U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) cybersecurity compliance is essential for every manufacturer or services provider that wants to win contracts with the DoD. But complying with the requirements is resource-intensive, and that can be more burdensome for small and medium-sized businesses than for large enterprise organizations. Complying with the complex regulations requires time, expenses, and expertise, and they’re continually changing due to the dynamic digital ecosystem. Furthermore, DoD cybersecurity compliance only means the organization is eligible for consideration rather than a guarantee of return on investment.

To be competitive with other DoD contractors, small businesses must employ innovative strategies and effective cybersecurity practices. Learn more about the main cyber risk management challenges and what small businesses need to do to overcome them.

Small Business Cybersecurity Risks Are Real

First, consider the real risks that small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face and that make cybersecurity compliance so critical.

Cyberattack Targets

Cybercriminals know to focus on small businesses because smaller organizations tend to have insufficient data protections in place while still housing valuable sensitive data. To criminals, these organizations represent lucrative, relatively low-risk targets. The data supports this thinking — according to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses were the target of 43% of all cyberattacks.

This trend has not diminished over the past few years. BlackFog reported in a June 2023 survey that cybercriminals successfully attacked 61% of companies with between 100 and 999 employees, and 87% of these businesses had already been targeted at least twice. These attacks are also alarmingly successful, with more than one in three of the attacks leading to customer data loss.

Impact of Breaches

Cyberattacks can be devastating to a small business’s reputation, finances, and legal standing. In 2020, the Ponemon Institute placed the average cost of a data breach at $3.86 million. In 2018, Cisco reported that about 40% of SMBs experienced eight hours or more of downtime during severe breaches.

DoD Cybersecurity Requirements Are Necessary and Extremely Complex

Small businesses must be able to thoroughly rebuff these attacks to be credible DoD contractors. The Department of Defense provides and regularly updates its cybersecurity requirements to ensure that vendors have the necessary capabilities to protect classified information and the Defense Industrial Base (DIB).

DoD Requirements

These requirements currently include the following stipulations:

  • Compliance with Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) standards: All DoD contractors and subcontractors must meet these standards to protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). DFARS compliance also mandates NIST 800-171 compliance.
  • Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC): Updated as of 2023, CMMC certification involves more requirements and security controls. Compliance is required for all DoD solicitations after October 1, 2026.

Small Businesses Are Resource Constrained

Meeting these cybersecurity standards isn’t cheap. CMMC compliance costs alone can range from $5,977 to almost $500,000 a year, with 76% of businesses spending at least $100,000. Included in the high cost of compliance are training, third-party audits, hardware and software investments, and more. Small businesses also face additional financial complications, such as employee turnover or a lack of dedicated and trained in-house personnel.

Need for Assistance

Because of all these constraints, small businesses need support to comply with DoD requirements and compete with enterprise vendors. Forms of support include:

  • Expert guidance on how to earn certifications or be in compliance, even as requirements change
  • Tailored cybersecurity solutions that comply with DoD requirements without overwhelming the business’s budget
  • Ongoing collaboration between industry associations, cybersecurity firms, and the Department of Defense to create affordable but uncompromising pathways to compliance and certification

Securing Tomorrow: Rallying for Small Business Cyber Resilience and National Defense

Small businesses face several obstacles to becoming qualified vendors for DoD contracts. By recognizing these challenges and creating effective solutions, SMBs can become competitive, attractive prospective contractors and contribute to national security without posing security risks.

D&M Plastics is a leading plastic injection molding provider, specializing in engineering resins with tight tolerances, such as those required by the defense industry. As one of few injection molding manufacturers approved by the DoD to supply parts to military contractors, we have the required certifications and cyber risk management experience to help our customers navigate the complexities of DoD compliance. To ensure consistently high quality across all our products, D&M Plastics is also ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016 certified.

Contact us to learn more about how we serve the defense industry.