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This is the eleventh in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the second through tenth blogs described the actions taken by various Government agencies to implement the EO from June 2021 through February 2022, respectively.  This blog summarizes key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during March 2022.  As with steps taken during prior months, the actions described below reflect the implementation of the EO within the Government.  However, these activities portend further actions, potentially in or before June 2022, that are likely to impact government contractors, particularly those who provide software products or services to the Government.
Continue Reading March 2022 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

On March 8, 2022, the Department of Justice announced the first settlement of a case under the Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative.  Established in October 2021, the Initiative aims to utilize the government’s authority under the civil False Claims Act to pursue alleged instances of fraud and misrepresentation concerning cyber practices.  (We previously wrote about the Initiative here.)  The Initiative has been a point of emphasis in DOJ speeches and public comments in recent months.  This settlement is a milestone in the rollout of the program and confirmation that DOJ intends to take allegations of cyber fraud seriously.
Continue Reading First Settlement of DOJ Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative

This is the seventh in a series of Covington blogs on implementation of Executive Order 14028, “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” issued by President Biden on May 12, 2021 (the “Cyber EO”).  The first blog summarized the Cyber EO’s key provisions and timelines, and the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth blogs described the actions taken by various government agencies to implement the EO during June, July, August, September, and October 2021, respectively.  This blog summarizes the key actions taken to implement the Cyber EO during November 2021.

Although most of the developments in November were directed at U.S. Government agencies, the standards being developed for such agencies could be imposed upon their contractors or otherwise be adopted as industry standards for all organizations that develop or acquire software.

Continue Reading November 2021 Developments Under President Biden’s Cybersecurity Executive Order

On November 9, 2021, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) Accreditation Body (AB) hosted a one hour Town Hall focused on CMMC Version 2.0.  Matthew Travis, CEO of the CMMC AB; Jesse Salazar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy; David McKeown, Deputy Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity (DCIO(CS)) and DoD’s Senior Information Security Officer (SISO); and Buddy Dees, Director of CMMC, DoD gave prepared remarks and answered questions during the session.

According to Mr. Salazar, CMMC Version 2.0 has been in the making for the past 8 months, and takes into account the over 850 public comments DoD received regarding CMMC 1.0.  Mr. KcKeown explained that CMMC 1.0 may have been too broad and its requirements “too onerous” especially on small and medium sized contractors.  He described CMMC 2.0 — and its use of three levels rather than five levels in CMMC 1.0 — as being based on more of a risk based approach than the original CMMC because it is primarily focused on the type of data being protected.

Continue Reading CMMC Accreditation Body Hosts Town Hall Regarding CMMC 2.0

UPDATE: DoD withdraws the unpublished Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

On November 5, 2021, an Editorial Note was added to the Federal Register stating “An agency letter requesting withdrawal of this document was received after placement on public inspection. The document will remain on public inspection through close of business November 4, 2021. A copy of the agency’s withdrawal letter is available for inspection at the Office of the Federal Register.”   The reason for the Department of Defense withdrawal of the unpublished Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was not provided.
Continue Reading DoD Outlines Significant Changes to CMMC with Version 2.0

In a December 2020 speech, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Granston warned that cybersecurity fraud could see enhanced enforcement under the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  On October 6, 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced that the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) would be following through on that warning with the launch of the DOJ’s Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative.  The key component of the initiative is the use of the FCA against Government contractors and subcontractors that fail to comply with cybersecurity requirements, including information security standards and cyber incident reporting obligations, imposed by contract, statute, or regulation.

Under the FCA, the Government can recover treble damages and penalties from federal contractors and subcontractors that knowingly submit false claims for payment.  Notably, the FCA incentivizes private citizens (relators), including contractor employees, to file qui tam suits on behalf of the Government by guaranteeing them between 15 and 30 percent of the recovery.  DOJ stated that it intended to work with federal agencies, subject matter experts, and law enforcement partners on the Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative.  Recently, Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton confirmed that this initiative was also intended to incentivize relators and the aggressive relators’ bar to focus their attention on potential cybersecurity noncompliance as the basis for qui tam actions.

Continue Reading DOJ Announces New Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative

On February 24, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order entitled “Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains” (the “Order”). Among other things, the Order is an initial step toward accomplishing the Biden Administration’s goal of building more resilient American supply chains that avoid shortages of critical products, facilitate investments to maintain America’s competitive edge, and

As described in an earlier blog post, the Department of Defense (DoD) released an Interim Rule on September 29, 2020 that address DoD’s increased requirements for assessing whether contractors are compliant with the 110 security controls in National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171 (NIST 800-171).[1]  Under this new Interim Rule, DoD offerors must have a current assessment on file with DoD to document their compliance with NIST 800-171 before they can be eligible to be considered for award.  The Interim Rule specifically requires contractors to ensure that a summary score from an assessment conducted under DoD’s NIST 800-171 Assessment Methodology is submitted into a DoD enterprise application called the Supplier Performance Risk System (SPRS).[2]  We evaluate below how DoD may use the NIST 800-171 assessment scores in SPRS, as well as how updates to SPRS more generally are likely to impact contractors.

Continue Reading How is DoD Planning to Use the Supplier Performance Risk System (SPRS)?

On September 29, 2020, the Department of Defense (DoD) released an interim rule that industry hoped would provide clear guidance with regard to DoD’s implementation of its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework.  The vast majority of the rule focuses on DoD’s increased requirements for confirming that contractors are currently in compliance with all 110 security controls in National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication (SP) 800-171 (NIST 800-171).  The interim rule also includes a clause for adding CMMC as a requirement in a DoD contract, but the clause fails to address many of the questions that industry has with regard to implementation of the CMMC program.  The rule becomes effective November 30, 2020.  We have written previously on NIST 800-171 and the CMMC here and here respectively.

DoD has been focused on improving the cyber resiliency and security of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) sector for over a decade.  The Council of Economic Advisors estimates that malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016.  The interim rule is one of multiple efforts by DoD focused on the broader supply chain security and resiliency of the DIB and builds on existing FAR and DFARS clause cybersecurity requirements.  Increasing security concerns coupled with recent high-profile data breaches have led DoD to move beyond self-certification to auditable verification systems when it comes to protecting sensitive Government information.

Continue Reading Department of Defense’s Interim Rule Imposes New Assessment Requirements But is Short on Detail on Implementation of CMMC

On August 13, 2020, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released new revisions to its Guidance for Grants and Agreements set forth under 2 CFR (commonly referred to as the Uniform Guidance).  The Uniform Guidance governs the terms of federal funding issued by agencies, including grants, cooperative agreements, federal loans, and non-cash assistance awards.