There are many reasons why employees need cybersecurity training in an expanding threat landscape which includes new technologies. When it comes to cybersecurity, many businesses find themselves several steps behind hackers. IT teams are among the first in the line of defense against attacks, making it crucial for them to understand current trends, emerging threats, and potential vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity training prepares your IT staff to face the growing challenges associated with network management and data protection. That said, IT staff are not the only individuals who need cybersecurity training to protect their organizations. Many other “non-IT staff” who happen to be “super users” with highly privileged access are constantly under attacks by hackers who are drooling over passwords and system access to commit their fraud scheme through phishing attacks and other social engineering methods.

WHY EMPLOYEES NEED CYBERSECURITY TRAINING

Rapidly Changing Threat Landscape

Hackers are getting smarter and more elusive, but they don’t need to be well-versed in cybercrime to do serious damage to business networks. Thanks to community activity on the dark web, any enterprising amateur can buy malware and deploy it with little or no modification across the complex collection of devices many modern companies are using. Remote work, the increased adoption of cloud services and a growing reliance on AI and machine learning is creating networks that reach far beyond the walls of corporate offices, and it only takes a single infected device to cause widespread havoc.

Hackers can also utilize dark web services, termed “crime-as-a-service,” to test attack codes and get help modifying their creations to fly under the radar. Such malware is still being deployed using well-known methods like phishing, but other types of threats are becoming more common. From “swarm” attacks relying on self-learning technology to an increase in cryptojacking and cryptomining, your IT team needs to become familiar with hackers’ new tricks.

More Vulnerabilities, Fewer Patches 

The Threat Landscape Report from Fortinet revealed 96 percent of firms have experienced at least one severe exploit, and the number of zero-day attacks appears to be on the rise. Zero-day vulnerabilities are newly discovered issues for which software companies haven’t yet had time to release patches, and these are of particular interest to hackers. 

With nearly 104,000 vulnerabilities identified in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) index, your business likely hasn’t patched every possible area of weakness across your network. When you add in the problem of zero-day attacks, just about every organization has some form of vulnerability about which it should be concerned. You need a savvy IT team with the skills to detect potential breach activity and launch the appropriate countermeasures. 

Numerous Threats from Insider Errors

Human error is responsible for the majority of breaches, which is why insider threats are such a big concern for any business. Simply educating employees about phishing scams could prevent the majority of attacks, but as hackers begin to use AI technology to create increasingly realistic spoof emails, your staff needs more than basic security training. 

Bringing cybersecurity education beyond the IT team ensures your employees know what hackers are up to and enables them to work with the IT department to detect and report potential threats. When employees recognize scam emails and other unusual behavior on the network, they can report it to IT staff right away, minimizing the chances of a full-blown attack. 

Identity and Access Management Challenges

Handling user identities and controlling access requires your IT team to:

• Assess and address other potential vulnerabilities 
• Create appropriate protocols to manage complex workflows 
• Ensure proper provisioning and deprovisioning 
• Manage privileged access
• Purge orphaned accounts 

Tools are available to automate several of these processes, but since IT administrators are among those with privileged access, they need to understand the risks associated with accounts granting high-level entrance into the network. 

Compliance Isn’t Enough

While compliance is important to avoid penalties and provide peace of mind for your customers regarding how their data is handled, it’s far from adequate when it comes to protecting your network. Your IT team needs to know more than how to meet compliance standards if they’re to be equipped to handle emerging threats.

Did you know most compliance standards are already two or more years out of date before they’re issued? By the time widespread adoption of these “new” regulations is achieved, hackers have developed additional threats not covered by the guidelines. Plus, hackers are well aware of how compliance standards work and can use them to map out attack plans based on the vulnerabilities a “compliance-only” policy is likely to create. Therefore, it’s essential to go beyond compliance and create security protocols your IT team can follow to stop hackers in their tracks regardless of whether a particular type of attack has been addressed by regulators. 

Identity and access management certifications

Ongoing cybersecurity training keeps your IT team on top of emerging threats and minimizes the risk of your company falling victim to a breach. By providing additional training for the rest of the staff, you empower every employee to work with confidence and contribute to protecting the data and applications on which your daily operations rely. The benefits of cybersecurity education outweigh the costs of breach remediation, making training one of the smartest investments for businesses.

According to the US Department of Defense, these 5 steps to improve cybersecurity can be used by any company, specially if they need to comply with government regulations and achieve compliance certification. Cyber security is a crucial part of any organization that manages critical systems and sensitive information. In order to avoid data breaches and maintain adequate levels of security across all critical systems and data, organizations must apply best security practices, standards and protocols in their system management. Cyber threats could lead to many undesired consequences including the loss of data, revenue, and brand trust.

Five Steps to Improve Cybersecurity

Five Steps to Improve Security

Project Spectrum which provides educational content to help organizations stay abreast of Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) requirements and meet certification challenges has published five steps to improve cybersecurity for the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) community and others who may similarly benefit from these cybersecurity tips.

Educate Users


Recognizing cyber threats is the initial step in preventing cyber-attacks from successfully harming your organization. Organizations must educate their users about the importance of setting strong passwords, recognizing malicious links, and installing the latest security patches. There are many online resources to help organizations create user awareness and training programs including the Project Spectrum website which is part of the United States Office of the Under Secretary of Defense. They have put together online resources that companies can use to educate their users. Another source is the identity and access management blog maintained by Identity Management Institute.

Implement Access Controls


Companies should implement and maintain an access control policy to limit access to the organization’s critical assets. One of the mistakes that organizations often make is to allow sharing of user IDs for accessing systems and data. This error eliminates access tracking and accountability. When unique login credentials are issued, organizations can easily track who specifically has accessed certain resources and when. This targeted monitoring and tracking with unique IDs assigned to specific users would be impossible when user IDs are shared.


After giving everyone a unique system login, it’s critical to limit what they’re able to access and do. People should only be able to access necessary parts of a system and perform certain transactions. Otherwise, not only the excessive access can be abused or accidently lead to unauthorized transactions, in case their credentials are compromised, all authorized access associated with the user can be detrimental when they fall in the wrong hands. A compromised login by insiders and outsiders are equally dangerous in our interconnected world. Limiting what people can access and do will minimize the potential threats to your organization.

Managing the identity and access of users can be a daunting task. This is why having a dedicated team of certified identity and access management professionals as well as automated IAM systems and streamlined processes can eliminated most of the risks and make the entire process more efficient and effective.

Also, periodically reviewing access list to identify and remove dormant and orphan accounts is very important to reduce the risks of unauthorized access which can not be attributed to any particular person. For temps and contractors who are engaged for a limited time, temporary accounts which automatically expire is a great option to eliminate the need to track and remove accounts as these accounts are automatically disabled upon expiration which can be re-activated at any time and reused in future projects.

Authenticate Users


Implementing multi-factor authentication in layered security scheme which goes beyond just a simple password entry is a great step to improve cybersecurity. The simplest method commonly used is 2-factor authentication whereby users must enter their password as well as a one-time code they access through SMS text message or an authenticator app.  

Monitor Physical Space


In addition to logically securing computer devices, facilities and physical devices must be controlled to ensure adequate security. Following the recent work from home directive of many companies, organizations lost control of physical security of devices that are used to access their digital assets. Prior to the pandemic, accessing digital resources was primarily possible from business-owned devices as well as inside the organization and network, and visitors had to be escorted with ID badges to access facilities and hardware, however, this changed as most users are using personal devices to remotely access digital assets without going through a VPN and dedicated communication channel.

With the gradual and selective return of staff to the offices and to control physical security, installing an access control system and a video monitoring system may prove to be efficient for remotely managing physical security. The same concept can be applied to authenticate users who are accessing systems remotely with personal devices. A recorded event can also be helpful in incident investigation cases.  

Update Security Precautions


Many experts including Berkeley Information Security Office recommend updating all your security programs periodically. Hackers learn how to exploit known flaws in previous versions of software. Normally, developers patch exploits as they’re found, however, automating security software updates would help prevent attacks using known vulnerabilities.

While automated software update is not fully reliable, checking for updates manually should minimize any chances of missing out on new security patches and updates including your firewalls to protect outgoing connections just as much as the incoming ones to prevent communication hijacking.

Upgrading Your Cyber Security


Cyber security is an essential part of any organization. Without it, you’d be susceptible to various threats and attacks. Cyber attacks could cause you to lose revenue, customers, and productive time. You could also end up with a large amount of compromised customer information leading to lawsuits, fines, and penalties. Therefore, it’s important to follow these five steps to improve cybersecurity. They’re based on recommendations made by industry experts and government bodies. As long as you follow these 5 simple steps, you should be able to reduce your cybersecurity risks by a great margin. Always re-assess your cybersecurity posture to make sure you don’t leave any security gap unaddressed as a single security gap can leave your entire organization vulnerable and tied up with investigations and unproductive tasks.

Identity and access management certifications

This article covers the CMMC compliance and certification requirements for assessing the cybersecurity maturity level of affected companies which provide services to the US government. CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification) is a process created by the Department of Defense (DoD) in 2018 based on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. It is designed to provide a common language for organizations to describe their current cybersecurity posture and identify opportunities for improvement. The CMMC process is also the foundation for managing cybersecurity risk in federal agencies, as required by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA), not to be confused with the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA).

The Cybersecurity Framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a common language for organizations to describe their current cybersecurity posture better and identify opportunities for improvement. The framework is also the foundation for managing cybersecurity risk in federal agencies, as required by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA).

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC)

CMMC Purpose

The DoD created CMMC in response to increased concern over the cyber vulnerabilities of Defense Industrial Base (DIB) companies. The DIB is a critical part of the U.S. economy and supply chain, as it provides products and services to the DoD that are essential to national security. The DoD is concerned that the cyber vulnerabilities of DIB companies could have a negative impact on the defense and national security of the United States.

CMMC and FedRAMP Certification

While FedRAMP (The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) offers a standardized government-wide approach for assessing security assessment, and continuous monitoring for cloud based services overseen by Joint Authorization Board (JAB), CMMC offers a process for assessing cybersecurity maturity that can be used by any organization that provides services to the US DoD, regardless of whether or not they are using the cloud.

CMMC Rollout Schedule

The DoD released version 1.0 of the CMMC process on October 11, 2018 because NIST 800-171 which had been required since January 2018 was receiving low rating. Federal agencies are required to use CMMC when assessing the cybersecurity risk of contractors and subcontractors, starting with contracts awarded on or after January 1, 2020. CMMC 2.0 builds upon the initial CMMC cybersecurity framework to enhance DIB security against evolving threats.  More on CMMC 2.0 update here. Upon CMMC 2.0 implementation, required CMMC level for contractors as well as sub-contractors will be specified in the solicitations and in Requests for Information. Click here for details.

The DoD will release updated versions of the CMMC framework through 2023. Future planned updates include:

1) Expansion of assessment guidance beyond contractor and subcontractor assessments;
2) Updates to existing requirements;
3) Addition of new requirements based on cybersecurity maturity improvement areas, as well as feedback from industry, agencies, and other stakeholders; and
4) Continued alignment with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.

Who Must Comply with CMMC?

Organizations that contract with the Department of Defense (DoD) are required to be compliant with CMMC. The DoD has stated that it will certify only those organizations that can demonstrate a “sufficient” level of cybersecurity maturity. It is unclear what criteria the DoD will use to determine whether or not an organization has a “sufficient” level of cybersecurity maturity. However, the DoD has stated that it plans to release additional information about CMMC compliance soon.

How Can Companies Become CMMC Compliant?

The DoD has not released a list of approved security assessment providers or methodologies for CMMC compliance. However, companies should expect to use the same processes and procedures used for other NIST-based cybersecurity frameworks such as Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) and Risk Management Framework (RMF).

Companies can prepare for CMMC certification by performing a self-assessment against the security objectives. Additionally, companies should ensure that their cybersecurity policies and procedures are in line with CMMC requirements and that they have the necessary tools and personnel to support continuous monitoring and incident response.

High Level CMMC Compliance and Certification Requirements

The following are the high-level steps that organizations should take to meet the CMMC compliance and certification requirements:

1) Understand the CMMC requirements;

2) Perform a self-assessment against the security objectives;

3) Develop policies and procedures that are in line with CMMC requirements;

4) Implement the necessary tools and personnel to support continuous monitoring and incident response;

5) Develop a cybersecurity maturity model that includes all of the necessary controls, procedures, and policies needed to demonstrate compliance with CMMC requirements;

6) Use the developed cybersecurity maturity model during risk assessments for contracts that are expected to be used by or produced for the DoD; and

7) Request approval from an authorized representative of the DoD to perform contractor or subcontractor risk assessments.

Protecting Unclassified Information (NIST 800-171)

The CMMC process references NIST 800-53, which government agencies use to assess the cybersecurity risk of contractors and subcontractors. The updates made in 2018 reference controls included in CMMC NIST 800-171 will help ensure that all organizations using CMMC are also compliant with NIST 800-171.

NIST 800-53 can be used in conjunction with CMMC to meet these requirements, but organizations may also use other standards such as ISO 27001 or the ISM.

CDP data protection certification

The Certified in Data Protection (CDP)® professional training is designed based on NIST and ISO security standards to uniformly protect systems and data, and includes generally accepted privacy principles when personal data is involved. Learn more about CDP certification.

CMMC Compliance and Certification Requirements Levels

The CMMC compliance levels are listed below:

Level 1 – Foundational

This level is designed for organizations that have a limited understanding of cybersecurity and do not have a formal cybersecurity program in place.To achieve this level, organizations must meet the following requirements:

a) Implement risk management processes and procedures;

b) Establish and implement security objectives;

c) Protect information systems and data;

d) Detect, prevent, and respond to security incidents;
and

e) Monitor the effectiveness of implemented countermeasures.

Level 2 – Advanced

This level is designed for organizations that have a more mature cybersecurity program and have implemented some of the controls listed in NIST 800-53. To achieve this level, organizations must meet the following requirements:

a) Implement risk management processes and procedures;
b) Establish and implement security objectives;

c) Protect information systems and data;

d) Detect, prevent, and respond to security incidents;

e) Monitor the effectiveness of implemented countermeasures;
and

f) Implement some controls from NIST 800-53.

Level 3 – Expert

This level is designed for organizations that have a comprehensive cybersecurity program and have implemented all of the controls listed in NIST 800-53. To achieve this level, organizations must meet the following requirements:

a) Implement risk management processes and procedures;

b) Establish and implement security objectives;

c) Protect information systems and data;

d) Detect, prevent, and respond to security incidents;

e) Monitor the effectiveness of implemented countermeasures;

f) Implement all controls from NIST 800-53;
and

g) Conduct periodic assessments to ensure that the implemented cybersecurity maturity model is adequate.

Which CMMC Level Companies Must Pursue?

Level 1 is suitable for organizations that do not have a formal cybersecurity program or any controls implemented. This level can be achieved by using CMMC in conjunction with other standards such as ISO 27001 or the ISM or using a NIST 800-53 based assessment.

Level 2 is suitable for organizations with a more mature cybersecurity program that understand their weaknesses and have developed some controls to help mitigate risk.


Level 3 is suitable for organizations with a formal cybersecurity program and all controls implemented. This level should only be pursued if all of the requirements from Levels 1 and 2 have been met.

CMMC certification process can help organizations prove their commitment to cybersecurity and improve their overall security posture.

CMMC Compliance Oversight

The Defense Authorization Act of 2013 required that DoD establish a track for cybersecurity certification and accreditation to ensure the security and resiliency of DoD systems. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) oversees CMMC compliance, maintains the Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model, and accredits certifiers/auditors.

To ensure that DoD vendors are CMMC compliant, DISA has developed a process for vendors to submit their products and services for assessment. This process includes submitting documentation and undergoing an on-site evaluation. Vendors who complete this process successfully are then listed on the CMMC Product and Services List.

DoD offers any organization the opportunity to become a CMMC accredited certifier. The accreditation body is independent of DoD and is responsible for assessing the competence of certifiers. Certifiers must meet specific requirements to be accredited, including holding an existing certification in a relevant area and having at least five years of relevant experience.

Who Can Be An Accredited Certifier?

Accreditation is voluntary, and there are several accreditation bodies that the DoD has approved. Accredited certifiers must meet specific requirements to be accredited, including holding an existing certification in a relevant area and having at least five years of relevant experience.


The CMMC accreditation process and body is independent of DoD and is responsible for assessing the competence of certifiers. Certifiers must meet specific requirements to be accredited, including holding an existing certification in a relevant area and having at least five years of relevant experience.

CMMC Accreditation Process

An organization must meet specific criteria to be accredited. The accreditation body is independent of DoD and is responsible for assessing the competence of certifiers. Certifiers must meet particular requirements to be accredited, including holding an existing certification in a relevant area and having at least five years of relevant experience.

The accreditation process can be lengthy, and the government does not guarantee that all organizations who apply will be accredited. However, the method provides a framework for ensuring that products and services meet the required cybersecurity standards.

Fake Accredited Certification Vendors

The government has put in place a process for vendors to submit their products and services for assessment to ensure that they meet the required CMMC standards. To become accredited, certifiers must submit a detailed CMMC plan that includes information about the management team, relevant products and services offered, how products and services will be assessed, the organization’s processes, procedures for signing off assessments, appropriate documentation, and training plans.


After submitting the plan, the certifier must undergo an on-site assessment. The accreditation body is independent of DoD and is responsible for assessing the competence of certifiers. Certifiers must meet specific requirements to be accredited, including holding an existing certification in a relevant area and having at least five years of relevant experience.

The government continues to monitor the market to detect fake certification vendors and has already sent cease and desist letters to some vendors.  

CMMC Accredited Vendors List

There is a list of accredited certifiers on the accreditation body’s website. The process provides a framework for ensuring that products and services meet the required cybersecurity standards. However, the government does not guarantee that all organizations who apply will be accredited.

CMMC Compliance and Certification Requirements Checklist

While there is no one-size-fits-all checklist for becoming CMMC compliant, companies can take several steps to ensure they follow best practices.

First, companies should establish a governance board with authority to make decisions about cybersecurity policy across the organization. The Governance Board should include senior management and individuals with expertise in cybersecurity, risk management, and compliance.

Second, companies should develop and implement a company-wide cybersecurity program that complies with CMMC standards. The plan should lay out multiple layers of defense, including safeguards at the hardware and software level, policies and procedures for data handling and transmission, and employee training.

Third, companies should regularly test their cybersecurity measures to ensure that they are effective in preventing breaches.


Fourth, companies should maintain detailed documentation of their cybersecurity program and processes and employee training records.

Finally, companies should ensure that their vendor management policies are in line with CMMC requirements.

The Role of “Identity and Access Management” in CMMC Compliance

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a critical control in CMMC and is used to protect information systems and data. IAM helps ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive information, which can help reduce the risk of a data breach. Organizations must implement an IAM program that addresses authentication, authorization, and accounting to achieve certification at any level.

IAM is also a crucial part of NIST 800-53, which is the control framework used to assess the cybersecurity maturity of an organization. NIST 800-53 requires organizations to implement identity and access management controls such as authentication, authorization, and accounting. Implementing these controls can help organizations meet the requirements for certification at all levels.

Conclusion

In summary, government audits are necessary in improving cybersecurity throughout the economy. The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program is an integral part of this effort. However, the program is not without its limitations. Companies that want to meet CMMC compliance and certification requirements should engage in comprehensive self-assessment before beginning the certification process. Additional information can be found here.

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