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A Comprehensive Guide to the Top 18 CIS Controls

Nathan Oliver

Nathan Oliver, Head of Cyber Security
Nov 03, 2023

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As data breach costs soar into the millions and global regulations tighten, safeguarding data has never been more crucial. One effective strategy is implementing the CIS (Centre for Internet Security) critical controls for information protection. These guidelines offer a prioritised approach to bolster cybersecurity, helping organisations mitigate risks and avoid costly compliance failures. What are the CIS's top 18 controls, and how do they help safeguard organisations from threats? Continue reading to know more.

What Are CIS Controls?

The CIS controls are a set of 18 safety measures that serve as a leading standard for securing networks, assets, and data and are widely adopted for enhancing cybersecurity posture. Now, in version eight, they offer a framework for IT security featuring 153 sub-controls and specific compliance targets.

Let's take a closer look at each guideline.

Control 1: Inventory and Control of Enterprise Assets
This CSI level one control emphasises the need for an accurate inventory of all enterprise assets. This helps to identify what you have in order to effectively secure it. More specifically, knowing your asset pool is critical for risk assessment, vulnerability management, and incident response. It serves as a foundational step in improving your security posture.

Control 2: Inventory and Control of Software Assets
The second CIS guideline involves managing software assets to mitigate security risks. Businesses must identify and document all software, remove outdated or vulnerable ones and prevent unauthorised installations through an allowlist. Automated tracking tools are also recommended for ongoing oversight.

Control 3: Data Protection
It offers a multi-faceted approach to safeguarding data, covering aspects like listing, access management, and encryption. Also, it outlines best practices for data retention, disposal, classification, and loss prevention, supplemented by thorough logging and sensitivity-based segmentation.

Control 4: Secure Configuration of Enterprise Assets and Software
Incorrect settings can expose systems to attacks, leading to breaches and operational disruptions. Standardised, secure configurations reduce this risk by fortifying systems against unauthorised access and exploitation. They also protect enterprise assets and software from vulnerabilities.
Control 5: Account Management
This is essential for maintaining a safe operating environment. It involves developing, modifying, and deleting certain user accounts, as well as managing permissions, ensuring that only permitted individuals have access to specific resources, thereby reducing the likelihood of insider threats and hacking.
Control 6: Access Control Management
It aims to restrict system access according to roles, ensuring only approved personnel can perform specific functions. This practice limits the potential for abuse and reduces the risk of unauthorised data disclosure.
Control 7: Continuous Vulnerability Management
This CIS control emphasises identifying and fixing security weaknesses in your network, such as open ports or default passwords. Failure to manage susceptibilities can lead to compromised assets and failed operations.
Control 8: Audit Log Management
It involves collecting and analysing audit logs to track security events. This is important as incomplete or poorly managed records can hinder incident response and compromise investigations, making it easier for attackers to conceal their activities.
Control 9: Email and Web Browser Protections
This rule focuses on the use of security features like sandboxing, domain-based message authentication, and the disabling of unnecessary email and web browser capabilities. Effective implementation helps minimise the risk of phishing and malware attacks.
Control 10: Malware Defence
It establishes measures to detect, prevent, and contain malware across all points in an infrastructure. Techniques often include antivirus solutions, endpoint protections, and network monitoring to stop malware before it compromises systems.
Control 11: Data Recovery
CIS control 11 focuses on data recovery capabilities. It outlines the essential practices for ensuring that critical information can be restored quickly and efficiently after a disruption. This includes backups, restoration tests, and off-site storage. The goal is to minimise downtime and data loss.
Control 12: Network Infrastructure Management
Focuses on network infrastructure management, aiming to securely configure and manage network devices. This involves regular updates, secure admin access, and monitoring to defend against attacks and vulnerabilities.
Control 13: Network Monitoring and Defense
The 13th guideline focuses on network surveillance and defence to pinpoint and thwart unauthorised activities. It emphasises real-time monitoring, proper configuration, and effective alert systems to detect anomalous behaviour, thereby minimising risk and improving system integrity.
Control 14: Security Awareness and Skills Training
Training is considered a vital layer in any robust cybersecurity defence strategy. The 14th rule emphasises the importance of educating employees on online safety risks and protocols. The goal is to cultivate a security-conscious culture to prevent human error, which often leads to breaches.
Control 15: Service Provider Management
It aims to standardise the security protocols between your organisation and external service providers by providing guidelines on vetting, contractual agreements, and regular monitoring to maintain a safe environment.
Control 16: Application Software Security
Application software security is the focal point of this guideline. It promotes secure coding practices and regular assessments to minimise the risks associated with software flaws. This reduces potential avenues for cyber-attacks.
Control 17: Incident Response Management
It focuses on establishing an effective action plan for addressing and managing breaches, attacks, or system failures. Following these guidelines ensures quick, coordinated efforts to mitigate damage, improve resilience, and prevent future incidents.
Control 18: Penetration Testing
Conducting penetration tests helps evaluate your system's security posture by simulating cyber-attacks. This assessment identifies weaknesses, confirms the effectiveness of existing safeguards, and aids in fine-tuning your defence mechanisms.

Microminder Can Help With Implementing CIS Controls

Microminder is the best pick if you are looking to comply with the CIS guidelines. We are a CREST-certified cybersecurity consultancy providing all-around digital protection solutions ranging from bespoke penetration testing to cloud security posture management and dark web monitoring to keep our clients safe from the ever-evolving threat landscape.

If you find implementing CIS rules daunting for your in-house team, our experts can help streamline your journey to robust cybersecurity through targeted CIS control implementation. We kick off with a thorough risk assessment, followed by a gap analysis to pinpoint your specific needs. Then, we suggest ways to execute the controls that are most relevant to you. Hence, with our end-to-end service, from implementation to real-time monitoring, you can confidently enhance your security while optimising resource allocation.

Ready for comprehensive OT assets security? Get in touch with our team today and effectively protect your digital assets.


The CIS critical controls, comprising 18 comprehensive security measures, provide organisations with a structured approach to fortify their cybersecurity defences. These controls cover a wide spectrum, from asset management to incident response and penetration testing. By adopting these controls, organisations can effectively mitigate risks, adhere to security standards, and protect against data breaches, ultimately bolstering their overall security posture. For expert guidance in implementing these controls, expert consultancies like Microminder offer tailored solutions to enhance cybersecurity and minimise risks.

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