As we keep on saying on this blog, we live in an age of digital threats that continue to evolve even as we write this. How your company addresses these threats shows how seriously you take cyber security.
Some businesses may rely on basic external training and compliance, which may be enough. But for many companies, their data is their business, and for them, there are advanced cyber security certifications, such as Cyber Essentials.
Certifications can be an essential layer of protection for your business. It helps avoid becoming a low-hanging fruit, an easy target in the global cyber world. Robust cyber security strategy and certification give you and your customers peace of mind that their data will stay safe and sound.
More than that, such a comprehensive cyber security certification like Cyber Essentials demonstrates your business’s true commitment to cyber defense. Why? Well, this is a verifiable program overseen by independent experts that require systematically assessing risks, implementing controls, monitoring systems, and continuously updating your systems.
Now, we’ll start by explaining how Cyber Essentials works and then see why this type of certification is important for your business.
What Is Cyber Essentials certification?
Cyber Essentials is a UK government-backed security certification scheme designed to help businesses protect themselves against common cyber threats.
It actually works like this – your business needs to follow and implement a set of guidelines and best practices for an improved cyber security environment.
There are two levels of certification under Cyber Essentials.
This is the basic level of certification that your business can achieve by completing a self-assessment questionnaire, in which you have to demonstrate that these next five key security controls are implemented:
• Boundary firewalls and internet gateways – protects your internet connection.
• Secure configuration – ensures your devices and software are securely configured.
• Patch management – installs the latest software patches and updates.
• Access control – controls who has access to your systems and data.
• Malware protection – uses tools to detect and protect against malware.
Cyber Essentials Plus
This is an advanced level of certification that requires your business to go through an independent assessment of its security controls by a certified assessor. This assessment will verify that your business has in fact implemented the five key security controls effectively.
So, now that we defined what Cyber Essentials certification is, let’s see what are the most common cyber threats it helps protect against:
• Phishing attacks: by implementing patch management and malware protection controls, your business can better defend against phishing emails that contain malicious links or attachments.
• Ransomware: with strong boundary firewalls, limited internet access, and malware protection in place, the risk of ransomware attacks is significantly reduced.
• Social engineering: implementing access control and secure configuration controls can help prevent unauthorized access due to social engineering techniques like impersonation or manipulation.
• Malware infection: anti-malware software and patch management controls prevent malware infection from the internet, removable media, email, etc.
• Network hacking: strict controls on internet-facing systems and network infrastructure help block unauthenticated inbound and outbound network traffic that could be used to hack into your systems.
• Data breaches: access control, secure configuration, and boundary firewalls all contribute to reducing the risk of sensitive data being accessed illegally by outside parties.
• Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks: while not directly defending against DDoS attacks, the security controls in Cyber Essentials help ensure that systems are configured securely and up to date with the latest patches so that they can’t be used as part of a botnet to launch DDoS attacks on other systems.
• Insider threats: although primarily focused on external threats, some Cyber Essentials controls like access control and secure configuration can also help mitigate some risks from insider threats.
How to get Cyber Essentials certified?
These are the main steps you need to follow to get Cyber Essentials certified.
Prepare for the assessment
Before even starting your assessment, you need to review your current IT systems, cyber security strategy and policies to make sure they meet the Cyber Essentials requirements. This could mean you need to make some changes to tighten up your cyber security.
The first actual step in the certification process is to evaluate yourself against the requirements and submit to get certified. You will do that by completing the self-assessment questionnaire provided by the certification body.
The questionnaire in question covers the five key security control areas we talked about in the first part of this article: firewalls, secure configuration, access control, malware protection, and patch management.
Get technically assessed
If you can’t or don’t have time to complete the self-assessment questionnaire, you can work with an external assessor who will evaluate your systems and controls. They will determine if you meet the Cyber Essentials standard.
You get your certification
If your self-assessment or external assessment is successful, you will receive your Cyber Essentials certification. This is valid for 1 year, after which you need to get recertified.
As you can see, the certification process requires time (and budget for external assessments), but we believe the security and business benefits are worth it.
Read on for the main important benefits to get Cyber Essentials certified.
Why is a certification like Cyber Essentials important for your business?
Well, there are many reasons why getting a Cyber Essentials certification is important for your business, but the next are the ones that we believe are the most important.
Protection against cyber threats
Implementing the security controls recommended by Cyber Essentials can help protect your organization from common cyber threats such as phishing attacks, malware infections, and unauthorized access.
Compliance with regulations and contracts
If your business is working with the government, handling personal data, or providing certain technical services, you are required to have Cyber Essentials certification.
By achieving this certification, you demonstrate that your business takes cybersecurity seriously and has implemented industry-recognized best practices.
This Cyber Essentials certification can give your business a competitive advantage over businesses without the certification, as it shows potential clients and partners that you take cyber security seriously and have highly invested in protecting your systems and data.
Reduced risk of cyber threats
As shown above, implementing the security controls recommended by Cyber Essentials reduces the risk of cyber threats, like data breaches or ransomware. These can have significant financial and reputational costs for your business.
Improved customer confidence
Customers are increasingly concerned about the security of their personal and financial information. By being Cyber Essentials certified, you can reassure your customers that their data is being handled securely.
So in summary, Cyber Essentials is an important certification to have as it demonstrates your business commitment to cyber security and protects customer data. It reduces the risk of cyber threats that could disrupt business operations and processes and also provides a baseline standard for cyber security that your business can build upon.
Want to get help getting Cyber Essentials certified? Then book a free consultation with our certified auditors and experts and start your journey to meeting the requirements for this important security certification.