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FedRAMP Authorized vs. FedRAMP Equivalent: Why One Is Definitely Better Than the Other


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    For defense contractors handling sensitive government data, ensuring robust cybersecurity protections and regulatory compliance is paramount. However, navigating the complex web of standards and data security requirements can take time and effort. Two critical frameworks that demand attention are DFARS 7012 and CMMC 2.0, both essential for companies seeking to work with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

    In this post, we'll demystify DFARS 7012 and CMMC 2.0 for defense contractors, defining the differences between FedRAMP authorization and FedRAMP equivalency — and why that difference can make a big impact on your cybersecurity posture.

    DFARS 7012: The Foundation for CUI Protection

    DFARS 7012, or Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement Clause 252.204-7012, is a set of cybersecurity requirements that defense contractors must adhere to when dealing with controlled unclassified information (CUI). Rooted in the NIST SP 800-171 standard, DFARS 7012 outlines specific controls and measures to safeguard CUI from unauthorized access, manipulation, or disclosure.

    Among the critical obligations under DFARS 7012 is the cyber incident reporting requirement outlined in section (c). Contractors must diligently review their systems for potential compromises of CUI, swiftly report any incidents to the DoD via a cyber incident report, and obtain a DoD-approved medium assurance certificate to facilitate this reporting process. 

    CMMC 2.0: Elevating Cybersecurity Maturity

    While DFARS 7012 establishes a baseline for CUI protection, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) 2.0 framework takes cybersecurity preparedness a step further. CMMC 2.0 encompasses all the requirements of DFARS 7012 and introduces maturity levels that measure an organization's overall cybersecurity readiness and resilience.

    Through a formal third-party assessment process, CMMC 2.0 evaluates a contractor's cybersecurity posture and assigns a maturity level based on its ability to protect sensitive data and withstand cyber threats. This comprehensive approach ensures that defense contractors meet minimum security standards and demonstrate a sustained commitment to cybersecurity excellence.

    FedRAMP Authorized vs. FedRAMP Equivalent

    One crucial aspect of DFARS 7012 compliance is the requirement for cloud service providers (CSPs) handling CUI to meet security standards equivalent to the FedRAMP Moderate baseline. However, the definition of "equivalency" has been subject to interpretation, leading to potential compliance gaps and lack of transparency.

    To address this ambiguity, the DoD recently released the FedRAMP Equivalency Memo, which provides much-needed clarity on what it truly means to be "equivalent" to FedRAMP Moderate. According to the memo, CSPs must achieve 100% compliance with the latest FedRAMP Moderate security control baseline through an assessment conducted by a FedRAMP-recognized Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO).

    Additionally, CSPs must provide contractors with a comprehensive body of evidence, including the System Security Plan, Security Assessment Plan, Security Assessment Report performed by the 3PAO, and a Plan of Action and Milestones. Furthermore, they must demonstrate compliance with specific DFARS 252.204-7012 requirements related to cyber incident reporting, malicious software handling, media preservation and protection, and access to information and equipment necessary for forensic analysis and incident damage assessment.

    The Path to Compliance: Partnering with a Trusted Provider Who is Already FedRAMP Authorized

    Navigating the intricate landscape of defense cybersecurity regulations can be complex for contractors. However, by partnering with trusted providers who have already undergone rigorous certifications and assessments, organizations can streamline their compliance efforts and minimize risks associated with non-compliant partners.

    Virtru, a leading provider of data-centric security collaboration solutions, stands out as a trusted ally for defense contractors. With a long-standing history of compliance certifications, including FedRAMP Moderate Authorized, Virtru enables contractors to quickly validate their security posture and conformity with standards like DFARS 7012 and CMMC 2.0.

    Virtru’s FedRAMP Authorized status signifies not only adherence to stringent security standards, but also validation by federal authorities, instilling confidence in customers seeking robust protection for their sensitive information. This is transparent in Virtru's listing in the FedRAMP marketplace.

    Through continuous independent testing and auditing, Virtru’s feature-rich data security solutions empower contractors to confidently meet DoD requirements while strengthening data protections through a mature, battle-tested platform. By leveraging Virtru’s secure solutions, defense contractors can focus on their core missions, knowing that their sensitive data is safeguarded by a partner dedicated to excellence in cybersecurity and regulatory compliance.

    As the cybersecurity landscape evolves, staying ahead of emerging threats and regulatory changes is crucial for defense contractors. By understanding the interconnected nature of DFARS 7012 and CMMC 2.0 and partnering with trusted providers like Virtru, organizations can confidently navigate the complex world of defense cybersecurity, ensuring the protection of sensitive data and maintaining a robust, compliant security posture.

    To learn more about how Virtru can support your organization's compliance with Zero Trust, data-centric security capabilities that are fast and easy to deploy, contact our team today.

    Mike Morper

    Mike Morper

    Mike Morper is a product strategy executive with over 20 years of experience leading product commercialization for enterprise software companies. Mike’s deep knowledge of business process automation, data security, and artificial intelligence have been leveraged across multiple product lines, helping countless organizations realize greater productivity.

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