Essential Eight

The Essential Eight: A Comprehensive Cybersecurity Framework for Australian Businesses

The digital landscape has become a bit of a cyber jungle for businesses, with hazards around every turn! No matter how big your organisation is, protecting sensitive data, applications, and systems from cyber threats is paramount to your longevity and success. This is obviously something that’s extremely important to the Australian Cybersecurity Centre (ACSC), which is the Australian Government’s leading cybersecurity agency.

The ACSC has put together a set of eight essential mitigation strategies, aptly named “The Essential Eight,” to help protect Microsoft Windows-based internet-connected networks. Today we want to delve into the Essential Eight strategies, explore their implementation, and highlight the significance of aligning your business with this framework. 

Understanding the Essential Eight 

The Essential Eight comprises eight fundamental security strategies that aim to prevent, limit the impact of, and recover from cyber-attacks. The Australian government recommends these strategies as the baseline cybersecurity controls for all businesses operating within the country. The eight mitigation strategies are:

  • application control
  • patch applications
  • configure Microsoft Office macro settings
  • user application hardening
  • restrict administrative privileges
  • patch operating systems
  • multi-factor authentication
  • regular backups.

The selection and implementation of these strategies depend on an organization’s maturity level, which is determined by its risk exposure and associated threats. Your maturity level indicates where your business currently stands and sets the stage for where you aspire to be. 

Application Whitelisting as an Example

To illustrate the concept of maturity levels, let’s take a closer look at one of the Essential Eight strategies: application whitelisting. At maturity level zero, this strategy is not implemented at all. Maturity level one signifies partial alignment, while level two indicates a mostly aligned implementation. Maturity level three represents full alignment, while level four caters to high-risk environments.

The Journey to Alignment

The below video, made by Smile IT, is an introduction to the Essential Eight and what it means for your business. 

Imagine your organization currently has none of the Essential Eight strategies in place and is looking to achieve Level 1 maturity. In this scenario, you’re yet to embark on your alignment journey, making your organization 0% aligned with Level 1 of the Essential Eight framework.

However, by configuring a remote monitoring and management tool alongside patching software, you can achieve roughly 12% alignment.

For users on the Microsoft platform, incorporating Microsoft premium licensing has the most significant impact, propelling your alignment to approximately 70%.

Further enhancements include implementing application whitelisting (approx. 73% alignment) and asset discovery tools (approx. 79% alignment).

Finally, configuring privileged access controls and establishing a backup management and testing regime ensures complete alignment with the Essential Eight framework. You’re 100% there.

Navigating the Maturity Model

We understand that the process of navigating the maturity model can be challenging. With the multitude of cybersecurity solutions flooding the market, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify the resources that suit your organization’s unique needs. That’s where Smile IT steps in. To assist you, we have compiled a list of applications and policies that can aid your alignment with the Essential Eight framework and help protect your organisation.

Beyond the Essential Eight

While aligning with the Essential Eight framework provides baseline cyber protection, it’s crucial to acknowledge that it is not the sole solution to cybersecurity challenges. At Smile IT, we recognize the need for a multi-layered security approach in today’s cyber landscape. Hence, we collaborate closely with our clients to incorporate additional security applications and policies. These include endpoint protection, email protection, firewall installation and configuration, and phishing training and simulation—enabling organizations to safeguard their digital assets comprehensively.

Smile IT: Your Cybersecurity Partner

Our goal at Smile IT is to support all our clients in achieving alignment with the Essential Eight framework within the next two years. To facilitate this journey, we have developed a custom in-house software platform called “Odzi.” Odzi ensures seamless compliance with any security strategy and instantly identifies and demonstrates your security posture’s status with a simple click. We’d love to demonstrate Odzi to you and show how it can help improve your cybersecurity.

To assess your current implementation and maturity level using our cybersecurity strategies assessment tool, get in touch with our team of cybersecurity experts here.

peter drummond

When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!