ACSC Essential 8: ExplainedACSC Essential 8: Explained

Last Updated on July 5, 2023 by Arnav Sharma

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has released its Essential Eight, a list of eight security strategies that organizations can use to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. The Essential Eight are designed to be implemented in a layered approach, with each layer providing additional protection.

Implementing all eight strategies will provide a high level of protection against cyber threats, however, organizations should prioritize based on their specific needs and risk profile. The ACSC recommends that organizations review their current security posture and identify which of the Essential Eight they are not already implementing. Organizations should seek advice from reputable security specialists to help with their implementation of Essential Eight.

The Essential Eight are a set of security controls that, if implemented, can protect an organization from the vast majority of cyber-attacks. The controls are:

  • Application Control 

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has released new guidance on application control. This follows a recent increase in attacks targeting unsecured applications.

Organisations should take steps to secure their applications and prevent unauthorised access. The ACSC recommends implementing application whitelisting as a key security measure.

Application whitelisting can help organisations to block unapproved applications from running on their systems. This can reduce the risk of malware infection and help to keep critical data safe.

  • Application Patching

The process of application patching is a necessary part of maintaining the security of software systems. By regularly applying patches, security vulnerabilities can be fixed and system reliability can be maintained.

However, patching can also introduce new security risks. In particular, when patches are not applied correctly, systems can become vulnerable to attack. Therefore, it is important to understand the risks associated with patching before implementing any changes.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) provides guidance on application patching. This includes advice on how to plan and implement patches, as well as how to mitigate the risks associated with patching.

  • Restrict Administrative Privileges

The administrative privileges on many systems are much too broad, granting users access to sensitive information and system configuration options. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recommends that organisations restrict administrative privileges to only those who absolutely require it.

Broad administrative privileges can allow malicious actors to easily gain control of a system and access sensitive data. By restricting these privileges, organisations can make it more difficult for attackers to gain a foothold on their systems.

The ACSC recommends that organisations review their current administrative privileges and identify any unnecessary ones. They should then create a policy that outlines who needs these privileges and what they can be used for. This will help to ensure that only those who need access to sensitive information and options have it.

  • Patch Operating Systems

A Patch Operating System is a type of computer software that is designed to provide security updates and bug fixes for a particular computer or software program.Patch Operating Systems are typically released on a regular basis by the software vendor in order to keep the software up-to-date and secure.

ACSC (Australian Cyber Security Centre) recommends that organisations patch their systems as soon as possible after security updates are released. This helps to ensure that systems are protected from known vulnerabilities.

Patching can be a complex process, particularly for large organisations with many different types of systems and applications. However, it is important to patch systems in order to reduce the risk of cyber attacks.

  • Configure Microsoft Office Macro Settings

Macros in Microsoft Office can be a useful tool to automate repetitive tasks. However, they can also pose a security risk if they are not properly configured.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recommends that users disable macros in Microsoft Office unless they trust the source of the document. If macros must be used, the ACSC advises that users enable macro signing to verify that the code has not been tampered with.

Macro signing uses digital signatures to ensure that the code has not been modified since it was signed. This can help to prevent malicious macros from running on your system. To enable macro signing, open the Trust Center settings in Microsoft Office and select “Enable all trusted controllers.

  • Application Hardening

Application hardening is the process of making a software application more resistant to attack. The term is often used in the context of cybersecurity, where it refers to measures taken to make an app less vulnerable to exploitation by hackers. 

There are a number of techniques that can be used to harden an application, including code signing, code obfuscation, and tamper detection/prevention. Hardening an app can make it more resistant to reverse engineering and tampering, and can help to protect against a range of security threats including malware, viruses, and denial-of-service attacks.

Application hardening is an important part of securing software applications, but it is not a silver bullet. It is important to remember that no app is completely secure and that hardening measures should be just one part of a broader security strategy.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is a security measure that requires more than one method of verification from independent sources to gain access.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recommends using multi-factor authentication to protect online accounts. ACSC provides guidance on how organizations can implement strong authentication, including two-factor authentication and risk-based authentication.

Multi-factor authentication can be used to supplement or replace traditional username and password systems. It adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide additional information, such as a PIN or biometric data, before being granted access.

Organizations should consider implementing multi-factor authentication for high-value assets and services, such as email accounts and financial systems. ACSC also recommends using multi-factor authentication for any user who has elevated privileges, such as administrators.

  • Regular Backups

Regular backups are essential for the security of your data. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your backups are effective. Backing up your data is vital to keeping it safe from loss or damage. There are many different ways to back up your data, and it’s important to choose a method that suits your needs.

There are two main types of backup: full and incremental. Full backups create a copy of all the data on your system, while incremental backups only copy new or changed files. Which type of backup you use will depend on how often you need to access your backup files and how much storage space you have available.

What is the ACSC maturity model?

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has released a new maturity model to help organisations understand their current level of cyber security maturity and identify areas for improvement.

The ACSC maturity model consists of five levels, from Level 1 (Consequence-Driven) to Level 5 (Proactive), with each level representing an organisation’s increasing ability to manage cyber security risks.

  • Level 1 organisations are driven by the consequences of a breach, such as financial losses or reputational damage. They typically have ad-hoc security processes and lack formalised governance arrangements

  • Level 2 organisations are starting to formalise their approach to security, with more defined processes and procedures. However, they are still largely reactive in their approach and do not proactively manage cyber risks.

  • Level 4 organisations are fully mature, with an integrated approach to managing cyber risks across the organisation. They have gone beyond a focus on process and technology towards a holistic view of cyber risk management that is embedded in the organisation’s culture.

  • Level 5 organisations are fully mature, with an integrated approach to managing cyber risks across the organisation. They have gone beyond a focus on process and technology towards a holistic view of cyber risk management that is embedded in the organisation’s culture.

In conclusion,the ACSC Essential Eight are a series of security strategies that organisations can implement to improve their cybersecurity posture. While there is no silver bullet for cybersecurity, the Essential Eight provide a good foundation for organisations to start with. Implementing these strategies will help to mitigate the most common cyber threats and reduce the overall risk to organisations.


Q: What are the ACSC Essential Eight?

A: The ACSC Essential Eight are eight mitigation strategies identified by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) that organisations should implement to make it harder for adversaries to compromise their security and mitigate cyber security incidents.

Q: Why are the ACSC Essential Eight important?

A: The ACSC Essential Eight are important because they provide a comprehensive baseline of technical controls that organisations can adopt to mitigate cyber security incidents. Implementing these mitigation strategies as a baseline can help organisations comply with mandatory requirements and best practice recommendations.

Q: What is the Essential Eight maturity model?

A: The Essential Eight maturity model is a tool developed by ACSC to help organisations manage their implementation of the Essential Eight mitigation strategies. It provides a roadmap for organisations to assess and manage their maturity level and evolve their practices over time.

Q: What are the eight essential mitigation strategies?

A: The eight essential mitigation strategies identified by the ACSC are:

  • Application control
  • Patch applications
  • Configure Microsoft Office macro settings
  • User application hardening
  • Restrict administrative privileges
  • Patch operating systems
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Daily backups

Q: How can organisations adopt these mitigation strategies?

A: The ACSC recommends that organisations implement the Essential Eight mitigation strategies as a baseline. They can be adopted by using a variety of solutions and frameworks, including the Microsoft Security Suite and other third-party options.

Q: What is the Essential Eight journey?

A: The Essential Eight journey is the process of discovering an organisation’s cyber security challenges, assessing their current landscape, and creating a roadmap for implementing the eight essential mitigation strategies over time. It is a comprehensive approach to mitigating cyber security incidents.

Q: What is the Essential Eight series?

A: The Essential Eight series is a collection of ACSC resources designed to help organisations understand and implement the eight essential mitigation strategies. These resources include documents, case studies, and webinars.

Q: How can the Essential Eight help end users?

A: The Essential Eight can help end users by providing an effective application control framework that can mitigate cyber security incidents. By implementing these mitigation strategies, end users can help ensure that their systems are harder for adversaries to compromise.

Q: How can organisations leverage the Essential Eight to address compliance requirements?

A: The Essential Eight provide a comprehensive baseline of technical controls that can help organisations comply with mandatory requirements and best practice recommendations. By adopting the Essential Eight, organisations can ensure that they are meeting compliance requirements and mitigating cyber security incidents.

Q: How do the Essential Eight help mitigate cyber security incidents?

A: The Essential Eight help mitigate cyber security incidents by providing a comprehensive baseline of technical controls that can make it harder for adversaries to compromise an organisation’s security. By adopting these mitigation strategies as a baseline, organisations can reduce their risk and mitigate the impact of cyber security incidents.


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