Picture this: a fortress equipped with impenetrable walls, a vigilant army, and advanced defense mechanisms. That’s the vision the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Controls Framework paints for organizations seeking to ward off cyber threats. This robust framework serves as the blueprint for constructing a formidable cyber fortress, complete with a strategic layout of security controls and an adaptable approach. So, buckle up and embark on a journey through the CIS Controls Framework—the gateway to a secure and resilient digital domain.
CIS Controls Framework: A Comprehensive Approach
- The CIS Controls Framework is a comprehensive set of standards and best practices designed to safeguard against cyber threats. It offers a prioritized and flexible approach to cybersecurity.
Key Components of the CIS Controls Framework
The CIS Controls Framework consists of three primary components:
- CIS Controls
- Implementation Groups
Let’s take a deeper look.
There are 18 foundational CIS controls (v8):
- Inventory and Control of Hardware Assets: Maintain an inventory of all hardware assets, including their location, configuration, and ownership
- Inventory and Control of Software Assets: Maintain an inventory of all software assets, including their version, license status, and patch level
- Data Protection: Protect sensitive data at rest, in transit, and in use
- Secure Configuration of Enterprise Assets and Software: Securely configure all enterprise assets and software to reduce the risk of exploitation
- Account Management: Implement strong account management practices to reduce the risk of unauthorized access
- Access Control Management: Establish access control policies and procedures to limit authorized access to sensitive data and systems.
- Data Protection: Protect sensitive data at rest, in transit, and in use
- Continuous Vulnerability Management: Implement a continuous vulnerability management program to identify and remediate vulnerabilities in a timely manner
- Audit Log Management: Implement an audit log management program to collect, store, and analyze audit logs to detect and investigate security incidents
- Email and Web Browser Protections: Implement email and web browser protections to reduce the risk of malware and phishing attacks
- Malware Defenses: Implement malware defenses to detect and remove malware from enterprise assets
- Data Recovery Capabilities: Implement data recovery capabilities to restore data that has been lost or corrupted
- Limitation and Control of Network Ports, Protocols, and Services: Limit and control the use of network ports, protocols, and services to reduce the attack surface
- Network Monitoring and Defense: Implement network monitoring and defense to detect and respond to network-based attacks
- Wireless Network Protection: Implement wireless network protection to secure wireless networks from unauthorized access
- Endpoint Security: Implement endpoint security to protect endpoints from malware and other attacks
- Application Security: Implement application security to protect applications from attack
- Incident Response Planning: Implement incident response planning to prepare for and respond to security incidents
- Security Awareness Training: Implement security awareness training to educate employees on security best practices
Together, these CIS security controls enable a strong cybersecurity and risk management foundation, significantly mitigating cyber attacks and risks. The controls cover a wide range of security areas, including asset management, secure configurations, continuous monitoring, and incident response.
The 18 critical security controls are categorized into three implementation groups.
The three CIS framework implementation groups for the controls above are:
- Basic (Implementation Group 1): Focuses on essential cyber hygiene practices to establish a solid foundation of security controls.
- Foundational (Implementation Group 2): Builds upon the Basic controls and introduces additional measures to enhance cybersecurity capabilities.
- Organizational (Implementation Group 3): Enhances advanced cybersecurity capabilities with a focus on comprehensive protection and proactive defense strategies.
These three groups help organizations prioritize their implementation efforts based on their current cybersecurity maturity level. Because security postures and standards vary from company to company, the CIS implementation groups are not overly prescriptive in terms of specific requirements or actions to be taken.
The implementation groups serve as a general guideline to help companies assess where they are in terms of maturity in addressing cyber attacks. Maturity depends on factors like adoptions and operationalization of sub-controls, well-defined policies and documentation, risk management practices, incident response capabilities, recovery time, internal training, and other tactics.
Each CIS Control consists of sub-controls that provide specific actions and measures for implementation. These sub-controls offer detailed guidance on achieving the desired security outcomes and strengthening an organization’s cybersecurity defenses. For example, Control 1: Inventory and Control of Hardware Assets has the following sub-controls:
1.1.1: Develop an inventory of all hardware assets.
1.1.2: Classify hardware assets by criticality.
1.1.3: Implement a process for tracking changes to hardware assets.
1.1.4: Implement a process for decommissioning hardware assets.
Sub-controls break down the broader controls into more granular and actionable steps, providing organizations with clear instructions on how to implement and operationalize the controls. They serve as a practical roadmap, offering organizations specific tasks and measures to follow in order to achieve compliance with the controls.
By utilizing sub-controls, organizations can navigate the implementation process more effectively, ensuring that they cover all necessary aspects of each control. Sub-controls help organizations to ensure consistency and completeness in their implementation efforts, making it easier to measure progress and assess the effectiveness of their cybersecurity measures.
It’s important to note that the specific sub-controls may vary based on the version of the CIS Controls Framework being used, as updates and refinements are periodically made to enhance the framework’s effectiveness and address emerging cybersecurity challenges. Organizations should refer to the official CIS Controls documentation to access the most up-to-date and relevant sub-controls for their implementation.
Benefits of CIS Controls Framework Adoption
Implementing the CIS Controls Framework offers several benefits to organizations:
- Risk Mitigation: The framework provides a systematic and proven approach to mitigate cyber risks. By implementing the prioritized controls, organizations can reduce vulnerabilities and minimize the impact of potential cyber incidents.
- Customizability and Scalability: The CIS Controls Framework is flexible and adaptable, enabling organizations to tailor its implementation to their specific needs and risk landscape. It accommodates organizations of all sizes and industries, allowing customization based on available resources and regulatory requirements.
- Continuous Improvement: The framework emphasizes ongoing monitoring, assessment, and improvement of cybersecurity practices. By regularly reviewing and updating the controls, organizations can maintain an agile and proactive cybersecurity posture.
- Alignment with Industry Standards: The CIS Controls Framework aligns with other recognized cybersecurity standards and frameworks, such as NIST CSF and ISO 27001. This alignment facilitates a comprehensive and integrated approach to cybersecurity, ensuring adherence to industry best practices.
CIS Controls Framework: Empowering Organizations
The CIS Controls Framework helps companies to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses against evolving cyber threats. Implementing the prioritized controls and adhering to industry best practices will only enhance security controls, improve incident response and recovery planning, and foster a culture of collaboration and cybersecurity awareness.
When adopting a security controls framework, companies end up:
- Implementing a comprehensive set of controls
- Identifying and mitigating cybersecurity risks
- Compliant with regulatory requirements
- Improving incident response and recovery times
- Strengthening existing security controls
- Increasing collaboration and communication
- Adopting continuous improvement
Such organizations ultimately become more mature and trustworthy.
Evolution of the CIS Controls Framework
Version 8 of the framework was released in May 2021. It follows version 7, which was released in October 2018. Some of the major changes with v8 include:
- Simplified structure with the three implementation groups
- Enhanced emphasis on foundational controls
- Inclusion of sub-controls and more detailed recommendations
- Taking a risk-based approach
- Updated language
- Improved alignment with other frameworks
There are no public plans for version 9 of the CIS Controls framework.
Get Started with the CIS Controls Framework
- Implementing 18 critical security controls and a variety of sub-controls is no easy task! Thankfully, there are compliance tools and software platforms like ComplianceCow that can help you understand where you are on the path to compliance. We can assess your alignment with a variety of security standards, tell you where you are out of or at risk of non-compliance, and it’s entirely automated.