DFARS Cybersecurity Assessment Methodology: Evaluating Contractor Compliance


The Department of Defense(DOD) is made up of a complex network of defense contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers who come together to fulfill critical government contracts. At the heart of this intricate ecosystem lies sensitive data that needs protection against theft. With the rapid digitization of processes, the risk to the data has also gone significantly up. 

According to the Skybox Security Report, the “Vulnerability and Threat Trends Report 2023,” the U.S. government’s National Vulnerability Database added 25% new vulnerabilities from 2021 to 2022. 

Despite several cybersecurity standards in place, cybersecurity will continue to be a cause of concern for technology-based financial and healthcare businesses. 

In terms of financial business loss, a report by Anne Neuberger, the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for cyber and emerging technologies, estimates that by 2027, the annual average cost of cybercrime will reach $23 trillion. 

The surge in incidents of cybercrimes and cybersecurity threats spurred the Department of Defense to introduce various cybersecurity standards and procedures. 

DFARS, or Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, is one such regulatory framework enacted by the DoD. The sole purpose of this regulation is to safeguard and protect Controlled Unidentified Information stored and processed across the Defense Industry Base. With DFARS, the government aims to bolster cybersecurity defenses by ensuring that the DIB contractors and subcontractors implement robust data security measures to protect their data and information from domestic and foreign adversaries. 

Understanding DFARS Cybersecurity Requirements

DFARS was first published as a framework of regulations by the Department of Defense in the year 2015. The primary aim of this framework was to strengthen the security of defense and civil organizations operating within and for the United States. Since DoD contractors process and store critical data pertaining to the military and the general public, data leakage can pose a threat to national security. Besides military data, there are less sensitive data that needs protection against data theft.  

Despite all the regulations and standards to curb cybersecurity threats, DoD contractors are still vulnerable to data thefts. One of the biggest reasons is the huge gaps within the data protection systems.

 DFARS Cybersecurity has established protocols that a prime contractor or subcontractor must follow to mitigate the loss in case of a data security incident.

One of the essential requirements of DFARS is to comply with some specific cybersecurity requirements mentioned in NIST 800-171. These standards outline how Controlled Unclassified Information processed within DIB must be safeguarded.  

Contractors who don’t store or manage CUI must apply for an exception from NIST 800-171 and DFARS. However, they may still be held accountable for non-compliance with these regulations. Failing to comply with these frameworks can cost contractors government business, and they may be barred from bidding for contractors in the future.

DFARS Cybersecurity Assessment Methodology

Introduction to the assessment methodology outlined in NIST SP 800-171A.

When it comes to DFARS compliance, contractors often confuse it with NIST 800-171. While they are related, it’s essential to understand how they are connected. 

DFARS set requirements that contractors must put in place to ensure the protection of sensitive information processes within their systems. 

On the other hand, NIST 800-171 is a set of directives that DIB contractors must comply with to be DFARS compliant. In simple terms, NIST 800- 171 outlines how contractors should handle Controlled Unclassified Information. 

According to DFARS compliance regulation, contractors should demonstrate adequate cybersecurity maturity by implementing best data security practices within three key areas. These are regular assessments of databases containing or processing CUI, multi-factor authentication implementation for all network access, and robust incident response capabilities. 

Tips for Achieving DFARS Compliance        

Tips 1: Conduct regular Security and Risk Assessments

Contractors that process and store CUI are vulnerable to several cybersecurity threats since there are operational risks involved with handling and transmitting CUI. Contractors are required to regularly assess their internal IT systems to identify gaps and vulnerabilities that can put sensitive data under threat. Routine assessment helps contractors in reducing and eliminating the risk to data. Since cybersecurity and regulatory obligations are getting more complex with each passing day, it’s best to rely on DFARS compliance companies for their compliance expertise. 

Tip 2: Implement IT System Security Measures 

Data facilities and systems that store and process Controlled Unclassified Information must be safeguarded against internal and external threats. Contractors must take measures to restrict physical access to data, such as encrypting communications, segregating internal and external network access, and barring the unauthorized transfer of data. 

Tip 3: Implement Identification, Authentication, and Access Controls

User access is one of the key aspects of DFARS compliance. Contractors aiming for DFARS compliance must adopt a practice of registering and managing users and devices that have access to the company’s data and system. Additionally, it’s essential to ensure that people are allowed to access data or systems as per their job requirements. 

This is where the need to set up proper security protocols to identify, track, and authenticate users and devices becomes important. 

Contractors or government managed service provider VA can achieve this by implementing two-factor authentication, setting automatic user logout after a certain time, and imposing safe password best practices. 

Tip 4: Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Unless the people who handle and process CUI are not aware of the dangers that lurk, they cannot be prepared to safeguard it. Thus, DFARS emphasizes on regular training and workshops on cybersecurity best practices and data security for employees. 

Tips 5: Develop an Incident Response Plan

Contractors are required to form a team to mitigate and response to a data breach incident and develop a set of procedures to guide the team. Besides this, the incident response plan must be regularly tested to assess its efficiency. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS