What is a C3PAO? Understanding the Importance of CMMC Compliance 

Understanding CMMC certification and the broader realm of CMMC cybersecurity can be a difficult venture. Certainly, local businesses can start their research with a general search for “managed cybersecurity services near me” or “managed IT services Dallas.” However, before launching a new cybersecurity venture, it’s helpful to understand what’s at stake when it comes to CMMC certification, and the entities involved. 

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is now essential for any business, contractor, or subcontractor working with the Department of Defense (DoD). This includes contractors with high-security jobs, but it also includes businesses that may have minimal contact with the DoD. For example, businesses that provide landscaping or even restocking the vending machines must be CMMC compliant. Since the DoD works with thousands of different vendors at any given time, garnering CMMC certification can go a long way in opportunities to acquire government contracts. 

However, there is a multi-faceted process to obtain CMMC certification. Essentially, in order to garner CMMC certification (particularly at the higher levels) contractors need to enlist an independent service provider that audits defense contractors to verify their CMMC compliance efforts. This is known as the CMMC Third-Party Assessor Organization or C3PAO. 

What is a C3PAO? 

A C3PAO is essentially a service provider organization authorized by the CMMC Accreditation Body (CMMC-AB) to conduct these essential CMMC assessments. The C3PAO works with companies that are seeking certifications that correspond with a specific CMMC 2.0 maturity level (1 through 3). Additionally, the C3PAO auditor (or C3PAO certification specialist), submits their findings and recommendations for CMMC certification. 

Who Hires a C3PAO? 

 It is the responsibility of the company seeking CMMC certification to connect with, and hire, an accredited C3PAO. Because CMMC 2.0 certification is a fairly new process to pursuing DoD contracts and was only introduced in the last several years. Therefore, there are currently a small number of accredited C3PAOs. However, that is expected to change very soon. The CMMC Accreditation Body are launching a marketplace for businesses to find C3PAOs. Currently, it lists hundreds of organizations with completed C3PAO applications. 

What is the Importance of C3PAO in Achieving CMMC Compliance? 

A C3PAO is arguably the lynchpin of achieving CMMC certification, and contractors that want to work with the DoD will likely need to work with a C3PAO at some point in the future. By 2025, all contracts with the DoD are expected to require a third-party assessment before CMMC certification is granted. Therefore, the sooner a company starts the process, the more opportunities it will have for DoD contracts and subcontracts in the coming years.  

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a C3PAO? 

There are multiple requirements for becoming a C3PAO outside the initial steps of paying application fees and filling out paperwork. These steps include the following: 

  • A U.S. citizen must own the applying organization or must complete a Foreign Ownership Control or Interest (FOCI) background investigation if the company is public. 
  • The applying organization must show successful completion of an audit for at least CMMC Level 3 compliance. 
  • The organization will be subject to an Organizational Background Check by the CMMC-AB.  
  • The organization must also be registered with the CMMC-AB Marketplace. 
  • The organization must possess an ISO 17020 certification. 

How to Select a C3PAO for a CMMC Assessment 

There are a number of questions a company should ask before selecting a C3PAO for a CMMC assessment, which include the following: 

Number of assessments they have completed so far. 

  •  An experienced C3PAO can generally conduct a thorough assessment in less time, benefiting any potential DoD partner. 

The number of organizations they have worked with in your sector/industry.  

  • Every industry has cybersecurity nuances, and insight into these industry-specific infrastructures can come in handy to ensure CMMC compliance and certification. 

The delivery time or deadline.  

  • When you begin the process, make sure you ask up front how long it will take, especially if your company requires certification sooner rather than later. 

How much do they charge for an assessment? 

  •  Prices in the marketplace can vary widely, so ask about costs upfront. A 40-hour assessment, which takes place over the course of five days. The cost depends on the C3PAO’s expertise and individual rates.  

What Do You Need to Know Before Preparing for a C3PAO Assessment? 

Companies need to be prepared well in advance to ensure a positive result because of the expense, time and effort involved in enlisting for a C3PAO to achieve CMMC certification.  

Simply put, without ensuring that your cybersecurity measures are top notch, you run the risk of not achieving CMMC certification after a C3PAO assessment.  They will have to go through the entire process (including expenses) again.  

As such, conducting a thorough review of your cybersecurity policy, procedures, and processes is essential. 

Examine your existing technology environment and look for gaps or issues that may trigger negative attention and need to be improved or fixed before the C3PAO assessment is done. Familiarize yourself with the varying requirements for each of the three CMMC levels, and use part contracts or work as a guide of what level you need to achieve. Once you’ve determined which level is best for your business, it’s time to review every inch of your technology infrastructure to ensure that CMMC compliance is in place. 

Engage with Emeritus to Achieve CMMC Compliance 

Chances are that your business doesn’t have the time, resources, or inherent knowledge of the CMMC framework to conduct the necessary, thorough review to garner CMMC certification. That is perfectly understandable.  

There are multiple factors to consider, from in-house policies and employee training to the cybersecurity measures you have in place for all your internet-connected devices. It’s also easy for an undetected issue to slip through the cracks.  

This is where Emeritus can make your job easier. Don’t just do a few Google searches for managed cybersecurity services near me or managed IT services Dallas – start with a consultation from the best.  

With Emeritus at your side, you can rest assured that your company’s CMMC certification is within reach and on the immediate horizon.  

Contact us today.