Securing and Keeping a Government Contract

Public agencies procure various goods and services from the private sector, such as technology solutions, infrastructure development, defense systems, healthcare services, and more. While working with the government can pose challenges, such as complex procurement processes, compliance requirements, and regulatory risks, government contracts can offer stability and long-term revenue streams for private-sector providers. Organizations desiring to work with the public sector should understand cybersecurity’s role in winning government contracts. This guide explains some essentials for providers seeking to secure and maintain public sector partnerships.

How Cybersecurity Can Make
or Break Your Government Contract

Cybersecurity capabilities are critical in Service Providers’ (SPs) and other outside providers’ ability to secure government contracts. Meeting or going above and beyond public agencies’ requirements can significantly impact the success of procuring and maintaining work with them.

Demonstrating a solid commitment to cybersecurity can provide a competitive advantage when bidding for government work. Government agencies prioritize contractors with a proven track record of implementing robust security measures. Contractors that can showcase their cybersecurity capabilities and industry certifications may have a higher chance of winning contracts over competitors lacking similar credentials.

Several of the most important factors in a government-SP relationship and ways that elements of a cybersecurity strategy can make or break an SP’s government contract procurement efforts include:

  • Trust and Reputation – Public government agencies place a high premium on trust and reliability when selecting contractors and private SP partners. A robust cybersecurity posture instills confidence in government agencies that an outside SP vendor will adequately protect their data and systems. Conversely, a security breach, failure, or cyber incident during the contract can severely damage a contracting SP’s reputation, resulting in severe loss of trust and potential termination. Maintaining a solid cybersecurity stance is vital to preserving trust and standing in government contracting.
  • Long-Term Partnerships – Completing government contracts can lead to long-term partnerships and opportunities for additional contracts. By establishing a reputation for excellence in cybersecurity, SP contractors can position themselves as reliable and trusted partners for future projects. A robust cybersecurity posture can build long-term relationships with government agencies, leading to recurring contracts and a competitive edge in the market.
  • Data Protection and Privacy – A government’s level of trust in a vendor partner, and an SP’s reputation with the agency, typically hinges on how well the contractor handles sensitive, confidential, or classified information. SPs must demonstrate their ability to protect this data from unauthorized access, loss, or disclosure. A data breach or privacy incident can have severe consequences, including contractual penalties, legal liabilities, and irreparable damage to the contractor’s reputation. Effective cybersecurity measures are crucial to ensuring government data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
  • Incident Response and Recovery – In the event of a cybersecurity incident, government agencies expect contractors to implement robust and comprehensive incident response and recovery plans. Contractors must always be prepared to promptly detect, respond to, and recover from cyber threats. A well-defined incident response plan and effective cybersecurity practices can demonstrate a provider’s ability to handle security incidents efficiently, minimizing the impact on the contract and maintaining the agency’s trust.
  • Compliance with Agency and Industry Regulations – Government contracts can require contractors to comply with stringent and specific cybersecurity regulations. SPs must adhere to these regulations and obtain the necessary certifications or authorizations to handle government data effectively. Organizations must often go above and beyond an agency’s minimum regulatory compliance standards to stand out among competitors, while non-compliance can quickly disqualify a contractor from consideration.

Learn More About the Regulations Most Relevant to an SP’s Cybersecurity’s Role in Securing Government Contracts

What SPs Need to Know About the NIST Framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a widely recognized, respected, and leading cybersecurity and information technology authority. Federal government agencies and organizations in highly regulated industries must follow NIST-based standards and many others refer to the organization’s standards and frameworks when formulating their own cybersecurity policies or requirements.

Achieving NIST compliance and adhering to its many standards demonstrates a provider’s commitment to industry-adopted best practices and enhances their credibility among potential customers, existing partners, and various regulatory bodies or government agencies.

NIST Compliance Implications for Service Providers

  • Security and Compliance Framework – NIST provides a comprehensive framework for managing and improving the security of information systems. It offers a set of guidelines, standards, and best practices to help SPs establish effective security controls and mitigate risk. Adhering to NIST standards enables SPs to demonstrate their commitment to security and compliance, which is crucial for building customer trust and meeting regulatory requirements.
  • Risk Management and Mitigation – NIST provides guidance on risk management, helping SPs effectively identify, assess, and mitigate potential cybersecurity threats. By implementing NIST standards, SPs can establish a systematic and structured approach to identify potential vulnerabilities, implement appropriate controls, and promptly respond to cybersecurity incidents. This proactive risk management approach enhances a provider’s overall cybersecurity posture and reduces the likelihood of security breaches or data loss over time.
  • Customer Expectations and Assurance – As businesses increasingly rely on cloud services, customers come to providers with heightened expectations for the security and protection of their data. Adhering to NIST standards demonstrates an SP’s commitment to maintaining robust security measures and protecting customer data. NIST compliance assures customers that their data is being handled carefully and according to industry-recognized standards, fostering trust and long-term relationships.
  • Competitive Advantage – NIST compliance can serve as a distinct competitive differentiator for SPs within a crowded, highly competitive market. Many organizations prioritize security and compliance when selecting providers. By being NIST-compliant, SPs can position themselves as trusted partners who prioritize cybersecurity, thereby attracting a broader customer base and gaining a competitive edge in the market.
  • Continuous Improvement – NIST frameworks emphasize a proactive and iterative approach to cybersecurity. SPs and other providers can leverage NIST guidance to continually assess, innovate, and improve their cybersecurity practices, staying ahead of new threats and potential vulnerabilities. By regularly evaluating and enhancing security controls per NIST guidelines, SPs can maintain a high level of cybersecurity readiness, adapt to changing regulatory requirements, and meet the evolving needs of government agencies and other customers.

Learn More About the NIST Framework and Standards

Essential Elements for

Building Your Cybersecurity Infrastructure

A robust and secure cybersecurity infrastructure is one of the biggest difference-makers in giving providers the advanced capabilities and resources to perform the tasks and data management required by contracting government agencies. 

Two essential cybersecurity infrastructure additions that providers should consider to protect public agencies’ private data or sensitive info include security information and event management (SIEM) tools, intrusion detection systems (IDSs), and intrusion prevention systems (IPSs).

Best Practices for Using SIEM, IPS, & IDS Solutions


Prioritize Critical Assets – Clearly define your use cases and security objectives. Every asset, data point, or piece of information doesn’t necessarily require the same level of monitoring. Take the time to strategically identify and prioritize those that are critical to maximize security efficiency. Secondary features and additional context can be added after initially configuring and testing the entire logging environment.

Train Staff and Optimize Internal Processes – Proper personnel training and guidance is paramount to a SIEM solution’s successful implementation. Adjusting existing internal systems may be necessary for SIEM tools to reach their full potential. Organizations need trained and knowledgeable personnel and consistent data and logs to produce actionable reports. Therefore, if an organization uses a variety of systems, log files, or processes data differently across various departments, it is critical to normalize the data first.


Define Clear Goals and Objectives for IDS Deployment – Gaining a deep understanding of your network infrastructure, including topology, protocols, and traffic patterns, as well as the threats you want to detect and assets you want to protect, helps configure an IDS effectively to meet your organization’s cybersecurity objectives.

Regularly Update Signatures, Rules, and Alert Thresholds – IDSs rely on signatures and rules to detect known attack patterns. Keep up to date with the latest threat intelligence and regularly update IDS signatures and rules to ensure optimal protection against emerging threats and the most-recent attack patterns. In anomaly-based systems, thresholds can be fine-tuned to reduce false positives and focus on high-priority alerts. Adjust the sensitivity and thresholds based on network environment factors to minimize unnecessary noise and improve the accuracy of threat detection.

Integrate with Other Cybersecurity Tools – For further enhanced security posture, integrate an IDS with other cybersecurity tools, such as firewalls, SIEM systems, or threat intelligence platforms. Such integration provides a more comprehensive view of the network environment and enhances overall cybersecurity capabilities.



Establish a Logical Baseline and Alerting Requirements – To designate unusual or suspicious activity from the system or user behavior, parameters constituting normal needs and uses must be documented and configured.

Consider Multiple Types and Techniques – Each type of IPS technology—network-based, wireless, host-based, and network behavior analysis systems—offers users benefits over others. Relying on just one system to secure network traffic isn’t enough. In many environments, integrating a combination of multiple IPS technologies is required for a robust, secure solution.

Secure All Components and Run Regular Testing – Securing individual components within the system is critical because cybercriminals who hope to disrupt the IPS and prevent it from detecting an upcoming attack or want to access sensitive information such as host configurations or known vulnerabilities within the system frequently target IPS technologies. Regularly testing an IPS’ abilities to spot and stop a threat allows users to observe, fine-tune, and adjust profiles or settings to meet security needs or reduce false-positive rates.

Learn More About the Top Elements to Enhance Your Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Winning a government contract can be a drawn-out and challenging process that starts with ensuring your cybersecurity posture to verify your eligibility to work on government projects. A brief overview of essential cybersecurity-related steps for small- to medium-sized providers follows. 


  • Initial Assessments and Gap Analyses – Thoroughly assess your organization’s cybersecurity posture. Compare it to the requirements and guidelines of government contracts to identify the gaps or areas needing improvement.


  • Compliance and Infrastructure Enhancements – Implement any necessary enhancements, such as upgrading cybersecurity infrastructure, introducing new controls, or obtaining relevant regulatory compliance or certifications like StateRAMP, FedRAMP, ISO 27001, or SOC 2 Type II.


  • Documented Policy Development – Develop comprehensive plans to implement the policies, procedures, and controls required to meet government regulations and standards. In developing such procedures, diagrams, and plans, ensure all documentation is accounted for and in line with government agencies’ requirements.


  • Testing and Auditing – Thorough security testing, vulnerability assessments, and penetration testing can bring any cybersecurity deficiencies to light or validate the effectiveness of your systems and risk management. Perform regular internal audits to ensure ongoing compliance with standards and regulations that evolve and change over time.
  • Proposal Development, Submission, and Procurement Process – Develop a compelling proposal that addresses the specific requirements of the government agency and goes above and beyond in addressing their needs. The scope of the search and duration of the procurement process can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the contract or agencies and data involved.

Learn More About the SP Journey to Securing Government Contracts