Security advice

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Critical Security Controls guidance

The Critical Security Controls for cyber defence are a baseline of high-priority information security measures and controls that can be applied across an organisation in order to improve its cyber defence. CPNI is participating in an international government-industry effort to promote the Critical Security Controls for computer and network security. The development of these controls is being coordinated by the Council on CyberSecurity website.

The 20 controls (and sub-controls) focus on various technical measures and activities, with the primary goal of helping organisations prioritise their efforts to defend against the current most common and damaging computer and network attacks. Outside of the technical realm, a comprehensive security program should also take into account many other areas of security, including overall policy, organisational structure, personnel issues and physical security. To help maintain focus, the 20 controls do not deal with these important but non-technical aspects of information security.

The 20 controls and supporting advice are dynamic in order that they recognise changing technology and methods of attack. All 20 controls, together with a brief description, are given on this site.

Please note that version 5.0 of the controls has now been published and can be found in the related document sections of this webpage. Below is a brief overview of the 20 Critical Security Controls for Cyber Defence

1 - Inventory of Authorised and Unauthorised Devices

Actively manage (inventory, track, and correct) all hardware devices on the network so that only authorised devices are given access, and unauthorised and unmanaged devices are found and prevented from gaining access.

2 - Inventory of Authorised and Unauthorised Software

Actively manage (inventory, track and correct) all software on the network so that only authorised software is installed and can execute and that unauthorised and unmanaged software is found and prevented from installation or execution.

3 - Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Mobile Devices, Laptops, Workstations and Servers

Establish, implement and actively manage (track, reporting, correct) the security configuration of laptops, servers and workstations using a rigorous configuration management and change control process in order to prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerable services and settings.

4 - Continuous Vunerability Assessment and Remediation

Continuously acquire, assess and take action on new information in order to identify vulnerabilities, remediate and minimise the window of opportunity for attackers.

5 - Malware Defences

Control the installation, spread and execution of malicious code at multiple points in the enterprise, while optimizing the use of automation to enable rapid updating of defence, data gathering and corrective action.

6 - Application Software Security

Manage the security lifecycle of all in house developed and acquired software in order to prevent, detect and correct security weaknesses.

7 - Wireless Access Control

The processes and tools used to track/control/prevent/correct the security use of wireless local area networks (LANS), access points and wireless client systems.

8 - Data Recovery Capability

The processes and tools used to properly back up critical information with a proven methodology for timely recovery of it.

9 - Security Skills Assessment and Appropriate Training to Fill Gaps

For all functional roles in the organization prioritising those mission critical to the business and its security), identify the specific knowledge, skills and abilities needed to support defence of the enterprise; develop and execute an integrated plan to assess, identify gaps and remediate through policy, organizational planning, training and awareness programs.

10 - Secure Configurations for Network Devices such as Firewalls, Routers and Switches

Establish, implement and actively manage (track, report on, correct) the security configuration of network infrastructure devices using a rigorous configuration management and change control process in order to prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerable services and settings.

11 - Limitation and Control of Network Ports, Protocols and Services

Manage (track/control/correct) the ongoing operational use of ports, protocols and services on networked devices in order to minimize windows of vulnerability available to attackers.

12 - Controlled Use of Administrative Priveleges

The processes and tools used to track/control/prevent/correct the use, assignment and configuration of administrative privileges on computers, networks and applications.

13 - Boundary Defence

Detect/prevent/correct the flow of information transferring networks of different trust levels with a focus on security damaging data.

14 - Maintenance, Monitoring and Analysis of Audit Logs

Collect, manage and analyse audit logs of events that could help detect, understand or recover from an attack.

15 - Control Access Based on the Need to Know

The processes and tools used to track/control/prevent/correct secure access to critical assets (e.g., information, resources, and systems) according to the formal determination of which persons, computers and applications have a need and right to access these critical assets based on an approved classification.

16 - Account Monitoring and Control

Actively manage the lifecycle of system and application accounts, their creation, use, dormancy, deletion in order to minimize opportunities for attackers to leverage them.

17 - Data Protection

The processes and tools used to prevent data exfiltration, mitigate the effects of exfiltrated data and ensure the privacy and integrity of sensitive information.

18 - Incident Response and Management

Protect the organisation’s information, as well as its reputation, by developing and implementing an incident response infrastructure (e.g., plans, defined roles, training, communications, management oversight) for quickly discovering an attack and then effectively containing the damage, eradicating the attacker’s presence, and restoring the integrity of the network and systems.

19 - Secure Network Engineering

Make security an inherent attribute of the enterprise by specifying, designing, and building in features that allow high confidence systems operations while denying or minimising opportunities for attackers.

20 - Penetration Tests and Red Team Exercises

Test the overall strength of an organisation’s defences (the technology, the processes, and the people) by simulating the objectives and actions of an attacker.


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