Top 11 Cybersecurity Frameworks for Australian Businesses (Updated 2024)

Are you confused about what cyber security program you should comply with? Australia currently has no clear mandatory minimum cyber security standard for business, although it is recommended all businesses consider the Essential Eight maturity model and meet the minimum standard relevant to their business model.

Top 11 Cybersecurity Frameworks for Australian Businesses

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Understanding the top cybersecurity frameworks, such as the Essential Eight, is crucial for businesses in Australia for several reasons:

Prevention of Cyberattacks

Becoming familiar with the following frameworks, businesses can prevent cyberattacks that could compromise their internal systems.

Brand + Financial Impact

A cyber breach can have a significant brand and economic impact.  Understanding what your business is legally required to implement is paramount to protecting against financial ruin.

Regulatory Compliance

Understanding and implementing frameworks like the Essential Eight prepares businesses for future compliance requirements and strengthens their resilience against cyber threats.

Top Cyber Frameworks (Updated 2024)

For businesses in Australia grappling with the question of which cybersecurity protocols to follow, the path isn’t as clear-cut as it is in the U.S., where mandatory cybersecurity standards for businesses are well-established.

Yet, change is on the horizon. The Australian government is facing increasing calls to adopt a strategy similar to that of the U.S. to strengthen Australia’s cybersecurity posture.

With the anticipated overhaul of national security, we can expect the rollout of regulatory standards tailored to the specific needs of different industries, designed to address their particular security weaknesses. Until then, Australian companies are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, especially those orchestrated by state-sponsored entities, underscoring the urgency for businesses to bolster their cyber defenses.

The 2020 Australian Digital Trust Report underscores the severe economic repercussions of cyber incidents, estimating that a disruption lasting four weeks to essential digital services could inflict an economic loss of AU$30 billion—about 1.5% of the country’s GDP—and potentially result in 163,000 job cuts.

In light of these findings and to aid Australian businesses in enhancing their cyber defense mechanisms, we have curated an exhaustive list of the most pertinent cybersecurity measures and frameworks for Australian enterprises as of 2024.

Related:  ACSC Essential Eight Maturity Model Changes and Essential Eight Assessment Process Guide which details the steps for undertaking an assessment against the Essential Eight (Nov 2023 update), including methods for testing the implementation of each of the mitigation strategies.

The Australian government is moving towards a national security reform which will mean that industry-specific regulatory standards will likely be introduced to strengthen the vulnerabilities unique to each sector.

To assist in the effort of strengthening our cyber threat resilience, we’ve compiled a list of cybersecurity frameworks that are available and could be referenced to improve security postures to protect Australian businesses from cyberattacks and cyber threats.

What is a cyber security framework?

A cybersecurity framework is a structured set of guidelines designed to help organisations assess and improve their ability to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber attacks. It provides a common language and systematic methodology for managing cybersecurity risk, tailored to the specific needs and risks of the organization. By aligning security processes and technology with business objectives, a cybersecurity framework helps ensure that an organization’s information assets are protected against the evolving landscape of cyber threats. It typically includes standards, guidelines, and best practices to manage cybersecurity-related risk, and its flexible nature allows it to be implemented across various industries and different sized organizations.

1. Essential Eight

The Essential Eight, established by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) in 2017, serves as a strategic guide for Australian entities to counteract cyber threats and secure data. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) endorses this framework for all organizations within the country. For detailed insights into the ASD’s security protocols, consult the Information Security Manual (ISM).

The Essential Eight, also referred to as the ASD Essential Eight, encapsulates eight fundamental preventative measures, categorized under three main goals.

Each strategy listed under the objectives is linked to a detailed implementation guide provided by the Australian Government.

 

Objective 1: Cyberattack Prevention

The primary goal of this strategy is to shield internal networks from harmful entities like malware, ransomware, and other digital threats.

Under Objective 1, there are four key security measures:

  • Remediate vulnerabilities in applications
  • Manage application permissions
  • Strengthen user application security
  • Adjust Microsoft Office Macro configurations Discover how Australian companies can safeguard against data breaches >

Objective 2: Contain Cyberattack Impact

This goal focuses on minimizing the reach of any malicious infiltrations. It involves identifying and fixing security gaps to prevent exploitation by cyber adversaries.

Objective 2 encompasses three critical security controls:

  • Update operating system security patches
  • Limit administrative privileges
  • Enforce Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Understand the distinction between 2FA and MFA >

Objective 3: Ensure Data Recovery and System Uptime

This objective deals with the aftermath of cybersecurity incidents. It’s crucial to regularly back up sensitive data to maintain operational continuity and enable swift recovery.

This includes the eighth and ultimate security control – Routine backups.

For each countermeasure, the Australian Signals Directorate advises implementing the Essential Eight framework in three stages:

  • Maturity Level One: Partial adherence to the strategic goals
  • Maturity Level Two: Substantial compliance with the strategic goals
  • Maturity Level Three: Complete alignment with the strategic goals The minimum suggested standard for cyber defense is Maturity Level Three.

Explore the Essential Eight Framework in detail >

Applicability of the Essential Eight:

The Australian Signals Directorate urges all government agencies and businesses in Australia to adopt the Essential Eight as a cybersecurity best practice.

Essential Eight’s Mandate for Australian Enterprises:

The Essential Eight will be mandated by the Australian Federal government for all 98 non-corporate Commonwealth entities. Both corporate and non-corporate Commercial entities (NCCEs) are expected to adhere to this framework. These entities will be audited every five years starting June 2022 to assess compliance.

Previously, only the top four strategies of the Essential Eight were mandatory for government bodies. However, following an audit that exposed significant cybersecurity weaknesses across various departments, the mandate has been extended to include all eight strategies for NCCEs.

Since 2018, all businesses with a yearly revenue exceeding $3 million are required to report any data breaches to the OAIC, regardless of their implementation of the Essential Eight framework.

This is rapidly evolving, so here are the links to the most recent information:

  • The Australian Department of Home Affairs has recently made amendments to the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 (the SOCI Act).  On 2 December 2021, the SOCI Act was amended to apply obligations to certain assets, including new assets defined in the SOCI Act and the Asset Definition Rules.  Learn More.
  • The Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 mandates cyber incident reporting for critical infrastructure assets. Critical Infrastructure owners and operators are required to report a cyber security incident if you are captured by the critical infrastructure asset definitions.  Fact Sheet.
  • The Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF), administered by AGD, mandates that all non-corporate Commonwealth entities implement four specific Essential Eight mitigation strategies (known as the Top Four) and strongly recommends the adoption of the entire Essential Eight. Learn more:  ACSC Essential Eight Cyber Security Guidelines the Maturity Model and ACSC Strategies to mitigate cyber security incidents
  • Since 2018, it has become mandatory for all businesses with an annual turnover of at least $3 million, to report data breaches to the OAIC – whether or not they’ve embraced the Essential Eight framework.

How KM Tech can help your business comply with the ACSC Essential Eight

Kaine Mathrick Tech, as Australia’s only Cyber First Managed Service Provider, offers a robust suite of services to assist businesses in achieving compliance with the Essential Eight cybersecurity framework. Our approach includes comprehensive cyber security monitoring and remediation to meet the ACSC Essential Eight Maturity Level 21.  We provide strategic technology solutions that are designed to reduce IT frustrations and improve operational efficiencies. With our expertise, Kaine Mathrick Tech can guide your business through the implementation of the Essential Eight, ensuring that your data and networks are fortified against cyber threats. Our services encompass everything from monthly reporting and remote monitoring to IT support and strategic advice, making them a true technology partner for businesses aiming to enhance their cybersecurity posture.

2. AESCF Program - Australian Energy Sector Cyber Security Framework

The Australian Energy Sector Cyber Security Framework (AESCSF) is a pivotal annual assessment that gauges the cybersecurity resilience within the Australian energy sector. Established in 2018, the AESCSF is the result of a collaborative initiative involving key stakeholders such as the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the Australian Government, the Cyber Security Industry Working Group (CSIWG), the Critical Infrastructure Centre (CIC), and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).

The AESCSF integrates elements from renowned security frameworks and a risk management approach to offer the highest level of cyber threat protection for Australian energy infrastructures. It incorporates various frameworks and models, including:

The AESCSF is specifically tailored for the Australian Energy sector, providing a clear maturity pathway for organizations within this industry to enhance their cybersecurity measures.

While the AESCSF is not a mandatory framework for Australian businesses in the energy sector, it is highly recommended due to the increasing focus on critical infrastructures by cybercriminals. The framework’s structured maturity pathway programs offer a clear route for organizations to bolster their cyber defenses.

The AESCSF assesses cyber security maturity and uplift capability, which strengthens the energy sector’s cyber resilience. The AESCSF was developed in 2018 by AEMO, the industry and the Australian Government.  Learn More.

Take our self-assessment to see how your business stacks up with the Essential Eight

3. Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF)

The Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) is a directive that enables Australian Government agencies to safeguard their personnel, information, and assets, fostering a robust security culture both domestically and abroad.

The PSPF outlines key policies linked to essential guidelines for:

The framework is underpinned by five principles that guide desired security outcomes:

  1. Security as a collective responsibility – Encouraging a security-conscious culture to achieve desired outcomes.
  2. Security as an enabler for government operations – Ensuring secure service delivery for greater efficiency.
  3. Proactive security measures – Shielding assets and individuals from cyber risks.
  4. Ownership of security risks – Departments managing their specific risks.
  5. Evolving security incident response – Continual enhancement of response strategies.

Scope of the PSPF:

The PSPF is applicable to all Australian government and non-corporate Commonwealth entities.

Mandatory Nature of the PSPF:

For Australian Government and non-corporate Commonwealth entities, adherence to the PSPF is mandatory, tailored to their respective risk environments.

Since 2018, following its establishment as an Australian Government Policy by the Attorney-General, the PSPF has been a fundamental requirement for government organizations.

Additionally, the PSPF is recognized as a cybersecurity best practice benchmark for all state and territory agencies in Australia

Learn more..

4. Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)

Learn More

5. The Australian Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018

The Australian Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 (SOCI Act) is a legislative measure aimed at defending Australia’s essential services from external cyber threats. It establishes a legal framework that encompasses a set of powers, responsibilities, and duties specifically targeting key infrastructure assets within the electricity, gas, water, and maritime sectors.

The SOCI Act mandates three core obligations for critical infrastructure proprietors and operators:

  1. Asset Registration: All pertinent assets must be documented with the authorities.
  2. Information Provision: Entities must furnish the Department of Home Affairs with all necessary data to aid in safeguarding efforts.
  3. Compliance with Directives: Entities are required to adhere to directives issued by the Minister of Home Affairs, especially when other risk mitigation strategies have been depleted.

On December 10, 2020, the Australian government proposed the Security Legislation Amendment Bill, which expands the scope of the SOCI Act to include 11 categories of critical infrastructure:

  • Communications
  • Data storage and processing
  • Defence
  • Financial services and markets
  • Food and grocery
  • Health care and medical
  • Transport
  • Higher education and research
  • Energy
  • Space technology
  • Water and Sewerage

For a comprehensive understanding of the Act, resources are available that provide an overview, detail the coverage of critical infrastructures, and outline the obligations of reporting entities.

Note: The SOCI Act has been reformed to enhance the cybersecurity defenses of Australia’s critical infrastructure, with the revised provisions detailed in the SLACIP Act.

Industry Application of the SOCI Act:

The SOCI Act is relevant to the sectors of electricity, gas, water, and ports that manage critical assets.

Mandatory Compliance:

As of the latest information, there is no mandate for Australian businesses to comply with the SOCI Act of 2018. However, it is important to stay informed about any future regulatory changes that may impose compliance requirements.

6. Control Objectives for Information Technology (COBIT)

COBIT stands for Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology. It is a framework created by the ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association) for IT governance and management. It was designed to be a supportive tool for managers—and allows bridging the crucial gap between technical issues, business risks and control requirements.

COBIT, crafted by the IT Governance Institute (ITGI) and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), is an IT management and  IT governance framework. It’s designed to bolster the development, organisation, and execution of processes that enhance IT governance and cybersecurity practices.

Widely utilized for compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), COBIT also enables organizations to gauge the efficacy of their IT investments against their business objectives.

The most recent iteration, COBIT 2019, succeeds COBIT 5, which was lauded for its emphasis on accountability and stakeholder engagement.

The principles of COBIT 2019 are as follows:

  • Principle 1: Delivering value to stakeholders
  • Principle 2: Adopting a comprehensive approach
  • Principle 3: Establishing a dynamic governance system
  • Principle 4: Distinguishing governance from management
  • Principle 5: Customizing to the needs of the enterprise
  • Principle 6: Ensuring an end-to-end governance system

For comparison, the principles of COBIT 5 included:

  • Principle 1: Satisfying stakeholder needs
  • Principle 2: Encompassing the entire enterprise
  • Principle 3: Implementing an integrated framework
  • Principle 4: Facilitating a holistic approach
  • Principle 5: Differentiating governance from management

For a deeper understanding of COBIT and its application, case studies can provide practical insights.

Applicability of COBIT:

COBIT is applicable to any organization that relies on the effective dissemination of information, encompassing both governmental and private sectors.

COBIT’s Requirement for Australian Businesses:

In Australia, COBIT is not compulsory. However, Australian companies that issue and register securities in the U.S. are advised to adopt COBIT to ensure SOX compliance.

7. Centre for Internet Security (CIS) Controls

The individual controls are:

CIS Controls vs. CIS Benchmarks:

While CIS controls offer a set of strategic recommendations for system and device security, CIS Benchmarks provide specific hardening guidelines for vendor products, encompassing over 100 security practices across more than 25 vendors.

Industry Relevance of CIS Framework:

The CIS controls are universally applicable, enabling any organization to enhance its security measures. They are particularly advantageous for sectors that handle large volumes of sensitive user data, such as finance, healthcare, education, and legal services.

Mandatory Status of CIS Controls in Australia:

Currently, Australian businesses are not legally required to implement the CIS controls framework. Nonetheless, it is advocated for its exceptional protection of sensitive data and can be adapted to meet various industry security needs.

Learn More

What industries does CIS apply to?

CIS controls are not industry-specific but can assist industries that store a lot of sensitive data such as finance, healthcare etc…

 

8. NIST Cyber Security Framework

Learn More

9. ISO/IEC 38500

10. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

11. Cloud Controls Matrix (CCM)

Final Thoughts

Your IT security framework is what safeguards your data, networks and business from cyberattack.  These frameworks provide you with everything you need to be compliant with cyber security standards. Whether you choose to implement one or choose to mix and match protocols and policies to make your own personalised IT security framework is up to you, but either way you are making the choice to protect your business in the best way possible.

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Top 11 Cybersecurity Frameworks for Australian Businesses
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Are you confused about what cyber security program you should comply with? Australia currently has no clear mandatory minimum cyber security standard for business, although it is recommended all businesses consider the Essential Eight maturity model and meet the minimum standard relevant to their business model.
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Publisher Name
Kaine Mathrick Tech
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Top 11 Cybersecurity Frameworks for Australian Businesses
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Are you confused about what cyber security program you should comply with? Australia currently has no clear mandatory minimum cyber security standard for business, although it is recommended all businesses consider the Essential Eight maturity model and meet the minimum standard relevant to their business model.
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Publisher Name
Kaine Mathrick Tech
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