February 25, 2024
Approx 5 min read

Navigating DART for SMEs: Tips to become a successful MoD supplier

Written by
Lorena Stuart

As an SME, working with the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) or its prime contractors offers tremendous opportunities to grow your business and establish credibility in the defence sector. However, to capitalise on these opportunities, SMEs must effectively navigate the complex cyber security and data privacy requirements set by the MoD and prime contractors and prove their compliance through a process known as supplier due diligence.

At the heart of this due diligence process is the MoD's Defence Assurance Risk Assessment Tool (DART). The DART enables the MoD and its prime contractors to evaluate an SME's cyber security and data privacy compliance by examining their policies, processes and procedures in detail.

In this blog post, we'll provide a clear guide to DART, explaining its purpose and essential factors for SMEs to consider when preparing to complete the questionnaire.

If you have a specific question about your DART assessment or need tailored advice, don't hesitate to click here and book a complimentary, no-obligation call with our MoD due diligence experts.

Demystifying the Defence Assurance Risk Assessment Tool (DART)

The Defence Assurance Risk Assessment Tool (DART) is a comprehensive questionnaire used by the MoD and its prime contractors to evaluate the cyber security and data privacy posture of businesses seeking to become suppliers within the defence industry.

The DART questionnaire is part of a broader initiative called the Defence Cyber Protection Partnership (DCPP), which includes the MoD, prime contractors, and industry partners working together to enhance cyber security throughout the defence supply chain. Through the DART, DCPP sets out the requirements businesses must meet to protect some of the UK's most sensitive information.

By collecting information on an SME's policies, processes, and procedures, DART helps the MoD and its contractors assess how well a company adheres to these requirements, ensuring a robust cyber security foundation for potential suppliers and the entire defence supply chain.

Preparing to complete the DART Assessment

To effectively tackle the DART questionnaire, first, you must understand your "Cyber Risk Profile". Your Risk Profile represents your business's cyber security risk level based on factors such as the nature of your work, the sensitivity of the data you handle, and the potential impact of a cyber security incident on the MoD or its prime contractors.

Your profile, ranging from Very Low to High, determines the security controls your SME must implement to meet MoD's security standards. While these will vary depending on your business, all businesses supplying to the MoD must be, at a minimum, compliant with the UK-GDPR and Cyber Essentials Scheme. Click here for a complete list of cyber security requirements by risk profile.

dAfter familiarising yourself with your business's specific security requirements, you can begin to conduct your self-assessment, reviewing your existing security measures and identifying what still needs to be implemented:

Take stock of what you have in place: Review any policies, processes, and procedures related to cyber security and data privacy. Check whether they align with the security controls required for your Cyber Risk Profile and are up-to-date with your industry's best practices.

Identify gaps and areas for improvement: During your self-assessment, take note of any weaknesses or areas where your cyber security measures could be enhanced. Do your policies need to be updated? When was the last time your devices or internal systems were updated? Are your employees sufficiently trained in cyber security risks? 

While this exercise is primarily to understand which security measures you've yet to implement as part of your DART, it is essential to regularly review your current security measures and consider whether they need improvement.

Implement necessary changes: Your self-assessment results should provide you with a list of the security measures you need to implement to ensure you meet the standards set within your specific Cyber Risk Profile. Some of these measures will include gaining your Cyber Essentials accreditation, creating an incident response process and conducting regular cyber security training for your employees.

Document your compliance: Maintain clear documentation of your current cyber security controls and any additional measures you've implemented to meet MoD compliance. This information will be invaluable when answering the DART questionnaire, as most questions will require you to submit evidence as part of the due diligence process. 

Navigating the DART Questionnaire

Typically, DART questions are grouped into sections focusing on specific cybersecurity aspects, such as policies, technical controls, and employee training. Most of the questions require you to submit additional evidence, so this is the perfect time to locate the documentation you created as part of your self-assessment process. 

When completing the DART questionnaire, providing accurate and comprehensive responses is essential. It is crucial that you are honest and transparent about your current cyber security measures and that you can back these up with evidence. Failing to provide all necessary information will only prolong the supplier approval process and increase your procurement cycles.  

Aditionally, it is essential to remember that the DART questionnaire should be completed as a single process. You only want to submit a section once all questions and answers are finalised, and you've double-checked their accuracy with relevant parties. If this is your first time completing the DART, you'll likely receive some feedback highlighting gaps or requesting additional information. Carefully review this feedback and promptly address any identified gaps or concerns. Demonstrating your commitment to addressing questions will help build trust and credibility with the MoD and prime contractors.

For those already familiar with the DART procedure, it is equally important to remember that cyber security is an ongoing process, and threats constantly evolve. Regularly review and update your policies, processes, and procedures to ensure they align with your DCCP security obligations. 

In conclusion, navigating the DART questionnaire and becoming a successful supplier in the defence sector requires, like most things, diligent preparation and a strong understanding of your SME's Cyber Risk Profile. By thoroughly familiarising yourself with the DART process, implementing the necessary security controls, and maintaining open communication with the MoD and prime contractors, you can establish your SME as a reliable and secure partner in the defence supply chain.

At Naq, we understand the challenges SMEs face when looking to become MoD suppliers, and we're here to help. From the DCCP cyber security controls required from your business to completing DART questionnaires, our platform automates everything your SME needs to begin working with the MoD and its prime contractors.

Naq delivers real-time support from our due diligence and cyber security experts, ensuring you meet supplier requirements, even when things can't be automated. Click here to learn more.