Understanding the difference between CMMC and NIST 800-171

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) supply chain is a significant focus for hackers and hostile countries attempting to acquire and leak sensitive government statistics. The Defense Acquisition Federal Regulation Supplement (DFARS) was created in December 2015 in response to these risks. DFARS is a collection of cybersecurity guidelines safeguarding controlled unclassified information (CUI) from cyberattacks.

DFARS mandates that DoD contractors and subcontractors follow a set of security requirements or face fines and contract termination.

NIST 800-171 is a standard developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

NIST 800-171 is a collection of cybersecurity best practices and standards created to assist DoD contractors in improving their cybersecurity procedures. It’s broken down into four sections:


Five functions are included in the NIST framework for addressing cybersecurity risks. They are as follows:

  • Identify — Identify data, resources, and network cybersecurity threats.
  • Create and install measures to prevent critical infrastructure services from being interrupted.
  • Detect — Make rules to detect cybersecurity abnormalities and incidents and put them in place.
  • Respond — Develop and execute procedures to protect against cyberthreats.

Create and execute procedures to repair services that a cybersecurity incident has impacted.


You must complete particular tasks known as categories for each of the five roles. To safeguard your infrastructure against data breaches, for example, you’ll need to put in place access management policies and antivirus software.

Subcategories are tasks that are associated with each category. For example, suppose your category is responsible for upgrading your programs. In that case, your subcategory will be responsible for ensuring that the auto-update option is enabled on all of your PCs.

Sources of Information

These papers and policies specify how specific duties should be carried out. Consider the preceding case. Documents on how to activate auto-updates on your PCs should be readily available.

Critical Differences Between NIST 800-171 and CMMC 1.0

CMMC 1.0 contains revised recommendations to assist DoD companies and subcontractors in meeting the NIST 800-171 criteria. Some vendors, meanwhile, are unsure what the distinction is between NIST 800-171 and CMMC. While both are intended to improve contractors’ cybersecurity posture, there are several significant variations among NIST 800-171 and CMMC 1.0.

Third-Party Assessment is Required for CMMC 1.0 Certification.

Contractors might self-certify and declare that their organizations meet NIST requirements under NIST 800-171. Companies seeking CMMC accreditation must first undergo a C3PAO assessment. This avoids bogus compliance claims and guarantees that vendors seeking accreditation satisfy all CMMC standards.

Compliance with CMMC 1.0 is needed to win DoD agreements.

Not CMMC qualified companies cannot be given DoD agreements with CMMC standards.

Three more domains are included in CMMC 1.0.

The NIST 800-171 paradigm consists of 14 domains, whereas the CMMC 1.0 framework adds three more.

CMMC 1.0 Can Be Scaled

NIST 800-171 only provides controls at one level, with additional safeguards for added security. CMMC 1.0, on the other hand, has specified compliance levels that contractors must fulfill to be certified at a given level. The CMMC 1.0 framework’s five maturity levels allow vendors to ramp their accreditation up or down based on the security standards they require.

All DoD vendors, for instance, need to have at minimum Level 1 certification. This implies that Level 1 contractors must execute 17 NIST 800-171 controls. The DoD gives a new CMMC level to a contractor who deals with more sensitive information.…