Information security and private content governance remain top priorities both for businesses and the government. The increasing prevalence of cyber threats has made it crucial for businesses to ensure that their information systems are secure, and private content is safeguarded from potential data breaches. To this end, compliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 800-171 and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) frameworks has become mandatory for all Department of Defense (DoD) contractors.

System Security Plan

What Is a System Security Plan?

A system security plan (SSP) is a critical component of the NIST 800-171 and CMMC compliance for contractors who handle or process controlled unclassified information (CUI). An SSP is a comprehensive document that outlines the security controls that an organization has in place to protect its information systems and ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of CUI. It is the foundation of a robust security program and a roadmap to achieving compliance.

The SSP is a comprehensive document that includes details such as system boundaries, system components, network diagrams, physical and logical access controls, contingency plans, and incident response procedures. An SSP typically consists of three critical components: the system description, security controls, and control implementation.

The system description outlines the system’s purpose, function, and layout. It also provides an overview of the system’s architecture, interfaces, and interconnectivity. The security controls section details the security measures in place to protect the system from unauthorized access or data breaches. Finally, the control implementation section outlines the steps taken to implement and manage the security controls outlined in the security controls section.

Having an SSP in place not only helps businesses achieve compliance but also provides a comprehensive risk management framework. It helps organizations identify potential security risks to their information systems, content, and business operations. It also enables businesses to prioritize and allocate resources to mitigate risks and ensure the security of their information systems. Compliance with NIST 800-171 and CMMC frameworks requires the development and implementation of a robust SSP. It is a crucial step in ensuring that businesses meet their contractual obligations and protect sensitive and confidential information from potential cyber threats.

Network and information systems have become integral in many aspects of human life. As such, it is important to ensure these systems are properly secured against malicious intrusions. Crafting an effective system security plan is one of the key ways that organizations can protect their networks and systems.

Step-by-Step Guide for Developing Your System Security Plan

Crafting an effective SSP is a complex process, but it is essential for an organization’s compliance and safety. Establishing scope and objectives, as well as implementing and assessing security controls, are all vital steps in creating an effective system security plan to comply with CMMC and NIST 800-171. With the right guidance, personnel can ensure their system remains secure and compliant with industry standards.


1. Define Your Scope for SSP

A comprehensive system security plan requires careful consideration of scope. This entails understanding the right security framework that applies to your organization and defining who is included in the system. Additionally, assets and systems must be identified in order to understand what needs protection, and will be the focus of the security plan.

The security framework that applies to an organization depends on the industry and the requirements of the customers. For example, if an organization wants to do business with DoD, they must comply with the CMMC that aligns with the standards contained in NIST 800-171. Understanding the right framework and its requirements is the key step to defining scope.

Identifying who is a part of the system is the next step. All personnel, including those who work remotely, must be included. It is important to have insight on the roles, responsibilities, and access levels in order to set parameters and restrictions.

Last, assets and systems must be identified and accounted for in order to understand the scope of the security plan. This includes software and hardware, as well as data and intellectual property. Additionally, any third-party applications or services must be included. This will help to specify where the security plan should and should not apply, as well as inform the focus of further steps.

2. Establish Security Objectives for SSP

Once scope is established, the next step is to establish objectives and metrics. This will guide the security plan and help ensure best practice security. It is important to understand the vulnerable areas within an environment, including those outside of the scope of the security plan. Establishing objectives that target these areas helps to reduce risk and ensure a secure system.

Setting up a timeline is also a vital consideration. It is important to establish a timeline that best fits the organization’s needs while reducing risk. Ensure there is room for review and updates. Metrics should be established to measure the success of security objectives and the timeline.

3. Identify Security Controls for SSP

Security controls are integral to effective security, and the security plan should include detailed information on policies, procedures, and processes. These policies and procedures must be effective and secure, and must provide clear guidance for personnel. Additionally, incident management must also be included. Personnel must be informed on what to do in the event of a data breach or other incident.

4. Implementation of SSP

The security plan must then be implemented. This includes establishing systems security, access control, vulnerability management, training and awareness, and incident response. For systems security, security protocols must be established and regularly monitored. Access control should be put in place to ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive information and systems. Vulnerability management should also be implemented to reduce risk and ensure systems are secure. Training personnel on security protocols and regularly testing them is important. All incidents must be addressed promptly, and responses should be documented.

5. Training and Education for SSP

It is vitally important that all employees receive training in cybersecurity and the implementation of security strategies like CMMC and NIST 800-171. Training should include guidelines for identifying and reporting malicious activities, awareness about the latest threats, and understanding of security policies, as well as a general understanding of the organization’s system security plan. Ongoing education also should be provided to employees, to ensure that security protocols are up to date and they understand the risks associated with the various activities of the organization. Additionally, effective testing and assessments should be regularly undertaken to ensure that security protocols are properly established and enforced.

6. Enhancing Your SSP

A risk assessment should be performed to identify vulnerabilities, threats, and security gaps. System audits should be conducted to identify weaknesses, misconfigurations, and other aspects of the system that may be vulnerable to attack. System configuration management should be established to ensure that users receive the necessary access to the system and that the system is properly configured to restrict access to essential information. Furthermore, a contingency plan should be developed to address threats and respond to a security incident or breach.

7. Securing Business Partners for SSP

Third-party cybersecurity must be taken into consideration when establishing a system security plan. Organizations must ensure that all third-party providers adhere to industry standards, regulations, and compliance requirements. Regular due diligence should be conducted to monitor the security of third-party systems, including a review of their contracts, policies, and procedures.

8. Developing Maintenance for SSP

To ensure an SSP is effective, an established review process should be created. Any changes made to the system should be documented, as should any security-related incidents that occur. Additionally, a periodic assessment should be undertaken to determine the effectiveness of the system security plan in order to identify potential risks or security gaps. These assessments should be designed to identify any potential gaps that may have been overlooked. By establishing a review process, organizations can ensure that their system security plan remains up to date and effective in protecting vital information and data.

9. System Security Plan Documentation

Documenting the security plan is just as important as implementing it. Writing and organizing the security plan should be clear, concise, and comprehensive. Presenting the document to personnel is also important to ensure that the security plan is understood and followed. Additionally, the document should be regularly updated and reviewed for any changes that need to be made.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a system security plan important?

A system security plan is important for businesses to ensure their information systems remain safe and secure and that their data is only accessible to authorized personnel. It is also important for organizations to meet certain compliance standards, such as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 800-171, which establish security measures to protect federal government information from potential cyber threats.

What are the three main components of a security plan?

The three main components of a security plan are Identification, Prevention, and Response. Identification includes understanding what needs to be secured, what resources are available, and what the organization’s security posture is. Prevention involves the implementation of protective measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software. Response includes the detection of any cyberattacks and the implementation of countermeasures to mitigate any potential damage.

What is a security plan vs. a security policy?

A security plan is a comprehensive document that outlines the strategies and processes an organization will use to protect its information systems. It includes the details of the processes, procedures, and controls to be implemented to prevent, detect, and respond to potential security threats. A security policy is a high-level document that outlines the framework for the security of an organization, the objectives and requirements that shall be achieved, and the duties, roles, and responsibilities of personnel.

What types of cyber threats should be identified in a system security plan?

A security plan should identify the types of cyber threats that could potentially affect an organization’s systems and data. These threats can include malicious software, phishing emails, ransomware attacks, unauthorized access to networks and data, data breaches, denial-of-service attacks, malicious insiders, and more.

How often should a system security plan be reviewed and updated?

A system security plan should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. The frequency of review and updates should be based on the organization’s environment, the level of risk associated with the systems and data, and any changes in the organization’s security posture.

What frameworks should I follow when developing a system security plan?

Organizations should consider using established frameworks when developing their system security plan. These frameworks can include standards such as NIST 800-171, the ISO/IEC 27000 series, the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). These frameworks provide guidance on the processes and controls organizations should implement to secure their systems and data and meet compliance standards.

Accelerating Compliance With CMMC Level 2 and NIST 800-171 With Kiteworks

The Kiteworks Private Content Network (PCN) accelerates the time and effort DoD contractors and subcontractors need to demonstrate compliance with NIST SP 800-171 and CMMC 2.0 Level 2. Kiteworks is certified to FedRAMP Authorized for Moderate Level Impact and unifies sensitive content communications into one platform—email, file sharing, managed file transfer, web forms, and application programming interfaces (APIs). The result is a content-defined zero-trust approach that applies centralized controls, tracking, and reporting to minimize security and compliance exposure risk.

Because Kiteworks satisfies nearly 90% of CMMC Level 2.0 practice requirements and NIST 800-171 controls, DoD suppliers speed the time and minimize the effort required to achieve CMMC Level 2 certification. As more and more DoD contractors become compliant with CMMC Level 2 practice controls, this helps protect the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) information supply chain.

To learn more about Kiteworks and how you can leverage the Private Content Network to accelerate your CMMC certification roadmap, schedule a custom demo today.


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