CIS Critical Security Controls

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) Critical Security Controls, formerly known as the SANS Top 20 Critical Security Controls, is a set of prioritized cybersecurity best practices designed to safeguard organizations against the most prevalent and damaging cyber threats. Developed by a community of cybersecurity experts and practitioners, the CIS controls provide a comprehensive framework for enhancing cybersecurity resilience and mitigating the risks posed by sophisticated cyber adversaries. In this article, we will explore the significance of the CIS Critical Security Controls, their key components, implementation benefits, and their role in establishing a robust cybersecurity posture.

Understanding the CIS Critical Security Controls

The CIS Critical Security Controls version 8 are a prioritized list of 20 essential security measures that organizations can implement to protect their systems and data from cyber threats. These controls are based on real-world attack data, expert insights, and the collective experiences of cybersecurity professionals across various industries.

The controls cover a wide range of security areas, including network security, access controls, data protection, incident response, and continuous monitoring. By following the CIS Critical Security Controls, organizations can build a solid foundation for effective cybersecurity risk management and response.


Key Components of the CIS Critical Security Controls

Control 1: Inventory and Control of Hardware Assets

Organizations should maintain an up-to-date inventory of all hardware assets and control their use to prevent unauthorized access.

Control 2: Inventory and Control of Software Assets

A comprehensive inventory of software assets should be maintained, and only authorized software should be installed and executed.

Control 3: Continuous Vulnerability Management

Regularly scan and assess systems for vulnerabilities, apply security patches promptly, and prioritize the most critical updates.

Control 4: Secure Configuration for Hardware and Software

Implement secure configurations for all hardware devices, operating systems, and software applications to minimize potential attack surfaces.

Control 5: Controlled Use of Administrative Privileges

Limit administrative access to authorized personnel and monitor privileged account usage closely.

Control 6: Maintenance, Monitoring, and Analysis of Audit Logs

Enable logging and monitoring of critical systems and analyze audit logs to detect and respond to potential security incidents.

Control 7: Email and Web Browser Protections

Employ security measures to protect against phishing attacks, malware, and malicious web content.

Control 8: Malware Defenses

Use antivirus and anti-malware solutions to detect and mitigate malware threats.

Control 9: Limitation and Control of Network Ports, Protocols, and Services

Restrict unnecessary network ports, protocols, and services to reduce the attack surface.

Control 10: Data Recovery Capabilities

Implement data backup and recovery processes to ensure business continuity in the event of a data breach or system failure.

Control 11: Secure Configuration for Network Devices, such as Firewalls, Routers, and Switches

Apply secure configurations to network devices to prevent unauthorized access and potential exploits.

Control 12: Boundary Defense

Deploy perimeter security controls to detect and block external threats from entering the network.

Control 13: Data Protection

Encrypt sensitive data to protect it from unauthorized access and exposure.

Control 14: Controlled Access Based on the Need to Know

Limit user access to data and systems to only what is necessary for their job responsibilities.

Control 15: Wireless Access Control

Secure wireless networks with strong authentication and encryption mechanisms.

Control 16: Account Monitoring and Control

Continuously monitor user accounts for suspicious activity and promptly respond to potential breaches.

Control 17: Security Awareness and Training

Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices and potential threats.

Control 18: Application Software Security

Implement secure coding practices to minimize the risk of software vulnerabilities.

Control 19: Incident Response and Management

Establish an incident response plan to effectively respond to security incidents and minimize the impact.

Control 20: Penetration Tests and Red Team Exercises

Conduct regular penetration tests and red team exercises to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in cybersecurity defenses.

Benefits of Implementing the CIS Critical Security Controls

The CIS Critical Security Controls offer several significant benefits to organizations seeking to enhance their cybersecurity resilience:

Prioritized Approach: The CIS Critical Security Controls provide a prioritized approach to cybersecurity, helping organizations focus on the most impactful security measures first.

Industry Best Practices: The controls are based on industry best practices and real-world attack data, ensuring that organizations implement effective security measures.

Comprehensive Coverage: The controls cover a wide range of security areas, ensuring that organizations address multiple attack vectors and potential vulnerabilities.

Improved Security Posture: Implementing the CIS Critical Security Controls strengthens an organization’s overall security posture, reducing the risk of successful cyberattacks.

Enhanced Incident Response: The controls include measures for incident response and management, enabling organizations to detect and respond promptly to security incidents.

Continuous Improvement: The controls promote a continuous improvement mindset by encouraging organizations to regularly assess and enhance their cybersecurity defenses.

Regulatory Compliance: Adhering to the CIS Critical Security Controls can help organizations meet various regulatory and compliance requirements.

Implementing the CIS Critical Security Controls:

Implementing the CIS Critical Security Controls involves a comprehensive and collaborative effort within an organization. One key step in the implementation process includes conducting an initial assessment to identify the organization’s current security posture and determine which controls are already in place. Another important step is identifying gaps between the current security measures and the CIS Critical Security Controls, prioritizing areas that require immediate attention. Companies must also develop a detailed implementation plan that includes timelines, resource allocation, and responsibilities. It is important to implement the controls according to the established plan, addressing high-priority gaps first.

Afterwards, companies must continuously monitor the effectiveness of implemented controls and conduct regular reviews to ensure ongoing compliance and improvement. 

The CIS Critical Security Controls serve as a valuable framework for organizations to prioritize and implement essential cybersecurity best practices. By following these controls, organizations can significantly enhance their cybersecurity resilience, mitigate risks, and respond effectively to potential threats. The CIS Critical Security Controls are a proven and comprehensive approach to building a robust cybersecurity posture and defending against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. Organizations that implement these controls and pass the CIS controls audit, demonstrate a commitment to cybersecurity excellence and can better protect their systems, data, and reputation from the damaging effects of cyber incidents.