Cyberattacks are more common than ever, and they are becoming stealthier. A single breach can jeopardize your company’s operations.

Simple anti-virus software and a firewall were enough to stave off the bad guys in the early days of the internet. The moment has come to pull out all the stops and implement a mitigation strategy to safeguard your data from cybersecurity threats.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) created the Essential Eight framework to help businesses create effective cybersecurity plans for the mitigation and prevention of cyber security incidents. They encourage Australian firms to use this strategy to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to compromise their systems.

Using the Essential Eight methodology, you can survive both little and major cyber security catastrophes. In this article, we’ll discuss the Essential Eight concept and how it applies to your cyber security strategy.

The ACSC’s Essential Eight Mitigation Model

1. Patch Application

Patches, also known as software upgrades, are critical for safeguarding your IT infrastructure. IT “patches” are known security flaws in apps and operating systems.

It is critical to understand that software evolves and new vulnerabilities are discovered all the time, and it is your responsibility to stay current.

It is the responsibility of software vendors to ensure that their products meet high-level security requirements and are rapidly updated to safeguard consumers. It is your responsibility to apply those patches.

Install patches as soon as they become available. Patches will make cyber dangers less severe.

2. Application Control

Application controls are put in place to stop harmful applications from executing on your IT infrastructure. By creating an enable list, you can control particular programs that are essential for managing your organization. Anything else, whether good or terrible, is suppressed.

This will prevent harmful software like viruses, worms, and trojans from wreaking havoc. On the other side, you may also compile a list of applications that you want to use exclusively in a network.

If properly implemented, you will have fewer chances of a data breach caused by infected applications (especially if they are downloaded from untrusted sources).

However, application control is a large task that will necessitate careful consideration of which applications to block and approve because it will block everything, not just the bad stuff.

3. Application Hardening

Hackers gain access to your system using a variety of applications. Web browsers, Microsoft Office, Adobe, and Java are among the most popular. You can prevent these attacks by limiting the types of applications that can run on your system. This is the purpose of application hardening.

Application hardening limits the computer capability of an application. The network administrator can configure the application’s many options, such as user control and system access. This mitigation step is critical for preventing malware spread.

Start by reviewing the features of your most commonly used software. Decide which elements are necessary for your operations and which are not, and then go forward. To lower your risks, identify the users who use programs like Adobe Flash and Java and carefully restrict them.

Once established, review your application hardening tasks regularly because attackers could find software bugs you are not aware of. Speak with your IT employees or Managed Service Providers to learn more about penetration testing and IT health assessments.

4. Microsoft Office Macro Settings

Macros are powerful tools for automating routine tasks. It is a set of hidden instructions designed to boost productivity.

Although this appears to be a good thing, Macros, especially shady ones, can contain malicious code, putting you at risk of a cyber security breach right under your nose. They can easily dupe users (particularly non-technical ones) into using infected macros, allowing them to hack into your system.

Office macros are sneaky, and you must be careful not to let malicious ones infect your network.

One of the most effective mitigation strategies is to only run Microsoft Office macros from trusted locations (if one or two of your operations require macros to execute tasks) and disable all other unused macros.

5. Hardening The Operating System

Operating systems, like Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop, must be hardened for the same reason: to “patch” any security flaws in applications and operating systems. If your operating system is out of date, you are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. And if this happens, you are allowing hackers to take advantage of your IT.

You must apply the patches as soon as your software vendor makes them available. If you’re using Windows, go to Settings and then Update and Security. You can then check to see if you’re up to date and if any updates are available. Also, remember to restart your computer regularly so that new or pending updates can be initiated.

You can also enable automatic updates to ensure that you always receive the most recent updates without having to check your Windows settings.

6. Limit Administrator Access

To properly mitigate and prevent cyber-attacks on your IT system, admin access should be limited. Organizations typically set up their IT in the same manner that they set up their organizational hierarchy.

Typically, decision-makers have more privileges than interns. Access to sensitive company information should not be easy for everyone in the organization; doing so jeopardizes your company’s operations. One of them exposes you to online threats such as ransomware.

Be selective about who you provide system administrator rights to. Giving a person admin access gives them access to the most important resource in your business.

After granting admin access, systematically monitor each user and check in regularly to see if their access is still required for them to do their job. If they do, keep them. If not, revoke their access rights.

This task should be completed every three to six months.

7. Multi-Factor Authentication

We cannot overstate how many cyber-attacks have been deterred by multi-factor authentication. Hackers know how to get your login information. They can even buy your login information on the Dark Web. As a result, multiple layers of protection are required to prevent attackers from accessing your data.

Multi-factor authentication is a security feature that prevents unauthorized individuals from gaining access to your device, accounts, or network. Because it makes it much more difficult for hackers to access your data, it is widely regarded as one of the last lines of defence against attacks.

The ACSC included multi-factor authentication in their Essential Eight in combating cyber security issues because of its efficiency in preventing attacks using compromised login credentials, which is now the most common way hackers obtain access.

As previously stated, hackers can easily obtain your login credentials if you use the same logins for all of your online accounts. Even if you use the same logins on multiple accounts, your data is still secure due to an additional layer of protection that verifies whether or not it is you attempting to log in to your account.

We understand how inconvenient it is to be required to enter a series of codes after logging in, but it is a small price to pay to keep your data safe. Check with your IT department or Managed Service Provider to see if multi-factor authentication is enabled on all of your corporate online accounts.

8. Backup Your Data Regularly

Backups will come in handy if all seven of the Essential Eight controls fail. If your systems have been compromised, you can quickly restore them by replacing all corrupted files with backups. Finally, having a backup will help you avoid losing everything, from your reputation to your profits.

It’s best to implement and maintain a backup strategy that stores a copy of your files in a secure location so that if you’re ever attacked (especially by ransomware), you can simply restore your environment as if nothing had happened.

It is best to consult with your IT team or Managed Service Provider about your backup strategy. Determine what data must be backed up, how frequently it must be backed up, and who should have access to those backups.

Does Your Company Follow the ACSC’s Essential Eight Mitigation Model?

This article’s completion brings you one step closer to a more robust cybersecurity strategy. You now understand how each Essential Eight Model control can protect your organization from major or minor cyber incidents.

If you want to improve or implement a cyber security solution in your Australian business, you’ve come to the right place.

Please contact Inspired IT experts to find out how our cyber security experts can help you implement the Essential Eight model and improve your IT security.