group sensitive information, and streamline the system.
  • Secure Access: Controls can be put in place to limit access for authorized personnel.
  • Encryption: A review of all CTIs and CUIs can be conducted to allow industry leaders to make informed decisions about the need to encrypt files and add a layer of cybersecurity.
  • 24/7 Monitoring: By outsourcing cybersecurity monitoring, your organization gains constant oversight and prompt response times to emerging cyber-threats.
  • Training: The federal government tirelessly monitors cybercriminal activity and methods. In doing so, it creates new requirements to protect national security. Ongoing employee training is critical for compliance and preventing cybercriminals from penetrating systems through an employee login and password.

The most important thing that DoD contractors and supply chain operations should keep in mind is that you are already expected to be in full compliance. The cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data are stringent, complex, and highly sophisticated. It’s critical to work with a third-party managed IT cybersecurity expert and promptly have an independent audit conducted so that you can make informed decisions about compliance.