CMMC Readiness: The Importance of Cyber Security Awareness

by | Jun 1, 2021 | Compliance, Cybersecurity

6 min read

If you’re running a business that works (or wants to work) with the DoD and participate in lucrative government contracts, you probably already know you need to meet the requirements for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).

This cybersecurity maturity model was pieced together by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in an effort to implement one standard across the Defense Industrial Base and protect key U.S. assets, infrastructure, and secrets.

Yet, while many companies are beginning to “check the CMMC compliance box”, not enough have focused on one key area of it: the importance of cyber security awareness training for employees. This issue raises the question of whether your people are prepared to identify and repel emerging threats in real time.

Why Cyber Security Awareness Matters for Your Business

If you have doubts about employees who could be exposed to low-level hackers or an advanced persistent threat determined to penetrate cybersecurity in manufacturing outfits, consider the following statistics.

  • A reported 95 percent of all breaches are the result of human error.
  • Nearly 90 percent of businesses worldwide were targeted by spear phishing schemes in 2019.
  • Cybersecurity breaches compromised upwards of 36 billion records during the first half of 2020.
  • Approximately 86 percent of data breaches were financially motivated. Another 10 percent involved espionage.

 

The average price an organization paid during 2020 topped $3.8 million, and the recent ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline serves as a warning. That energy-sector corporation reportedly paid a $5 million ransom and suffered massive disruption.

Ransomware attacks typically target unsuspecting employees in two ways. They can trick people into opening one of the thousands of “phishing” emails that flood the internet based on a promise or incentive.

More sophisticated digital thieves use targeted “spear phishing” that leverages personal information mined from social media and professional platforms. That information gets packaged into a persuasive narrative used to lower an administrator’s or executive’s guard.

Once someone feels comfortable opening a document or sharing login credentials, hackers own your digital assets and system.

Given large corporations with seemingly thorough security such as Twitter, Marriott, Solar Winds, Colonial Pipeline, and Equifax suffered breaches, cyber security awareness training for employees should rank as a top priority.

Are You Vetting People & Providing Cyber Security Training for Employees?

The DoD mandates that organizations demonstrate CMMC compliance before bidding on government contracts. Cybersecurity in manufacturing must definitely adhere to participate in terms of Software as a Service, among others.

Meeting one of the five levels of  CMMC certification compliance typically means your outfit has put robust cyber security tools in place. But commercial-grade antivirus software, firewalls, virtual private networks, and even multi-factor password authentication cannot prevent one valued employee from making a critical mistake. Industry leaders would be well-served to circle back and consider how prepared loyal team members to stop a cyber attack.

Looking to prepare for CMMC Compliance? Check out our (ungated) CMMC Compliance Checklist.

Human Resources Departments

Your HR department generally gathers and stores valuable personal identity records on employees. They are also tasked with vetting new hires in a wide range of ways.

Companies in the military supply chain, including software manufacturers, routinely perform background checks related to national security and potential criminal behavior. But are they asking questions related to cybersecurity in manufacturing that could prevent a devastating breach?

Network Access Controls

Cyber security statistics overwhelmingly identify human error as the primary reason breaches occur. That’s why a reasonable CEO would place a higher value on cyber security training for employees.

Cyber security awareness training allows workers to identify threats, avoid mistakes, and contact cyber security professionals to handle the ongoing attack. But the one time someone struggles after a late night or makes a misstep while distracted, hackers could win the day.

The solution savvy business professionals are employing involves “Zero Trust” access. In essence, people within the organization can only access portions of the system and digital assets. Zero Trust isn’t about how you feel about a particular employee. It limits what a hacker could steal if your honest employee makes a very human mistake.

Implementing Cyber Security Awareness for Employees

This process usually begins by introducing a workforce and executives into the basic methods hackers use to infiltrate a system. These include common threats such as phishing schemes and highlights ways to identify phony emails and electronic messages.

Cyber security awareness training should also delve into protocols for properly using personal devices and the necessity of adhering to company security policies and defenses.

Hackers are acutely aware of the growth in remote workforces and personal devices. These look like easy targets to a sophisticated cyber criminal.

The awareness portion requires extraordinarily little effort on the part of management or team members. A CMMC consulting firm with expertise in emerging threats can send out alerts and notifications when bad actors roll out a new scheme or software vulnerabilities occur.

When software times out or isn’t updated, cracks appear in your otherwise hardened defenses. It’s often the little things that trip up everyday people and software manufacturing outfits.

How to Know if Your Employees Are Prepared for A Cyber Attack

Thinking about whether people across your organization will identify and deter hackers can cause more than a few sleepless nights. New hires often feel overwhelmed just learning the nuances of your business. Others may understand cyber security dangers in theory. But can they stand their ground in real time?

Those questions can be answered before you have to pay $5 million like Colonial Pipeline reportedly did or have millions of personal identity records compromised. As an experienced CMMC consulting firm that prepares manufacturers, we can put your people and defenses to the test. These are ways to gauge your cyber security readiness.

White Hacker Testing

Unlike the nefarious individual who infiltrates the DoD supply chain and SaaS outfits, among others, White or “ethical hackers” test employee readiness.

Common methods and schemes deployed by digital thieves are run against workers without advanced knowledge. This process identifies those who are general alert to threats. It also tells you who needs another round of cyber security awareness training before an online criminal exploits them.

Penetration Testing

Also known as “Pen Testing,” this strategy simulates garden variety and advanced attacks on your system. The goal is to identify weaknesses that hackers might leverage to compromise your digital assets. The penetration testing process requires that no one other than top decision-makers know of the event.

As various cyber attacks are rolled out, the structural defenses will be tested as well as the response of in-place security personnel.

The alternative to knowing where the cracks in your cyber security defense are located could involve doling out millions in bitcoin ransom money on the dark web. Another unenviable outcome could result in getting sidelined due to a CMMC compliance failure.

Do You Need An Updated CMMC Compliance Audit?

The saying, “knowledge is power” was never more applicable than in cyber security. Cyber security awareness training for employees and structural defenses requires ongoing updates and testing.

Whether your organization is working to prepare for CMMC or has already passed a CMMC compliance audit in the past, have your people been educated about new threats? Has your system been tested in recent months against the latest hacker tools, malicious software, and schemes?

If you occasionally worry about an employee misstep or network vulnerabilities, we can thoroughly vet your workforce and provide ongoing cyber security awareness training.

Looking to prepare for CMMC Compliance? Check out our (ungated) CMMC Compliance Checklist.

Cyber criminals won’t rest until they steal what they want. That’s why ongoing awareness, training, and vigilance remain necessary to business survival.

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