What is Essential 8?

In an attempt to bolster the cyber resiliency of organisations across Australia, the Australian government have provided organisations with the Essential Eight cyber security framework. Given the dramatic increase in cyber crime over recent years, it is unsurprising that the Australian Government felt they needed take action to ensure the security of Australian organisations.

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The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) created the Essential Eight to keep organisations safe, fortify defences amid rising cyber threats and bolster business’ security throughout Australia. The Essential Eight centred around eight crucial mitigation strategies.

Application Control

Application Control gives you the ability to block all applications (including ransomware) from running on any device, by default. Then, only allow the apps you need.

Patch Applications

Patch applications covers vulnerability scans to identify missing patches and security updates, as well as the installation of patches within specified time frames, and the removal of applications that are no longer supported by vendors.

Patch Operating Systems

Patch operating systems means frequently checking for patch updates, then analysing data to check how vulnerable your systems are. It is essential to test new patches before installing, to ensure they are both required and safe.

Microsoft Office Macro Settings Configuration

The framework contains a series of measures that companies can take to mitigate and prevent dangerous macros that could be used against your organisation in a malicious cyber attack.

User Application Hardening

User application hardening is intended to secure applications that frequently interact with the web (such as web browsers, Microsoft Office and PDF software). This relies on hardening configurations, such as blocking ads, specific sites and more.

Restrict Administrative Privileges

Restricting access to certain applications, files and data to fortify your organisation’s defences. With greater control over access, you can rest assured that your sensitive data is only accessible by those who need to.

Multi-factor Authentication

MFA improves security by mandating a second (or even third) identifier – in addition to a password – before access to an application or service is granted.

Regular Backups

The Essential 8 mandates ‘Regular Backups’ for important data, software and configuration settings. It also captures requirements for access to, modification and deletion of backups.

essential 8

As well as these eight mitigation strategies, The Essential 8 framework is defined by four maturity levels – which help organisations gauge where they are within the framework.

What is Essential 8 Maturity Model?

To assist organisations with their implementation of the Essential Eight, four Maturity Levels have been defined (Maturity Level Zero through to Maturity Level Three).

Each Maturity Level builds on the last, and – with the exception of Maturity Level Zero – the Maturity Levels are based on mitigating increasing levels of adversary tradecraft (i.e. tools, tactics, techniques and procedures) and targeting.

In order to achieve a Maturity Level for a given mitigation strategy, your organisation must meet a set of specified criteria. These criteria are known as “Security Controls” and are set out by the Information Security Manual (ISM).

However, as prescriptive as the Maturity Levels are, their attainment is a commercial decision that must be made by business leaders in each organisation – one where the cost to attain a Maturity Level is balanced against numerous risk factors (such as probability, and the cost of losses). The four Maturity Levels are:

Maturity Level Zero

Maturity Level Zero signals that the organisation’s overarching cyber security posture is weak. This means that, if infiltrated, sensitive data, business systems and files could be at significant risk and the business is exposed to data breaches or exploitation of information.

Maturity Level One

This level signifies weaknesses within a security system. Malicious adversaries will often target organisations, or systems, in general, rather than identifying specific victims. Adversaries use techniques to deceive users into weakening their security systems, which leaves them vulnerable to an attack. This Maturity Level suggests that an organisation is susceptible to threats, even if they are not specifically targeted as an organisation.

Maturity Level Two

Maturity Level Two means businesses are protected against more mature adversaries, who are more selective in their targeting and willing to invest more time and resources into their attack methods.

Maturity Level Three

Maturity Level Three signifies businesses are protected against adversaries using highly sophisticated and tailored tradecraft, specific to particular targets.

Why does your business need the Essential 8?

In order to protect Australian businesses, the Australian Government have recommended that all organisations, regardless of location of size, adhere to the Essential 8 framework. This is not simply a precautionary measure, but as the benefits are aplenty and so wide-reaching, it is recommended you do so. Some of the key benefits for your organisation are:

  • Protect against common cyber attacks
  • Minimise the impact of security incidents
  • Framework to measure security risks
  • Sound guidance to implement highly effective, yet cost effective security measures 

Partner with Tekspace, your trusted cyber security experts

With over 16 years of experience providing our customers with managed security services and boasting teams of cyber security experts, Tekspace is the ideal partner for your business. We can help you achieve the highest Essential 8 maturity level and reinforce your business with the protective posture it needs.

Get in touch with the experts today to book an Essential 8 Assessment and begin reviewing your security posture, today.

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