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What is Essential 8 Cyber Security: A Practical Resource for Organisations

Cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, presenting significant challenges to organisations worldwide. To address these challenges, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) developed the Essential 8 framework. This framework offers a set of baseline strategies designed to mitigate cyber risks effectively. This article provides a practical guide for organisations to understand, implement, and benefit from the Essential 8 cyber security strategies.

Understanding the Essential 8

The Essential 8 framework comprises eight key mitigation strategies that collectively enhance an organisation’s cybersecurity posture:

  1. Application Control
  2. Patch Applications
  3. Configure Microsoft Office Macro Settings
  4. User Application Hardening
  5. Restrict Administrative Privileges
  6. Patch Operating Systems
  7. Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
  8. Regular Backups

Purpose of the Essential 8

The Essential 8 is designed to provide organisations with a robust, yet straightforward, approach to cybersecurity. The key objectives include:

  1. Mitigating Cyber Threats: The Essential 8 strategies aim to prevent or reduce the impact of various cyber threats, such as malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks.
  2. Enhancing Cyber Resilience: By implementing these strategies, organisations can improve their ability to withstand and recover from cyber incidents.
  3. Simplifying Cybersecurity Practices: The Essential 8 offers clear, actionable guidelines that simplify the implementation of cybersecurity measures.
  4. Ensuring Compliance: Adopting these strategies helps organisations meet regulatory requirements and align with industry best practices.

Detailed Breakdown of the Essential 8 Strategies

1. Application Control

Objective: Prevent the execution of unapproved or malicious applications.

Implementation Steps:

  • Inventory Applications: Identify all applications used within the organisation.
  • Whitelisting: Create and enforce a whitelist of approved applications.
  • Monitoring: Continuously monitor and review the whitelist to ensure it remains up-to-date.

Benefits: Application control helps prevent unauthorised software from running, reducing the risk of malware infections.

2. Patch Applications

Objective: Mitigate vulnerabilities in applications to prevent exploitation.

Implementation Steps:

  • Vulnerability Management: Identify and prioritise application vulnerabilities.
  • Automated Patching: Implement automated patch management solutions.
  • Testing: Test patches in a controlled environment before deployment.

Benefits: Regularly patching applications addresses known vulnerabilities, minimising the attack surface.

3. Configure Microsoft Office Macro Settings

Objective: Prevent the execution of malicious macros.

Implementation Steps:

  • Disable Macros by Default: Configure Office applications to disable macros unless explicitly enabled.
  • Allow Only Signed Macros: Restrict macro execution to those signed with trusted certificates.
  • User Education: Train users to avoid enabling macros from untrusted sources.

Benefits: Properly configured macro settings help prevent attackers from using macros to deliver malware.

4. User Application Hardening

Objective: Reduce vulnerabilities in user applications.

Implementation Steps:

  • Browser Hardening: Disable unnecessary features such as Flash and Java.
  • Security Extensions: Use browser security extensions to block malicious content.
  • Application Configuration: Adjust settings to minimise exposure to potential exploits.

Benefits: Hardening user applications decreases the likelihood of exploitation through common attack vectors.

5. Restrict Administrative Privileges

Objective: Minimise the risk of misuse of administrative privileges.

Implementation Steps:

  • Principle of Least Privilege: Grant users only the access necessary for their roles.
  • Regular Audits: Periodically review administrative privileges.
  • Privilege Management Tools: Implement tools to manage and monitor administrative access.

Benefits: Limiting administrative privileges reduces the potential damage from compromised accounts.

6. Patch Operating Systems

Objective: Mitigate vulnerabilities in operating systems.

Implementation Steps:

  • Identify Vulnerabilities: Use tools to identify OS vulnerabilities.
  • Prioritize Patches: Focus on critical and high-severity vulnerabilities.
  • Automated Patching: Utilise automated systems for OS patch management.
  • Testing: Verify patches in a staging environment before deployment.

Benefits: Keeping operating systems updated helps protect against known exploits.

7. Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

Objective: Strengthen authentication processes to prevent unauthorised access.

Implementation Steps:

  • Deploy MFA: Implement MFA for accessing critical systems and applications.
  • User Training: Educate users on the importance and use of MFA.
  • Monitoring: Continuously monitor MFA usage and address any anomalies.

Benefits: MFA adds an extra layer of security, making it more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorised access.

8. Regular Backups

Objective: Ensure data can be restored in the event of a cyber incident.

Implementation Steps:

  • Backup Schedule: Establish a routine for backing up critical data.
  • Offsite Storage: Store backups offsite or in the cloud to protect against physical threats.
  • Testing: Regularly test backups to ensure data can be restored effectively.
  • Encryption: Encrypt backups to secure data during storage and transit.

Benefits: Regular backups ensure data can be quickly restored, minimising downtime and data loss.

Photo-realistic image of a person in a professional setting setting up a backup schedule on a computer, with icons for cloud storage, offsite storage, encryption, and testing.

Ensure data can be restored with regular backups, offsite storage, encryption, and routine testing to minimise downtime and data loss | Empire Technologies

Practical Implementation Guide

Step 1: Conduct a Baseline Assessment

Evaluate your organisation’s current cybersecurity posture against the Essential 8 framework. Use assessment templates to identify gaps and areas for improvement.

Action Steps:

  • Assess your maturity level for each of the eight strategies.
  • Identify critical gaps and prioritise them based on risk.

Step 2: Develop a Roadmap

Create a detailed implementation plan for the Essential 8 strategies. Set achievable milestones, timelines, and allocate necessary resources.

Action Steps:

  • Develop a comprehensive project plan.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities to ensure accountability.

Step 3: Implement and Test Controls

Start with high-priority areas and gradually expand implementation. Test controls thoroughly to ensure effectiveness.

Action Steps:

  • Implement application control, patch management, and other strategies in phases.
  • Test each control in a staging environment before full deployment.

Step 4: Monitor and Review

Continuously monitor the effectiveness of implemented controls. Conduct regular reviews and audits to ensure compliance and identify opportunities for improvement.

Action Steps:

  • Use monitoring tools to track performance.
  • Schedule regular audits and reviews to assess compliance and effectiveness.

Step 5: Foster a Cybersecurity Culture

Educate and train employees on cybersecurity best practices. Promote a culture of security awareness and vigilance.

Action Steps:

  • Conduct regular training sessions and awareness campaigns.
  • Encourage reporting of suspicious activities and potential security incidents.

Case Studies: Successful Implementation

Case Study 1: Government Agency

A government agency faced significant cybersecurity challenges, including frequent phishing attacks. By adopting the Essential 8, the agency significantly improved its security posture.

Implementation Steps:

  • Conducted a baseline assessment to identify critical gaps.
  • Implemented application control and patch management as immediate priorities.
  • Used MFA to secure access to sensitive systems.
  • Restricted administrative privileges to minimise insider threats.


  • Reduced successful phishing attacks by 70%.
  • Improved compliance with cybersecurity regulations.
  • Enhanced overall resilience against cyber threats.

Case Study 2: Financial Institution

A financial institution needed to protect sensitive customer data and comply with stringent regulatory requirements. The Essential 8 framework provided a clear roadmap for achieving these goals.

Implementation Steps:

  • Developed a comprehensive implementation plan.
  • Used detailed guides to deploy and test each control.
  • Regularly reviewed and updated cybersecurity policies and procedures.


  • Achieved compliance with industry regulations.
  • Reduced the risk of data breaches and financial fraud.
  • Increased customer trust and confidence.
Professional image of a secure data centre, professionals working on cybersecurity, and digital elements representing compliance and data protection.

Implementing the Essential 8 framework helped a financial institution protect sensitive data, comply with regulations, and enhance customer trust | Empire Technologies


The ACSC Essential 8 framework is a powerful tool for organisations looking to enhance their cybersecurity posture. By adopting these strategies, organisations can mitigate cyber threats, improve resilience, and ensure compliance with best practices and regulatory requirements.

For more detailed information and resources, organisations can visit the ACSC’s Essential Eight page. Staying proactive and informed is crucial for protecting digital assets and ensuring long-term security and resilience.