Key Strategies for SPs to Secure Government Contracts

Published August 29, 2023
by Jordan Hickam

Government contracts hold immense value and significance, impacting numerous communities and handling sensitive information. For cloud Service Providers (SPs) of all sizes, these contracts present lucrative opportunities. In a crowded and competitive marketplace, it is crucial for government service providers to stand out and elevate their offerings by going beyond the minimum requirements. The journey to secure a government contract begins long before RFPs are posted or opportunities are announced. Let’s explore the essential steps SPs should take to strengthen their position in the government sector.

Conduct a Comprehensive Risk Assessment

A robust cybersecurity program is vital for prospective government partners. It should encompass measures such as data protection, security information and event management, intrusion detection and prevention systems, encryption, access controls, and ongoing vulnerability testing. 

Start by conducting a comprehensive risk assessment tailored to your organization. Identify potential vulnerabilities, threats, and risks specific to your organization. This assessment should cover all aspects of your infrastructure, including hardware, software, networks, and data storage. Assess the potential impact of cyber threats on your business operations, reputation, and clients. 

Develop a Cybersecurity Strategy

Based on the risk assessment, develop a cybersecurity strategy tailored to your organization’s needs. Set specific goals, objectives, and action plans to mitigate identified risks and vulnerabilities. Then determine the cybersecurity controls and best practices that align with your industry standards, regulatory requirements, and contractual obligations as an SP working with the public sector.

Implement Comprehensive Risk Management Measures

Demonstrating comprehensive risk management programs to identify, assess, and mitigate the risks associated with your services is critical for providers working toward qualifying for government contracts. 

Implement continuous monitoring and risk assessment methodologies, risk treatment plans, and ongoing risk monitoring with regular reporting. Enforce strong authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), and educate employees about using unique and complex passwords.  

Implement the principle of least privilege, ensuring that users only have access to the resources necessary to perform their job responsibilities. Technologies such as identity and access management (IAM), privileged access management (PAM), and role-based access control (RBAC) tools can help effectively enforce access control policies across large-scale organizations.

Craft Transparent and Well-Defined Incident Response and Recovery Plans

To be competitive in securing public-sector contracts, providers must demonstrate their ability to respond rapidly to threats, breaches, or other cybersecurity incidents. Develop and regularly test an incident response plan to ensure a swift and effective response to cybersecurity incidents.

A well-defined incident response plan should clearly outline specific procedures for detecting, responding to, and recovering from cybersecurity incidents, ensuring essential operations or services can continue uninterrupted while data is retrieved or damage assessed. Robust redundancy measures, including regular data backups and recovery strategies, should complement ongoing testing and quickly go into effect at the first sign of a potential cybersecurity threat. Transparent and timely incident monitoring mechanisms must report clear and accurate information to affected partners. Establish communication channels and protocols to notify and engage relevant stakeholders, such as clients, regulatory authorities, and law enforcement, in case of a breach.

Grow and Maintain Certifications 

Even when not explicitly required, industry certifications demonstrate your persistent commitment to data security. Certifications can increase your credibility as a potential government contractor, as can collaborating with reputable, secure vendors, consultants, and partners within the cybersecurity space. Those with experience navigating the government procurement process can give unique perspectives and insight into your journey. 

Some certifications and compliance measures that may be required include:

  • FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is a U.S. government program that establishes security standards for cloud service providers. Providers must undergo a rigorous assessment process to receive a FedRAMP authorization, which demonstrates their compliance with government security requirements. 
  • StateRAMP is modeled in part after FedRAMP and is an official strategic partner of the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO). StateRAMP offers members countless resources for providing services to public-sector entities. A growing number of state and local governments and education institutions are working with StateRAMP to validate their providers’ cybersecurity posture. 
  • DoD SRG (Department of Defense Security Requirements Guide) outlines the security requirements for CSPs hosting Department of Defense data. It includes various impact levels (IL) based on the sensitivity of the data, with IL-4 and IL-5 being common for cloud services.
  • ISO 27001 (International Organization for Standardization) is a globally recognized standard for information security management systems. It provides a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continuously improving an organization’s security controls.
  • SOC 2 (Service Organization Control 2) is an auditing standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). It evaluates the effectiveness of a provider’s controls over security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.
  • Although primarily focused on the payment card industry, PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is often required for providers that process or store payment card data for government agencies.
  • If the provider handles protected health information (PHI) on behalf of government healthcare agencies, compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations is necessary to ensure the security and privacy of healthcare data.

It’s important to note that the specific certifications and compliance requirements may vary depending on the government agency and the nature of the services provided. Providers should carefully review the contract requirements and engage with the appropriate authorities to ensure they meet the necessary certifications and compliance standards for their target government contracts.

Every SP is on its own journey and can have differing security monitoring needs. Simply knowing where to start can be half the battle. Building a strong cybersecurity foundation and meeting the stringent requirements for government contracts is an ongoing process that demands continuous improvement. An experienced cyber security professional can guide you through each step and can position you as a trustworthy and capable provider in the government sector.

Contact us today to learn more about the RAMPxchange marketplace, where public agencies and private providers are establishing mutually beneficial connections for a brighter, more secure digital future.