You may have heard your managed IT service provider mention the term ‘Essential Eight’ but what exactly is it? Is it important? The short answer is yes!

By the end of this article, you should have a much better idea of what the Essential 8 is, why it’s important and how it does affect your business.

We cover:

Essential 8 Overview

In 2017, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ASCS) created a risk management framework (Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Security Incident). The framework is regularly updated to ensure businesses are provided with high-level effective mitigation strategies for identifying, protecting, detecting, responding, and recovering from cyber-attacks.

This blueprint of strategies led to the birth of the Essential Eight Maturity Model.

Here you’ll find best practices for every business to implement to reduce the risks of data breaches and protect their business, employees, and clients.

The Essential Eight consists of – you guessed it – 8 recommendations that are broken down into four “Maturity Levels”, or tiers, ranging from 0-to 3. The model assesses all eight of your security strategies and places each one in a tier, showing you how secure your business is in each area.

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Let’s talk about the Maturity Levels…

Maturity Level 0: Extreme Risk

This is the default status that every business starts with. It basically means you don’t meet the Essential 8 recommendations and have very limited or disjointed security measures in place and your cyber security stance is at its weakest.

If you are missing any of the 8 recommendations, you should probably drop whatever it is you’re doing and work to resolve the issue (…or just contact us).

Maturity Level 0 businesses are not aligned with a strong cyber security strategy and are the first to become exploited by cybercriminals.

Maturity Level 1: Meeting the 8 Recommendations

The first real stage is preparing your business while you’re still ahead. Often businesses assume their business is “safe enough”, and then soon discover that they’ve just become a cyber-attack victim. Don’t be this person.

To obtain Maturity Level 1 you need to have all of the 8 recommendations in place at their most basic maturity level. By doing this you are reducing the risk of an opportunistic attack and improving your overall cyber security stance.

Maturity Level 2: Investing time & resources

The second stage is when a business is aligned with all of the 8 recommendations as well as a modest step up in capability from the previous level across the board.

The intent of a risk reduction strategy is that they’re still doing everything that it can to limit the severity of a potential attack.

All components in this tier are aligned with a stronger cyber security strategy.

Maturity Level 3: Aligning All Strategies

The third maturity level is for businesses that are fully aligned with the intent of their mitigation strategy. 

They have the ability to protect, detect, recover, and minimise their cyber security risk by undertaking all recommendations across the maturity 3 levels and fully understanding their cyber security posture.

Now let’s discuss the 8 core recommendations that help make up your cyber security!

8 Core Recommendations

Application Control

This is a security approach where you decide which applications can run on particular system devices. This prevents applications from executing any action without the owner’s consent.

Patch Applications

Patching applications ensures your applications are up to date, essentially blocking and destroying one of the paths that cybercriminals take to hacking into your systems.

Configure Microsoft Office Macros

Microsoft files can contain macros or a series of specific instructions for your apps to follow. If an employee opens or runs a file with this hidden script, your whole network can quickly become compromised. This best practice blocks untrusted macros.

User Application Hardening

Adding additional layers of security to your apps protects them from potential attack vectors.

Restrict Administrative Privileges

Remember to consistently review who has access to what programs and systems help prevent your business from getting into the wrong hands. Why give access to 100% of employees when 95% or more don’t require this level of access to carry out their work?

Patch Operating Systems

Make sure your operating systems are up to date and supported with the latest available version, otherwise you’ll be working on software that’s easier for hackers to target and exploit at a core level.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Although it is an extra step to sign in, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is one of the most effective levels of protection and reduces the risk of your data getting into the wrong hands.

Performing Daily Backups

Backing up your data regularly is critical for protecting your business and everything that you’ve worked for. If you did undergo a cyber security attack, you’d be able to quickly recover your data and minimise disruptions.

So Why Is it Important to Your Business?

Unfortunately, cyber-attacks have shown no signs of slowing down. Instead, cybercriminals have found extremely innovative ways to crack a system and infect a whole organisation, where a cyberattack is reported every 8 minutes in Australia. The ACSC calls it ‘Essential’ for good reason.

It’s understandable that you want to do everything in your power to protect your business. You’ve worked hard to build what you have, so as a bare minimum, you should be implementing these best practices into your business and work to get these recommendations as close to the third level as possible. Implementing preventative measures is key to strengthening your business’s cyber security posture.

We have put together the below tables with details around the required recommendations:

Essential 8 Maturity Level Zero – You are at level 0 if you don’t currently meet all of the Essential 8 recommendations.

Essential 8 Maturity Level One – You are at maturity level 1 if meet all of the recommended Essential 8 strategies listed in this table.

Essential 8 Maturity Level Two – You are at maturity level 2 if meet all of the recommended Essential 8 strategies listed in this table along with the modest step-up in capability listed in each recommendation.

Essential 8 Maturity Level Three – You are at maturity level 3 if meet all of the recommended 8 strategies listed in this table along with all of the processes, controls and strategies outlined.

Over To You!

By now we hope you have a better understanding of what the ‘Essential 8’ is. ACSCs Eight is a great resource that can help educate businesses on how to protect themselves before disaster strikes.

At Future IT Services, we understand that it can be tricky to understand where to start to better protect your business. That’s why we create people-driven solutions tailored to your real business challenges and incorporate the Essential 8 methodology. Contact us today to talk to one of our friendly team members to know how to empower, connect and protect you and your business.

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