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Understanding and implementing the Essential 8 maturity model

Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving field. In order to keep pace with the threats your growing business will face, your preemptive security plan should scale up as well. The Essential 8 maturity model, or ACSC Essential 8, stipulates eight threat mitigation strategies that can be implemented and advanced to keep your organisation's internet-facing security progressive.

The Essential 8 maturity model establishes a method of assessing and improving:

  • Application whitelisting
  • Patching Applications
  • Patching operating systems
  • Controlling administrative privileges
  • Restricting remote access technologies
  • Multifactor authentication
  • Daily backups
  • Configuration

This article will examine what the Essential 8 maturity model is, the different security requirements that define all 3 levels of maturity, and how Canon Business Services ANZ is able to work with your organisation to deliver a unique cyber security solution that is tailored to fit your business goals.

Essential 8 maturity model levels

The Essential 8 maturity model works on a scale of level one through level three. Each of these levels corresponds to a degree of security against increasingly complicated breach attempts. Working with each of the maturity levels requires assessing your current security protocols and improving security against different levels of threats that may present depending on your organisation's level of attraction to threat actors.

Maturity level one

Maturity level one refers to your response to opportunistic or indiscriminate cyberattacks. These would include brute force attacks or using stolen, guessed, or reused credentials to exploit a vulnerable internet-facing system.

These attacks focus on taking advantage of common weaknesses in organisations security systems and often use their exploited credentials to compromise user accounts or gain access and misuse systems data.

If you have little to no cybersecurity protections in place, most small businesses will be significantly more protected by reaching maturity level one.

Maturity level two

Threat actors who have access to more advanced techniques than those used in maturity-level one attacks require a more specific defence. These more targeted threats may possess the ability to invest time and resources into targeting a specific organisation, and will not only seek out opportunities to gain access to data but also actively work to circumvent or overpower multi-step authentication measures.

If your company has revenue or scale that makes its data appear attractive and lucrative to specific types of cybercriminals, level two maturity will enact measures that offer serious mitigation opportunities against targeted attacks.

Maturity level three

Threats associated with maturity level three will likely not be solely reliant on basic breach or attack methods, but will also have access to focused tools that will allow them to exploit higher security aspects of your organisation. Threats that present at this level will likely work hard to stay undetected and may continue to access higher-level data in an attempt to escalate their attack.

Any organisation interested in complete security for sensitive or valuable data should look into ways to comply with as many features as possible of maturity level three.

Organisations must continually assess and improve their maturity levels. The precautions you enacted to meet maturity level three this year may only provide adequate protection against level 1 threats the next.

Assessing your business' maturity level

While there is no one size fits all method of performing a complete assessment of your organisation's maturity level, speaking with an expert business support team such as the Canon Business Service ANZ can help you evaluate your company's current maturity level and identify the areas where you can and should improve.

This initial step of investing time in understanding your current maturity level and your goal level is not to be overlooked. For most businesses, it is not cost-effective to try to eliminate every potential risk of breach, nor is it absolutely necessary for a company to comply with every aspect of level three maturity in order to have optimal protection against the most likely threats to your organisation. How, then, can you ensure you are not leaving yourself vulnerable while making the right choices in risk mitigation using the ACSC Essential 8?

Criteria for evaluating maturity levels

The criteria for evaluating maturity levels rests in the ACSC's jurisdiction. A complete guide can be found here. The criteria can be summed up in understanding the 8 Essential maturity model's foundation strategies and how they relate to the different levels of cyber threats.

Common challenges in achieving higher levels of maturity

As you move toward level two and level three maturity guidelines, you may face the challenge of prioritising which aspects of compliance are most vital and cost-effective for your organisation. New and emerging cyber threats can make it difficult to maintain protection on data you had previously considered secure. Keeping your maturity at scale with your organisation's growth can also present a challenge.

CBS E8 Assessment

Use a risk profile assessment to understand your organisation's most likely sources of breach, and to understand your greatest vulnerabilities. Consider how much of your data could be classified as sensitive to have a better understanding of a threat agent's potential interest in your data. Complete an entire structured audit of your threat environment and current compliance level with the Essential 8 maturity model.

The most accurate and effective way to know and optimise your organisation's cybersecurity is to use Canon Business Services ANZ's ACSC Essential 8 Assessment. This comprehensive and in-depth look into your organisation's security posture can help you make the crucial decisions necessary for a secure data platform.

Essential 8 cheat sheet

The key benefits of a risk based approached approach to cyber security


How to improve your businesses' E8 maturity level

As already alluded to, using a standardised checklist for every possible cybersecurity precaution available will be too expensive to maintain and not a well-suited option for most organisation's security protocols. Working with a trusted authority such as CBS ANZ in the cybersecurity maturity business will allow you to follow these best practices when creating your appropriate level maturity plan.

Your organisation's risk can be evaluated and then recommendations will be offered on where you should comply with the demands of higher-level maturity, and where you may be able to reasonably accept a degree of risk if your company has a low level of risk to begin with, or simply needs to prioritise greater risk threats first.

How will a professional team determine your organisation's risk assessment in order to help you comply with the necessary ACSC essential 8? By following this model:

Prioritise based on organisational needs

Your organisation's needs, as identified during your assessment and security audit process, should be the baseline when deciding which cybersecurity priorities to pursue first.

Identify quick wins

Perhaps because of existing cybersecurity measures, you may be able to move into compliance with certain aspects of the Essential 8 maturity model with very little extra expense or effort. Identifying and quickly implementing these "quick win" security measures can help you move in the right direction quickly.

Create a long-term action plan

Some aspects of your cybersecurity maturity will take time to implement fully, but progress should be constant. Establish a long-term action plan that accommodates your current needs, future available security budget, and the to-scale organisational needs that you anticipate. Use your plan to continue to keep pace with cyber threats.

Take a lifecycle approach to Cyber Security

After implementing your plan, it is critical to your business that you regularly check in on your maturity level progress. Whatever the maturity level you have determined to be the best for your business, measuring your progress will be ongoing, as maintaining that level will require continuous upkeep.

Cyber threats are ever evolving in sophistication, speed and volume and reaching an organisational maturity level of 1,2, or 3 in the previous year is no guarantee that you will stay there. Businesses need to be conducting regular 6 and 12 month cyber security assessments to ensure that your security posture is staying ahead of new threats and addressing any new vulnerabilities that may have appeared in your environment.

Finding a balance between the technologies you invest in to boost your cybersecurity and the steps you can reasonably implement on your established timeline can be challenging. Continue working with your cybersecurity partner such as CBS to maximise your efforts.

Benefits of achieving high maturity levels

Although reaching the highest maturity level may not be necessary for every business to provide adequate protection from cyberattacks and breach, there are clear incentives to achieving high maturity levels in the Essential 8 framework. Using a risk-based approach to prioritising your security upgrades while working to achieve the highest reasonable maturity level for your business can provide the following benefits:

Improved security posture

The security offered by the Essential 8 maturity model creates an environment that mitigates your organisation's risk of breach significantly. This can help you avoid costly breach repair measures and the potential loss of confidence from your customers that could result from low or ineffective security measures. This lower risk will improve your security posture, making your business more competitive and trustworthy.

Enhanced regulatory compliance

The ACSC established the Essential 8 because they recognised the value in mandating and organising security measures to mitigate risk. The better your organisation complies with these regulations, the greater your opportunity to work with higher-profile clients that require protection for their sensitive data.

Reduction in cybersecurity incidents

As your greater security level will mitigate your risk of both random and targeted attacks having success, your organisation will see an overall reduction in cybersecurity incidents. This builds confidence in your brand and in your organisation's interior structures, and allows your business to focus more time, energy, and assets toward building a better product or service, instead of chasing down the negative effects of a breach.

Better business resilience

As your business continues to evolve its response and proactive defence against cyberattacks, your organisation's maturity level will build lasting systems that provide a backbone that promotes organisational resilience. As the cybersecurity world changes and threats become more targeted and advanced, your compliance with the priorities of the Essential 8 maturity model will allow you to quickly improve to respond to more advanced needs.

Let your business achieve Essential 8 maturity for a secure and resilient future

The ACSC Essential 8 maturity model provides scalable strategies that can help protect organisations of all sizes from the cyber threats that are of the highest concern. Canon Business Services ANZ provides an excellent partner in understanding and complying with the security protocols that can help elevate your organisation's maturity level to the degree necessary to provide adequate and effective protection of your business.

Speak with an expert today, and learn more about bringing your organisation's security into compliance with the ACSC Essential 8 maturity model.

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