The manufacturing and critical infrastructure sectors in the United States are under threat. In particular, Defense Industrial Base (DIB) professionals are grappling with an unprecedented combination of foreign and domestic pressures. The DIB must contend not only with evolving information security threats from cyber criminals and near-peer adversaries, but also with the threat of changing regulatory pressures and the substantial cost of compliance at home. While foreign challenges like data theft and ransomware are widely acknowledged, the hurdle of nationwide information security compliance is not so frequently discussed. To ensure the viability of American industry in a world where wars are fought online, the cyber compliance conversation must happen.
Ultimately, the implementation of federal cybersecurity requirements will rely on our ability to identify cost-effective solutions that satisfy two major stakeholders: federal contractors and regulatory organizations. Below, we consider the nuanced relationship between both parties, as well as a mechanism that might help to bridge the gap between them: Google Workspace.
A Complex Relationship
In the realm of cybersecurity, federal contractors and regulatory organizations are central players. Contractors, including their subsidiaries, are increasingly required to meet strict cybersecurity regulations as a condition for securing federal contracts. Regulatory organizations, aware of the severe consequences of poor cybersecurity practices and privy to national cybercrime data, work diligently to craft effective security requirements.
Unlike their federal counterparts, civilian contractors don't have access to substantial data reserves or financial resources. This makes responding to the complex threat environment — as well as its corresponding security strategies — a daunting task. Moreover, the high cost of employing in-house cybersecurity experts and outsourcing solutions has led some organizations to abandon government contracting altogether. Taken together, these factors constitute significant hurdles on the path to federal information security compliance, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.
CMMC: High Expectations with a Price Tag
Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is the latest in a series of regulatory requirements that federal contractors must meet to protect sensitive federal information. For several years now, the Department of Defense (DoD) has included DFARS 7012 clauses in DIB contracts, a standard that asks contractors to self-attest to their cyber compliance, and includes many of the same requirements as the new CMMC. However, CMMC is more robust than 7012, and requires assessments by third party organizations.
Given that contractors have been self-attesting to 7012 compliance for years, federal organizations typically harbor the expectation that the CMMC transition will be a smooth one. Yet two facts remain: 1) the self-attestation of 7012 compliance was rarely accurate or complete, because it didn’t have to be, and 2) CMMC is complex, compulsory, and costly.
Google: The Guiding Light
Solutions to the financial sustainability problem presented by CMMC are few and far between, but some are on the way, and it is important for regulators and contractors alike to pay attention to how they evolve. For instance, the implementation of Microsoft GCC High is a key example of a substantial CMMC expense. It is characterized by significant initial costs and considerable ongoing operational expenses. But now, Google Workspace has the potential to fill the void between federal organizations demanding compliance and independent contractors in need of a cost-effective alternative to GCC High.
Some of the major benefits Google Workspace provides include:
1. Fortified Security Measures:
One of the significant advantages of Google Workspace is its suite of security features designed to align with NIST 800-171 standards as well as CMMC requirements. Leveraging these features, organizations can enhance the security of their sensitive data, which minimizes the risk of data breaches and cyber threats. A Google Workspace implementation, when properly configured, checks the box for compliance.
2. Enhanced Operational Efficiency:
Google Workspace is known for its extensive collection of collaboration and productivity tools. These tools facilitate a seamless workflow, enabling organizations to expedite processes and enhance operational efficiency. Moreover, managing sensitive data becomes less time-consuming and more straightforward, creating an environment conducive to productivity. In a side by side comparison of GCC High Google workspace provides additional flexibility that is otherwise lacking in the aforementioned more rigid platform.
Embracing Google Workspace for NIST 800-171 compliance is also a financially savvy move. It provides an affordable solution for DIB organizations striving to meet the stringent requirements of the standard. By reducing the financial burdens associated with compliance, Google Workspace can contribute to a better return on investment.
4. Strengthened Regulatory Compliance:
Implementing Google Workspace in alignment with NIST 800-171 standards can significantly bolster an organization's regulatory compliance status. This improved adherence can ward off potential fines, legal complications, and reputational damage, providing a more secure operational base. Although not the only Cloud option for compliance, Google Workspace offers this compliance coupled with cost-effectiveness and other advantages.
5. Scalability and Flexibility:
Google Workspace is designed to cater to organizations of all sizes and across various industries. Its inherent scalability and flexibility allow it to adapt to changing business needs and fluctuating compliance requirements. In a NIST 800-171 compliant setup, Google Workspace can effectively support organizational growth and changes, rendering it an ideal choice for DIB organizations.
Workspace for the DIB
In conclusion, Google Workspace, when executed in a NIST 800-171 compliant manner, can be a game-changer for DIB organizations. Cost-effective alternatives to CMMC requirements like this must be watched closely. They promise enhanced security, streamlined operations, cost-effectiveness, improved compliance, and the ability to scale as per requirements. Stay tuned to this series as we deep-dive into Google Workspace and how it can meet the requirements of each control family for your compliance needs.