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Scytale essential 8
Wesley Van Zyl

Senior Compliance Success Manager

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Essential 8 Framework: Everything You Need to Know

Summary: The Essential 8 Framework forms the baseline of cyber threat protection recommended by the Australian Signals Directorate.

Anything with the word ‘essential’ in it grabs our attention. So, we decided to look closer at Essential 8 – Australia’s highly-recognized cybersecurity framework. Now, although the world of cybersecurity doesn’t seem as thrilling as the Marvel universe, The Essential Eight framework has some action-packed (cyber) powers of its own – here’s a look into the framework and why it’s (you guessed it) essential. 

What is the Essential Eight Framework? 

The Essential 8 Framework is developed and maintained by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC). It forms the baseline of cyber threat protection recommended by the Australian Signals Directorate. It’s cybersecurity 101; however, in a landscape known for its rising complexity, understanding and implementing the basics is critical before moving on to the next step. 

In brief, the framework sets out eight strategies divided into three primary objectives – prevent attacks, limit attack impact, and ensure data availability. So, what does it have to do with your business? Here’s the low down. 

The Role of the Essential Eight Framework in Cybersecurity

The primary goal of the Essential Eight framework is to help mitigate cybersecurity incidents by strengthening and hardening systems against threats, limiting the damage caused by potential attacks, and making it easier to recover from attacks should they otherwise impact an organization. It includes eight core strategies to cover all the vital areas of concern that most businesses in Australia face regarding cybersecurity. 

Why is Essential Eight Important?

Considering today’s IT landscape, it’s no longer a case of ‘if’ you’ll face a cyber attack, but rather ‘when.’ Cyber attackers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to hack into systems and infiltrate off-limit spaces. However, organizations with a strong security posture have a better chance of fighting off the enemy, and the Essential Eight framework is the initial boot camp or basic training needed to survive. 

First, organizations must set a baseline foundation and understand what they’re up against (and how to keep them at bay). Some of the most significant power moves the Essential Eight framework brings to the fight include: 

  • Creating a solid foundation for kickstarting your cybersecurity posture.
  • Providing organizations with a thorough and clear understanding of their current defense posture. 
  • It covers a standard scope of mitigation strategies.
  • It creates a healthy culture around security awareness.
  • It establishes a strong baseline for compliance with additional industry standards such as ISO 27001, SOC 2, and PCI DSS.

The Essential Eight Strategies

The Essential Eight framework includes eight vital strategies that target all the significant areas of concern for many organizations regarding cybersecurity. 

These include: 

Application Control

An organization’s ability to maintain and manage control over applications to prevent unauthorized access from malicious actors or code. 

Patch Applications

Consistent and frequent implementation of new patches and vulnerability scans to highlight and remediate application vulnerabilities. 

Configure Microsoft Office Macro Settings

Restricting and disabling macro settings to users that do not require it, limiting access for unvetted macros.

User Application Hardening

Limiting or blocking user applications accessing and interacting with web content, such as blocking web browser ads, flash, and javascript. 

Restrict Administrative Privileges

Frequently evaluate privileged access while restricting administrative privileges to a select few. 

Patch Operating Systems

Regularly implement newly released patches to prevent the use of unsupported versions. Flag and mitigate “extreme risk” vulnerabilities within 48 hours of discovery.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Implement MFA methods to improve and enhance security measures. This can include anything from PINs or OTPs to biometrics or codes on authenticator apps or emails.

Regular Backups

Regular backups (offline and online) to ensure that the data is always secured and accessible, even in the event of a cyber attack. 

The Essential 8 Maturity Model

When complying with the Essential Eight framework, the maturity model plays a significant role in determining an organization’s approach. The Maturity Model includes four overarching maturity levels. Organizations must decide on a target maturity level and implement the eight strategies accordingly. These four levels are ranked based on mitigating increasing levels of adversary tradecraft and targeting. 

Maturity Level 0

This maturity level signifies that there are weaknesses in an organization’s overall cyber security posture. When exploited, these weaknesses could facilitate the compromise of the confidentiality of their data, or the integrity or availability of their systems and data.

Maturity Level 1

The focus of this maturity level is malicious actors who are content to simply leverage commodity tradecraft that is widely available in order to gain access to, and likely control of, systems.

Maturity Level 2

The focus of this maturity level is malicious actors operating with a modest step-up in capability from the previous maturity level. These malicious actors are willing to invest more time in a target and, perhaps more importantly, in the effectiveness of their tools.

Maturity Level 3

The focus of this maturity level is malicious actors who are more adaptive and much less reliant on public tools and techniques. These malicious actors are able to exploit the opportunities provided by weaknesses in their target’s cyber security posture. Malicious actors do this to not only extend their access once initial access has been gained to a target, but to evade detection and solidify their presence. Malicious actors make swift use of exploits when they become publicly available as well as other tradecraft that can improve their chance of success.

Choosing the Suitable Maturity Model for Your Business

Keeping this in mind, when assessing which maturity level applies to your organization, it’s critical to keep the right balance between adequate security, staff capabilities, and budgets in mind. Generally speaking, ML three is best recommended for enterprises looking for the highest and most protected security posture and is critical to safeguarding sensitive information within government agencies. After that, depending on the target maturity level, the ASD has determined set requirements for each maturity level

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At Scytale, we understand the importance of getting compliant and staying compliant. Tag our team into your corner and ensure Essential 8 compliance up to 90% faster so you can focus on scaling your business without increasing your risk exposure.