3 Key Differences: CMMC 2.0 vs. NIST 800-171

The difference between CMMC and NIST 800-171 lies in scope and enforcement. CMMC focuses on protecting Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) with mandatory audits, while NIST has broader information security goals and relies on self-assessment. Achieving CMMC compliance requires meeting NIST’s baseline security standards.

1. CMMC 2.0 Includes a Level-Based Model

  • CMMC 2.0 classifies organizations into three levels, each with its own set of criteria:
  • Some DoD contracts may specify particular levels, necessitating compliance with the corresponding criteria
  • Unlike NIST 800-171, CMMC 2.0 mandates third-party assessments to validate adherence to its standards
  • NIST 800-171 lacks certification requirements and relies on self-assessments, given its non-regulatory status

2. CMMC 2.0 Focuses on Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) Standards

  • CMMC 2.0 features over 130 cybersecurity guidelines at the highest compliance level, with 110 directly aligning with NIST 800-171 standards
  • CMMC 2.0 predominantly centers on CUI controls, with an extensive emphasis on their protection
  • NIST 800-171, while also emphasizing CUI protection, includes standards for Non-Federal Organization (NFO) controls

3. CMMC 2.0 Includes Additional Domains Over NIST 800-171

  • NIST 800-171 encompasses 14 requirement families, covering aspects such as access control, personnel security, risk assessment, and security assessments
  • CMMC 2.0 elevates the importance of cybersecurity assets and the ability to recover from breaches
  • Organizations adopting CMMC 2.0 must be more attuned to the threats they face and their potential impact on the handling of CUI
  • CMMC 2.0 goes further by incorporating three new cybersecurity domains into its standards:
    • i) Asset management
    • ii) Recovery
    • iii) Situational awareness

Does Passing the CMMC Certification Mean That an Organization Has Passed NIST 800-171?

No. Passing a CMMC Certification assessment does not necessarily mean that you are compliant with NIST 800-171. CMMC primarily focuses on Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) controls, whereas NIST 800-171 also includes Non-Federal Organization (NFO) controls.

CMMC vs. NIST 800-171: Which is Right for Your Business?

If you are a contractor doing work with the Department of Defense, you will need to achieve some level of CMMC compliance as required by your contracts.

How Coalfire Federal Can Assist

Regardless of where you are in your CMMC compliance journey, Coalfire Federal can help. Our Suite of Certification, Compliance and Advisory Services Include: