Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense
Over the years, many security standards and requirements frameworks have been developed in attempts to address risks to enterprise systems and the critical data in them. However, most of these efforts have essentially become exercises in reporting on compliance and have actually diverted security program resources from the constantly evolving attacks that must be addressed. In 2008, this was recognized as a serious problem by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), and they began an effort that took an "offense must inform defense" approach to prioritizing a list of the controls that would have the greatest impact in improving risk posture against real-world threats. A consortium of U.S. and international agencies quickly grew, and was joined by experts from private industry and around the globe. Ultimately, recommendations for what became the Critical Security Controls (the Controls) were coordinated through the SANS Institute. In 2013, the stewardship and sustainment of the Controls was transferred to the Council on CyberSecurity (the Council), an independent, global non-profit entity committed to a secure and open Internet.
The Critical Security Controls focuses first on prioritizing security functions that are effective against the latest Advanced Targeted Threats, with a strong emphasis on "What Works" - security controls where products, processes, architectures and services are in use that have demonstrated real world effectiveness.
SANS has an active effort to collect, document successful What Works case studies that highlight success stories in cybersecurity. Visit the WhatWorks link at the right to see the most recent reports.
Standardization and automation is another top priority, to gain operational efficiencies while also improving effectiveness. The actions defined by the Controls are demonstrably a subset of the comprehensive catalog defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) SP 800-53. The Controls do not attempt to replace the work of NIST, including the Cybersecurity Framework developed in response to Executive Order 13636. The Controls instead prioritize and focus on a smaller number of actionable controls with high-payoff, aiming for a "must do first" philosophy. Since the Controls were derived from the most common attack patterns and were vetted across a very broad community of government and industry, with very strong consensus on the resulting set of controls, they serve as the basis for immediate high-value action.
Critical Security Controls - Version 5
- 1: Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Devices
- 2: Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Software
- 3: Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Mobile Devices, Laptops, Workstations, and Servers
- 4: Continuous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation
- 5: Malware Defenses
- 6: Application Software Security
- 7: Wireless Access Control
- 8: Data Recovery Capability
- 9: Security Skills Assessment and Appropriate Training to Fill Gaps
- 10: Secure Configurations for Network Devices such as Firewalls, Routers, and Switches
- 11: Limitation and Control of Network Ports, Protocols, and Services
- 12: Controlled Use of Administrative Privileges
- 13: Boundary Defense
- 14: Maintenance, Monitoring, and Analysis of Audit Logs
- 15: Controlled Access Based on the Need to Know
- 16: Account Monitoring and Control
- 17: Data Protection
- 18: Incident Response and Management
- 19: Secure Network Engineering
- 20: Penetration Tests and Red Team Exercises
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To further clarify the Creative Commons license related to the 20 Critical Controls content, (i) All persons are authorized to use the content as a framework in their organization or to sell professional services related to the content (e.g. a consulting engagement to implement the 20 Critical Controls), and (ii) sale of the contents as a framework model is not authorized. Users of the 20 Critical Controls framework are also required to refer to http://www.sans.org/critical-security-controls/ when referring to the 20 Critical Controls in order to ensure that users are employing the most up to date guidance.