The CIS Critical Security Controls

In recent years it has become obvious that in the world of information security, the offense is outperforming the defense. Even though budgets increase and management pays more attention to the risks of data loss and system penetration, data is still being lost and systems are still being penetrated. Over and over people are asking, “What can we practically do to protect our information?” The answer has come in the form of the information assurance controls known as the CIS Controls.

The CIS Critical Security Controls – Version 8.0:

  1. Inventory and Control of Enterprise Assets
  2. Inventory and Control of Software Assets
  3. Data Protection
  4. Secure Configuration of Enterprise Assets and Software
  5. Account Management
  6. Access Control Management
  7. Continuous Vulnerability Management
  8. Audit Log Management
  9. Email and Web Browser Protections
  10. Malware Defenses
  11. Data Recovery
  12. Network Infrastructure Management
  13. Network Monitoring and Defense
  14. Security Awareness and Skills Training
  15. Service Provider Management
  16. Application Software Security/li>
  17. Incident Response Management
  18. Penetration Testing

The CIS Critical Controls

The following descriptions of the CIS Critical Controls can be found at The Center for Internet Security’s Website:

Over the years, many security standards and requirements frameworks have been developed in attempts to address risks to enterprise systems and the critical data in them. However, most of these efforts have essentially become exercises in reporting on compliance and have actually diverted security program resources from the constantly evolving attacks that must be addressed. In 2008, this was recognized as a serious problem by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), and they began an effort that took an “offense must inform defense” approach to prioritizing a list of the controls that would have the greatest impact in improving risk posture against real-world threats. A consortium of U.S. and international agencies quickly grew, and was joined by experts from private industry and around the globe. Ultimately, recommendations for what became the Critical Security Controls (the Controls) were coordinated through the SANS Institute. In 2013, the stewardship and sustainment of the Controls was transferred to the Council on CyberSecurity (the Council), an independent, global non-profit entity committed to a secure and open Internet.

The Critical Security Controls focuses first on prioritizing security functions that are effective against the latest Advanced Targeted Threats, with a strong emphasis on “What Works” – security controls where products, processes, architectures and services are in use that have demonstrated real world effectiveness. Standardization and automation is another top priority, to gain operational efficiencies while also improving effectiveness. The actions defined by the Controls are demonstrably a subset of the comprehensive catalog defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) SP 800-53. The Controls do not attempt to replace the work of NIST, including the Cybersecurity Framework developed in response to Executive Order 13636. The Controls instead prioritize and focus on a smaller number of actionable controls with high-payoff, aiming for a “must do first” philosophy. Since the Controls were derived from the most common attack patterns and were vetted across a very broad community of government and industry, with very strong consensus on the resulting set of controls, they serve as the basis for immediate high-value action.

Recommended References

AuditScripts Critical Security Control Executive Assessment Tool
CIS Critical Security Control v8.0 Assessment Tool
CIS Critical Security Control v7.1 Assessment Tool
CIS Controls - Safeguards Removed from v8
AuditScripts Critical Security Controls Master Mapping
CSIS: Significant Cyber Events Since 2006
The Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors
iPost at the US Department of State
A Small Business No Budget Implementation of the SANS 20 Critical Controls