CUI · Cyber Incident · cybersecurity · Distaster Recovery

Defining CUI – Controlled Unclassified Information for the Manufacturing Segment

The definition of CUI, or Controlled Unclassified Information, by the Department of Defense is challenging for most small and medium manufactures to grapple. The NIST Frameworks for Cybersecurity SP800-171 have defined CUI under the context of “Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizations.” The security requirements of 800-171 apply to all components of nonfederal systems and organizations that process, store or transmit CUI, or that provide security protection for such components. I will walk through the various standards and definitions to highlight the specifics that affect our manufacturers who need to meet compliance with the NIST cybersecurity guidelines. As this background currently applies to commercial manufacturing under DOD contracts, the guidance and definitions are in either draft or consideration for other verticals, including financial services, healthcare, food safety, automotive and other related verticals.

What is CUI? According to the National Archives, “Only information that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls pursuant to and consistent with law, regulations, and government-wide policies may be CUI. this excludes all information that is classified under Executive Order 13526 of December 29, 2009, or the atomic Energy act, as amended.” In commercial manufacturing, this would be anything other than COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) and includes modified COTS products. The summary and extension is to any organization that provides a product or solution that is designed for government or modified for government, the information associated with such would be considered CUI. CUI is: (i) provided to the contractor by or on behalf of DoD in connection with the performance of the contract; or (ii) collected, developed, received, transmitted, used, or stored by or on behalf of the contractor in support of the performance of the contract; falls in any of the following categories: (i) controlled technical information, (ii) critical information, (iii) export control (iv), any other information, marked or otherwise identified in the contract, that requires safeguarding or dissemination controls pursuant to and consistent with law, regulations, and government-wide policies (e.g., privacy, proprietary business information).

How do you protect CUI? Provide adequate security to safeguard covered defense information that resides on or is transiting through a contractor’s internal information system or network. Adequate security is defined as implementation of NIST SP800-171 that include the 14-controls for cybersecurity and is required by 12/31/2017. Compliance with 800-171 is considered 100 percent complete with any waivers or deviations approved by the DOD CIO. An organization can demonstrate through Plans of Action (POAM) and System Security Plans (SSPs) that they are in-progress as part of a contractor’s risk management decision of CUI protection by their supply chain.

Cyber incidents are another component of the compliance or CUI program. A cyber incident is an action(s) taken through the use of computer networks that results in a compromise or an actual or potentially adverse effect on an information system and/or the information residing therein. “Compromise” means disclosure of information to unauthorized persons, or a violation of the security policy of a system, in which unauthorized intentional or unintentional disclosure, modification, destruction, or loss of an object, or the copying of information to unauthorized media may have occurred.

What steps must be taken if a cyber incident occurs? Affected parties must:

  • Review contractor network(s) for evidence of compromise of covered defense information using contractor’s available tools including, but not limited to, identifying compromised computers, servers, specific data and user accounts.
  • Identify covered defense information that may have been affected in the cyber incident.
  • According to DFARS Clause 252.204-7013(c)(1), they must rapidly report (within 72 hours of the discovery of an incident) directly to DoD and the subcontractors need to provide the incident report number, automatically assigned by DoD, to the prime Contractor (or next higher-tier subcontractor) as soon as is practical.

The need for critical infrastructure and supply chain cyber improvement has now become a requirement. We are seeing more and more cyberattacks on this market segment that result in the rapid and “unknown” theft of intellectual property, data and designs. Copied and counterfeit products, parts and infrastructure cause damage to the US economy.

The extension of the standards to other vertical markets is not a question of “if,” but a question of “when.”  Prepare to adopt the NIST framework in every vertical market as a measurable, identifiable and comprehensive approach to understanding cyber posture of any organization.


**DFARS Clause 252.204-7012(c)(1)

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Cyber Incident · Disaster Recovery · Incident Response · Malware · Ransomeware

Corporate Cyber Incident Response Plan – Do You Even Have One?


Corporate Cyber Incident Response Plan – Do You Even Have One?

I was messaging with a very good friend and colleague this week and we started chatting about incident response plans. We noted that most people have a plan in place at home; he raised examples around personal security elements such as home alarms, dogs, door locks and cameras. The comment that resonated with me most was, you know what to do when you come home and your home has been burglarized. Call the police, insurance company, etc. He went on to pose the question, what about when your company is electronically burglarized? For most organizations, that question is met with silence.

While burglary in the workplace takes on many forms, we will focus on burglary in the form of cyberattacks. The attacker is “stealing” information from your company for monetary purposes. Yes, the cyberattack is intended to take something from you: data, money or both. Cyberattackers work systematically and operationally efficiently to pick either high-value targets or high-probability targets to extort what they are targeting—data, intellectual property, personal identifiable information or cash extortion from a ransomware event. It’s a business and the value to the attacker is what they take for future gains or currency to potentially give you back what they have access to or control of. The results of this are highly distracting, expensive and potentially severely impactful to the business.

Circling back to the concept of corporate cyber incident response, what is your answer? Is the first step to call the authorities and FBI? Is it to pay the ransom? Is it time to deploy your Disaster Recovery (DR) policy? Do you even have a DR plan? Have you identified your critical data?

What exactly is the FBI’s role in cyber? The FBI’s role is to hunt down the “bad guys” and prosecute them, plain and simple. Their role is not to recover your assets, cash or data. Should you call the FBI if you are burglarized (cyberattacked)? Absolutely! We want to shut down as many cyber criminals as possible. Should you pay the ransom? Well, that depends—do you have a data recovery plan implemented that remains unscathed by the encryption tactics used by the attacker? If yes, why would you pay? Sometimes organizations need to make a time vs. money decision, as the time to recover may exceed the threshold a company can accept for their business. Law enforcement suggest not paying the ransom, but your business objectives need to drive your decision.

Many organizations talk about the topic of incident response, but very few have a realistic plan. Some suggestions that can help include: building a plan that includes recovery steps, using realistic scenarios and identifying leaders within your company who will drive those decisions.  Have a true plan of action that is executable. Do a few tests of the plan “dry run” a few scenarios.  Be prepared, be ready, be diligent—the odds prove that this will happen to your company at some point. The small and medium business market is the largest potential target, while also the least prepared. Start today!