“Aerospace and defense industries’ goal is to provide security to the nation it serves; its infrastructure, government and people. This makes such companies targets Advanced Persistent Threats (APT). These are usually groups collectively collaborating with nation-states to steal intellectual property (IP) to advance domestic aerospace and defense capabilities, develop countermeasures, and collect intelligence with which to monitor, possibly infiltrate, and subvert other nations’ defense systems.”
Critical military and civilian infrastructure has been upgraded and connected to networks and the internet in recent years, rendering them vulnerable to hackers and increasing more widespread cyber threats like malware and ransomware attacks. New technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and enhanced automation brought with them a new class of potential vulnerabilities, strengthening the need for cyber defense. Subsequently, governments closely scrutinize and heavily regulate the aerospace and defense industries.
The US government created the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) to address the low compliance rates with NIST SP 800-171. A new framework called CMMC intends to safeguard Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and Federal Contract Information (FCI) for all contractors and subcontractors working for the US Department of Defense (DoD). Every business that transacts with the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) supply chain or wishes to take part in a DoD bid is required to hold CMMC certification.
Aerospace and defense firms must safeguard the personal information they acquire against data breaches because they not only collect personal data from consumers but also frequently perform rigorous background checks when hiring staff. Aerospace and defense organizations are required to comply with laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which places restrictions on the transfer of personal data across international borders and requires them to take steps to prevent the loss or theft of personal information about EU data subjects. Due to the extraterritoriality provision in the GDPR, businesses who collect personal information from EU citizens are required to abide by the law regardless of where they are physically situated.
Defense and aerospace firms need sophisticated cybersecurity frameworks to meet all regulatory standards and protect themselves from the numerous online threats they face in real time. What are the best strategies for aerospace and defense companies to strengthen data security? Let’s look more closely.
Assess data sensitivity
An efficient security strategy guarantees that staff can still complete their responsibilities effectively without having their systems bogged down by regulatory burdens, while simultaneously protecting a company’s network and the data stored on it. Defense and aerospace industries must recognize and safeguard only the data that is regarded as sensitive in order to reduce the impact data protection solutions have on regular company operations.
The classification of data is a critical element of compliance efforts. An organization must first identify the types of CUI it collects in order to decide the degree of CMMC compliance it needs to achieve. The term “CUI” refers to highly sensitive business and consumer data information such tax-related data, classified intelligence information, patents, and intellectual property. Solutions like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technologies enable businesses to not only recognize and keep track of files containing sensitive information, but also to control its movement through the use of policies that only target defined sensitive data.
Safeguard data in isolated environments
In the defense and aerospace industries, isolated settings are typical. This indicates that they have no access to the internet and, in some cases, even a more extensive internal workplace network. Although this increases their defense against outside attacks, their isolation frequently necessitates the connection of detachable devices in order to access or add data to a computer. Removable devices like USBs and external drives can be used to access isolated information systems, whether it’s for new software or just retrieving logs and reports.
This increases some risks to data security. One reason is because USBs in particular are frequently used to spread malware, but dishonest or corrupted staff may also try to steal data in this method. The data is no longer safeguarded once it leaves the isolation of an isolated workstation, which makes even lawful applications of detachable devices problematic. Such devices are readily lost or stolen.
Policies for device control may be able to reduce these risks. Companies can manage the use of USB and peripheral ports to restrict their use to approved, company-issued devices, clearly identify the user, and record the time a device was connected to a remote workstation. Device control can be used to restrict, log, and report any attempt to transfer highly sensitive data to removable devices when combined with DLP policies.
DLP systems must be implemented directly on the endpoint in order to function in closed environments. After doing this, the software can run without an online connection. Local log storage is available, and offline updating is also an option.
The need to encrypt communication channels and storage devices storing CUI, such as laptops, USB drives, and smartphones, is a need that applies to all CMMC levels. One of only two technical security measures specifically listed in the GDPR‘s wording is encryption.
It is frequently necessary for encryption systems to adhere to contemporary encryption standards like FIPS 140-2 and FIPS 197. Many of them already exist as native tools on mobile devices or operating systems like Windows and macOS, and they all adhere to these standards, so businesses don’t have to spend money on additional external solutions to encrypt hard drives or phones.
Organizations can employ an enforced encryption solution for removable devices. Through it, all time-sensitive data transmitted onto devices like USBs will automatically be protected with encryption that has received government approval. This safeguards against unauthorized access to the data by outsiders without a decryption key. Through it, any time-sensitive data transferred onto storage devices like USBs will come with automated encryption that has received government approval. As a result, businesses are better equipped to adhere to requirements because no outsider can access the data without the decryption key and enterprises are able to comply with regulations.
Highly sensitive data theft or a loss of system control can have detrimental effects on a defense and aerospace company’s profit line as well as on national security. Data breaches might make it more difficult for them to land new contracts because security breaches are definite warning signs. Additionally, it can make it harder to get certifications like the CMMC. Combating these threats and enhancing cyber resilience must therefore be a top focus for the defense and aerospace industries.
What are the CMMC maturity levels?
The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) has five certification levels that will assess a company’s maturity and cybersecurity preparedness to ensure that sensitive defense information is protected on contractors’ information systems. They are:
Level 1: Basic Cyber Hygiene. This level consists of 17 basic cybersecurity controls and focuses on the protection of Federal Contract Information (FCI).
Level 2: Intermediate Cyber Hygiene. This level has 72 controls and introduces a new type of data, Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).
Level 3: Good Cyber Hygiene. This level includes 130 controls and requires organizations to establish, maintain and resource a plan demonstrating the management of activities for practice implementation.
Level 4: Proactive. This level comprises 156 controls and requires organizations to review their established plans, policies, and procedures regularly and take a proactive approach to measure, detect, and defeat threats.
Level 5: Advanced/Proactive. The highest CMMC level consists of 171 controls and adds a layer of requirements that refers to organizations’ capacity to respond to the changing threat landscape through auditing and managerial processes.