Examining the CIS Control Framework

What is the CIS Control framework?

The CIS Controls framework, developed by the Center for Internet Security (CIS), is a set of best practices and security controls designed to help organizations protect themselves from the most common and impactful cybersecurity threats. The framework provides a prioritized set of actions that any organization can follow to improve their cyber defenses. Here are some key aspects of the CIS Controls:

  1. Prioritization: The controls are prioritized from basic to foundational to organizational, helping organizations focus their resources effectively based on their specific risks and capabilities.
  2. Best Practices: Each control offers specific guidelines on how to secure IT systems and data, covering areas such as asset management, network security, data protection, and incident response.
  3. Implementation Groups: To assist organizations of different sizes and with varying resources, the controls are divided into Implementation Groups (IG1, IG2, and IG3). This categorization helps organizations identify which controls are essential for them based on their specific threat profile and operational complexity.
  4. Updates and Relevance: The framework is regularly updated to reflect the evolving threat landscape and the latest in cybersecurity best practices. This ensures that the controls remain relevant and effective in mitigating risks.
  5. Wide Adoption: The CIS Controls are widely adopted by organizations around the world and are recognized for their practicality and effectiveness in improving cybersecurity postures.

The CIS Controls are valuable for any organization looking to establish a robust cybersecurity program, and they complement other standards and frameworks like ISO/IEC 27001 and NIST by focusing specifically on the most effective defenses against common cyber threats.

Has the CIS Control framework changed?

Yes, the CIS Control framework has indeed undergone changes with its latest version, Version 8, which was released in May 2021. This update reflects the ongoing changes in technology use, particularly the shift towards cloud computing, increased mobility, and the need for robust teleworking and home office security measures. The changes are aimed at keeping the framework relevant and effective against the evolving threat landscape and modern computing environments.

Version 8 of the CIS Controls has reduced the total number of controls from 20 to 18 and reorganized these controls by activity rather than by who manages the devices. This simplification aims to make it easier for organizations to implement and maintain these controls effectively. Additionally, the structure of the framework has been modified to better support organizations of all sizes by introducing and refining Implementation Groups (IGs). These groups help organizations prioritize the implementation of controls based on their specific security needs, size, and resource availability.

The changes in CIS Controls v8 also emphasize greater simplicity in the safeguards associated with each control, aiming for minimal interpretation and easier application across various organizational contexts. This focus is particularly beneficial for adapting to the complexities of modern IT environments, including the management of security across a diverse and often remote workforce.

For more detailed information about the specific changes in Version 8 of the CIS Controls, you can visit the Center for Internet Security's official website or review detailed change logs they provide. This update makes the framework more adaptable to the diverse needs of organizations today, emphasizing practical and actionable security measures that address contemporary cybersecurity challenges.

What types of organizations should use the CIS Control framework?

The CIS Control framework is designed to be versatile and can be effectively used by a wide variety of organizations across different sectors and sizes. Here are some types of organizations that should consider implementing the CIS Controls:

  1. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs): CIS Controls offer a structured and prioritized set of security practices that can help smaller organizations, which often lack extensive security resources, to establish essential cyber hygiene practices. The Implementation Groups (IGs) provide a tiered approach to security, allowing SMEs to implement the most critical controls first based on their limited resources.
  2. Large Enterprises: Larger organizations can benefit from the comprehensive nature of the CIS Controls, which cover advanced security measures and best practices. These organizations often face complex security challenges and can use the CIS Controls to ensure a robust defense-in-depth strategy across various departments and operations.
  3. Government Agencies: Given their need for high security standards and regulatory compliance, government agencies can use the CIS Controls to create a strong security posture that protects sensitive government data and infrastructure from cyber threats.
  4. Educational Institutions: Schools, universities, and other educational institutions can use CIS Controls to protect student information, research data, and ensure secure learning environments against increasing cyber threats in the education sector.
  5. Healthcare Organizations: With strict compliance requirements like HIPAA in the U.S., healthcare organizations can adopt CIS Controls to safeguard patient data and ensure the integrity and availability of critical healthcare services.
  6. Financial Services: Financial institutions, which are frequent targets of cyberattacks due to the sensitive financial data they handle, can use the CIS Controls to strengthen their security measures and compliance with financial regulations.

The flexibility of the CIS Controls framework, with its prioritized and actionable recommendations, makes it suitable for any organization that wants to enhance its cybersecurity practices, regardless of its size or the industry it operates in. This adaptability is crucial for tailoring security practices to meet specific operational needs and threat landscapes.

How does NAC fit into the CIS Control framework?

Network Access Control (NAC) is an important security technology that fits into the CIS Control framework, specifically under Control 1: Inventory and Control of Enterprise Assets. NAC helps organizations to enforce security policies that determine who can access the network, when, and from which devices. It ensures that all devices connected to the network are authorized, authenticated, and compliant with security policies before they are allowed access.

In the context of the CIS Controls, NAC is used to:

  1. Identify Unauthorized Devices: NAC systems can detect any device attempting to connect to the network, enabling the organization to manage access and ensure that only authorized devices can connect.
  2. Enforce Security Compliance: NAC can enforce security policies by ensuring that devices meet certain criteria before network access is granted. For example, it can check whether a device has the latest antivirus updates and operating system patches installed.
  3. Limit and Control Access: Based on the compliance status of the device and the credentials of the user, NAC can limit the level of network access provided to a device. This can range from full access to restricted access to sensitive resources.
  4. Segmentation and Isolation of Devices: In cases where devices are found to be non-compliant or infected, NAC can help in isolating these devices by placing them in a separate VLAN or restricting their access to the network to mitigate risks.

The application of NAC under the CIS Controls framework helps strengthen an organization's ability to manage and secure its network environments effectively, providing a robust mechanism to prevent unauthorized access and ensure compliance with security policies. This aligns with the overall goals of the CIS Controls to provide organizations with a structured set of defensive actions to address prevalent cybersecurity risks.