In light of the pandemic that the world is currently facing, a significant portion of the global community has begun working remotely to adhere to social distancing guidelines. However, there are certain industries and roles within them that make working remotely a somewhat more complex task—for DOD contractors, this is the case.
Many DOD contractors and companies are unsure of the steps that they should take when it comes to setting up a remote workforce, and how to make sure they do it safely. The situation is unprecedented and dynamic; there’s a wide range of factors that need to be accounted for here.
Establishing Security Measures Is a Top Priority
First and foremost, establishing remote operations requires certain IT security protocols, otherwise DOD contractors risk some serious breaches of sensitive government data.
When it comes to setting up a remote workforce, DOD contractors are in a position that is somewhat murky. There’s no exact guidance that has been published relating to remote DOD contractual operations, which makes the process of setting up a secure remote workforce even more complex.
The key concern here lies in the fact that with DOD contractors moving their systems to a remote setup, it may leave weaknesses that were not there before, which are easier for hackers to breach. This is a serious concern for DOD contractors who use and store sensitive government information. Hackers are even more keen to take advantage of businesses with sensitive data knowing that they have likely had to restructure their current IT operations.
It’s crucial that DOD contractors protect their systems by taking a number of key security steps:
1. Keep all operating systems, antivirus solutions, and other software updated.
By maintaining up-to-date software and 24/7 monitoring from your IT provider, you can make sure any new network weaknesses are being detected and patched immediately. This will prevent threat actors from being able to take advantage of vulnerabilities in your new network setup.
2. Configure data encryption.
If you haven’t already, focus on encrypting protected data, especially CUI (controlled unclassified information) as it is highly sensitive and regulated. This will ensure that only those users who need access are able to view or store certain files and that multiple layers of security protect files from being stolen or compromised.
3. Consider setting up a VPN for greater protection and a more secure internet connection.
Many DoD contractors use in-house servers to store their data securely. If this is the case for your business, setting up a VPN to access that data from anywhere can help your remote workforce stay operational without compromising security. Through a VPN, your files are still stored on your in-house servers and merely accessed using a secure network connection from different devices.
4. Ensure that you provide regular cybersecurity training and update company policies as necessary.
With BYOD now being an inevitable reality for many businesses, it’s important that remote workers’ devices are accessing and storing data properly and securely. Personal devices are much less secure than workplace systems, so it’s important to update security policies as necessary to ensure your workforce can keep data secure.
Because you are dealing with sensitive government data, your workforce may be prohibited from using anything other than a company device over a secure VPN. If this is the case, make sure you have policies regarding how and where company devices can be used, including guidelines for not leaving them unattended such as in a vehicle.
5. Keep track of and prepare to meet new CMMC guidelines.
The CMMC is a cybersecurity program that the DOD is in the process of rolling out to help make cybersecurity more effective. It is designed to better protect controlled unclassified information or CUI, which many DoD contractors use and store.
Currently, it’s uncertain how the implementation of the new CMMC guidelines will be impacted by the spread of COVID-19. However, key players in the DoD intend to keep as close to their original schedule for audits as possible. Much of their assessment training to prepare third-party auditors is being done online, which means that CMMC audits could still occur on schedule.
Especially given new cybersecurity threats that face businesses as they transition to remote work, it’s wise for DoD contractors to continue preparing to meet CMMC guidelines. Especially as new guidelines (such as the recently announced Interim Rule) continue to emerge, it’s wise to invest in CMMC preparation services from a trusted IT provider to ensure you can get the preparation and assessment assistance you need, even if done remotely.
Through CMMC preparation, you can upgrade your storage systems, implement stronger business continuity and disaster recovery plans, and protect your data with greater levels of security. Each of these not only helps you prepare to meet CMMC regulations in the future but also helps you stay safe in the current landscape of remote work.
By taking these steps, you will give yourself the best chance of ensuring that your remote workforce does not fall prey to hackers and can instead continue to run securely and efficiently.