Australian Cyber Security Strategy

Last Updated on July 10, 2024 by Arnav Sharma

Australian Government has developed two prominent frameworks to enhance the security posture of organizations: the Essential Eight and the Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF). Both frameworks serve as critical components in safeguarding against cyber threats, but they differ in scope, focus, and implementation strategies.

Essential Eight: A Cybersecurity Framework

The Essential Eight is a cybersecurity framework developed by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC). It comprises eight mitigation strategies designed to prevent malware delivery, limit the impact of cyber incidents, and improve overall system resilience. The strategies are aimed at protecting organizations from a wide range of cyber threats.

Essential Eight Strategies:

  1. Application Whitelisting: Ensures that only approved applications can execute.
  2. Patch Applications: Regularly updates applications to fix vulnerabilities.
  3. Configure Microsoft Office Macro Settings: Limits the use of macros to trusted sources.
  4. User Application Hardening: Configures applications to prevent exploitation.
  5. Restrict Administrative Privileges: Limits admin access and reviews it regularly.
  6. Patch Operating Systems: Keeps operating systems updated.
  7. Multi-Factor Authentication: Implements MFA for accessing sensitive systems.
  8. Daily Backups: Ensures regular backups of important data.

These strategies help organizations achieve different maturity levels of cyber resilience and are part of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)‘s broader cybersecurity efforts.

PSPF: The Protective Security Policy Framework

The Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF), on the other hand, is a comprehensive security framework designed by the Australian Government to assist government entities in protecting their people, information, and assets. It covers a wide range of security domains, including information security, personnel security, physical security, and governance.

Key Components of PSPF:

  1. Governance: Establishes requirements for security governance, risk management, and continuous improvement.
  2. Information Security: Protects information from unauthorized access and ensures its integrity, availability, and confidentiality.
  3. Personnel Security: Mitigates risks associated with the human element through vetting, training, and management processes.
  4. Physical Security: Protects physical assets and environments with measures like access controls and surveillance.

The PSPF is designed to ensure that non-corporate Commonwealth entities are compliant with security requirements and effectively manage security risks.

Comparison of Essential Eight and PSPF

Comparison of Essential Eight and PSPF

Aspect Essential Eight Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF)
Purpose Mitigate cyber threats Comprehensive security governance
Focus Cybersecurity Overall security (information, personnel, physical)
Developed By Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Australian Government
Components 8 specific mitigation strategies Governance, Information Security, Personnel Security, Physical Security
Audience All organizations Federal government entities
Key Strategies Application Whitelisting, Patching, MFA, Backups Governance, Risk Management, Information Protection
Maturity Levels Essential Eight Maturity Model PSPF Maturity Model
Implementation Focus Technical controls Policy and governance controls
Compliance Focused on cybersecurity best practices Ensures comprehensive security compliance
Cyber Threat Mitigation Direct strategies to mitigate cyber incidents Broader approach including physical and personnel security
Framework Specifics Specific to mitigating cyber threats through technical measures Includes physical security, personnel vetting, and overall risk management
Government Compliance Aligned with Information Security Manual (ISM) Ensures compliance with government policies and requirements
Examples of Implementation Restrict Administrative Privileges, User Application Hardening Secure facilities, vetting personnel, information governance
Primary Users IT and cybersecurity professionals Security managers, governance bodies
Support and Guidance Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Department of Home Affairs
Regular Audits Focused on technical security audits Comprehensive audits covering all security aspects

Implementing the Essential Eight and PSPF in 2024

Organizations looking to improve their security posture can benefit from implementing both the Essential Eight and PSPF. While the Essential Eight provides specific, actionable strategies to mitigate cyber security incidents, the PSPF offers a broader framework for overall security governance and risk management.

Why Implement the Essential Eight?

The Essential Eight provides a practical approach to enhancing cyber resilience by focusing on critical areas such as application security, operating system security, and user authentication. Implementing these strategies can help organizations protect against common cyber threats and achieve higher maturity levels in their security posture.

The Role of PSPF in Government Cyber Security

For government entities, the PSPF is crucial in ensuring comprehensive security measures are in place. It aligns with the Information Security Manual (ISM) and supports compliance with Policy 10 of the Department of Home Affairs. The PSPF’s focus on governance, information security, personnel security, and physical security ensures a holistic approach to protecting sensitive assets.

Achieving Compliance and Mitigating Cyber Threats

Both the Essential Eight and the PSPF emphasize the importance of regular audits and continuous improvement. By adopting these frameworks, organizations can develop robust security controls, enhance their cyber resilience, and ensure they are prepared to mitigate evolving cyber threats in 2024.


FAQ: 

Q: What are the security controls required for Australian critical infrastructure?

A: The security controls required for Australian critical infrastructure include implementing the essential 8 framework, which helps mitigate common and emerging cyber threats and improve cyber resilience across critical sectors.

Q: How does the government protective security policy relate to cyber security?

A: The government protective security policy, including PSPF policy 10, mandates the implementation of the essential eight controls to ensure the cyber security of government operations and the delivery of government business.

Q: What is the essential 8 framework, and why is it important?

A: The essential 8 framework is a set of mitigation strategies designed to protect organisations against cyber security threats. Implementing these controls is crucial for improving security maturity and mitigating common and emerging cyber threats.

Q: How does Microsoft 365 fit into the Australian Government’s cyber security strategy?

A: Microsoft 365 is integrated into the Australian Government’s cyber security strategy through tools like Microsoft Purview Compliance Manager, which help implement the essential 8 controls and enhance the overall cyber security posture.

Q: What role does the Center for Internet Security play in the Australian Government’s cyber security efforts?

A: The Center for Internet Security provides guidance and best practices that align with the Australian Government’s cyber security measures, contributing to the overall security culture and hygiene required to protect government information and systems.

Q: What are the key components of the government cyber security policy in 2023?

A: The key components of the government cyber security policy in 2023 include implementing the essential 8 mitigation strategies, adhering to PSPF reporting requirements, and ensuring cyber resilience across all non-corporate Commonwealth entities.

Q: How does the maturity model assess cyber security in Australian organisations?

A: The maturity model assesses cyber security in Australian organisations by evaluating their implementation of the essential eight maturity model and determining their security maturity levels across all eight strategies.

Q: What are some common cyber security threats that the essential eight aims to mitigate?

A: The essential eight aims to mitigate common and emerging cyber threats, including security vulnerabilities, cyber security technical issues, and cyber security threats posed to both cloud security and on-premises environments.

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