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Essential Eight Compliance: What Is the Essential Eight?

The Essential Eight, a strategy recommended by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), provides a framework to mitigate cyber security incidents. This model acts as a benchmark for organizations to assess their security posture and implement improvements where necessary.

Essential Eight defined

The Essential Eight is a strategy consisting of eight mitigation strategies. Organizations can implement these strategies to counter the threats posed by cyber attacks. These are not random recommendations but carefully chosen strategies based on thorough research and understanding of the cyber threat landscape.

What are the Essential Eight?

1. Application whitelisting

A list of authorized applications permitted to run within an organization’s network is created in this strategy.

2. Patching applications

Vulnerabilities potentially exploitable by cybercriminals can be fixed through patch management and timely application updates.

3. Patching operating systems

Timely patching of operating systems, like applications, is required to fix any known vulnerabilities.

4. Daily backups

Regular backups of essential data can ensure data availability in case of any security incidents.

5. Restricting administrative privileges

Limiting administrative privileges to necessary users and tasks can significantly reduce the potential attack surface for cyber threat

6. Multi-factor authentication

Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), which requires more than one authentication method from independent categories of credentials, adds an extra layer of security. 

7. User application hardening

Application hardening involves implementing measures to reduce the attack surface of an application by disabling unnecessary features and configurations.

8. Configuring Microsoft Office macro settings

Restriction of macros from running in Office documents from the internet helps in mitigating potential cyber threats.

Is the Essential Eight mandatory?

As per the Australian Government’s mandate, all 98 non-corporate Commonwealth entities are required to implement the Essential Eight cyber security controls. While not universally mandatory for all organizations, there is strong encouragement for its adoption and implementation. 

Benefits of implementing the Essential Eight:

  • Improved security posture

Significant improvement in an organization’s security posture can be seen by mitigating the threat of many cyber-attacks through the Essential Eight.

  • Compliance with regulations

Compliance with various information security regulations can be achieved by implementing these strategies.

  • Reduced risk of data breaches

A significant reduction in the risk of data breaches, thereby protecting sensitive organizational data, can be achieved through the Essential Eight.

  • Cost savings

Preventing security incidents can save on costs associated with incident response and recovery.

Key challenges in adopting the Essential Eight

Adopting the Essential Eight comes with its own set of challenges despite offering numerous benefits. These include the need for technical expertise, resistance to change within the organization, and the requirement for regular updates and audits. However, these challenges can be overcome with a proactive approach and the right resources.

What is Essential Eight Maturity?

The Essential Eight Maturity Model acts as a benchmark for organizations to assess their security posture and implement improvements where necessary. Comprising three levels, the maturity model ranges from Maturity Level One, considered the lowest level, to Maturity Level Three, recognized as the highest level. Each level outlines the degree to which an organization has implemented the Essential Eight strategies.

  • Maturity Level One

Only partial implementation of the Essential Eight strategies exists

  • Maturity Level Two

Indicates full implementation of the Essential Eight strategies, but not in a robust or comprehensive manner. 

  • Maturity level Three

Signifies that an organization has fully implemented the Essential Eight strategies in a robust and comprehensive manner.

Essentially, the Essential Eight Maturity Model provides a roadmap for organizations to progressively and systematically enhance their cybersecurity measures.

How to comply with the Essential Eight?

Compliance with the Essential Eight requires continuous efforts and a proactive approach. While it may seem challenging initially, making it a key part of an organization’s compliance management and endpoint security improves the overall security and reduces the risk of cyber threats.

  • Develop an understanding

The importance of the Essential Eight and its role in cyber security must be understood by organization members.

  • Implement the strategies

These strategies must be implemented within the organization and may require technical expertise.

  • Regular audits

Regular audits should be conducted to ensure that the strategies are implemented correctly and functioning as intended.

  • Update and upgrade

Regular updates and upgrades are part of compliance as they ensure all applications and systems are free from known vulnerabilities.

  • Training and awareness

Training on the Essential Eight should be provided to employees, and awareness about their roles in ensuring compliance should be raised.

Conclusion

Understanding and implementing the Essential Eight can significantly enhance an organization’s cyber security posture. Despite the challenges, organizations can effectively mitigate cyber threats and protect their valuable data with a proper understanding of its importance and a commitment to continuous improvement. Easily improve your organization’s Essential Eight maturity level with NinjaOne.

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