The CIS Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense

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The Center for Internet Security Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense is a publication of best practice guidelines for computer security. The project was initiated early in 2008 in response to extreme data losses experienced by organizations in the US defense industrial base.[1] The publication was initially developed by the SANS Institute. Ownership was then transferred to the Council on Cyber Security (CCS) in 2013, and then transferred to Center for Internet Security (CIS) in 2015. It was originally known as the Consensus Audit Guidelines and it is also known as the CIS CSC, CIS 20, CCS CSC, SANS Top 20 or CAG 20.


The guidelines consist of 20 key actions, called critical security controls (CSC), that organizations should implement to block or mitigate known attacks. The controls are designed so that primarily automated means can be used to implement, enforce and monitor them.[2] The security controls give no-nonsense, actionable recommendations for cyber security, written in language that’s easily understood by IT personnel.[3] Goals of the Consensus Audit Guidelines include

  • Leveraging cyber offense to inform cyber defense, focusing on high payoff areas
  • Ensuring that security investments are focused to counter highest threats
  • Maximizing the use of automation to enforce security controls, thereby negating human errors
  • Using consensus process to collect best ideas[4]


Version 7.1 has been released April 4, 2019.[5]

CSC 1: Inventory and control of Hardware Assets
CSC 2: Inventory and control of Software Assets
CSC 3: Continuous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation
CSC 4: Controlled Use of Administrative Privileges
CSC 5: Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Mobile Devices, Laptops, Workstations, and Servers
CSC 6: Maintenance, Monitoring, and Analysis of Audit Logs
CSC 7: Email and Web Browser Protections
CSC 8: Malware Defenses
CSC 9: Limitation and Control of Network Ports, Protocols, and Services
CSC 10: Data Recovery Capabilities
CSC 11: Secure Configurations for Network Devices such as Firewalls, Routers, and Switches
CSC 12: Boundary Defense
CSC 13: Data Protection
CSC 14: Controlled Access Based on the Need to Know
CSC 15: Wireless Access Control
CSC 16: Account Monitoring and Control
CSC 17: Implement a Security Awareness and Training Program
CSC 18: Application Software Security
CSC 19: Incident Response and Management
CSC 20: Penetration Tests and Red Team Exercises

Implementation Groups[edit]

Version 7.1 introduced the Implementation Groups,[6] dividing the Controls into 3 sections:

  • Implementation Group 1: Applicable to all companies (small to large)
  • Implementation Group 2: Additional Controls for storing sensitive information
  • Implementation Group 3: Additional Controls for very sensitive information

With the implementation groups, smaller companies do not need to comply with all CIS Controls.

Previous versions[edit]

Version 3.0 was released on April 13, 2011. Version 5.0 was released on February 2, 2014 by the Council on Cyber Security (CCS).[7] Version 6.0 was released on October 15, 2015 and consists of the security controls below. Version 6.1 was released on August 31, 2016 and has the same priorization as version 6. Version 7 has been released March 19, 2018.[8]

Compared to version 5, version 6/6.1 has re-prioritized the controls and changed these two controls:

  • 'Secure Network Engineering' was CSC 19 in version 5 but has been deleted in version 6/6.1.
  • 'CSC 7: Email and Web Browser Protections' has been added in version 6/6.1.

In Version 7,[9] controls 3, 4, and 5 were reshuffled. Controls 1-6 are considered "Basic", 7-16 are "Foundational" and 17-20 are "Organizational". It also released CIS RAM,[10] an information security risk assessment method to help implement CIS Controls.


The Consensus Audit Guidelines (CAG) were compiled by a consortium of more than 100 contributors[11] from US government agencies, commercial forensics experts and pen testers.[12] Authors of the initial draft include members of:

  • US National Security Agency Red Team and Blue Team
  • US Department of Homeland Security, US-CERT
  • US DoD Computer Network Defense Architecture Group
  • US DoD Joint Task Force – Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO)
  • US DoD Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3)
  • US Department of Energy Los Alamos National Lab, and three other National Labs.
  • US Department of State, Office of the CISO
  • US Air Force
  • US Army Research Laboratory
  • US Department of Transportation, Office of the CIO
  • US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the CISO
  • US Government Accountability Office (GAO)
  • MITRE Corporation
  • The SANS Institute[1]

Notable results[edit]

Starting in 2009, the US Department of State began supplementing its risk scoring program in part using the Consensus Audit Guidelines. According to the Department's measurements, in the first year of site scoring using this approach the department reduced overall risk on its key unclassified network by nearly 90 percent in overseas sites, and by 89 percent in domestic sites.[13]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Gilligan Group Inc., CAG Background and Participants"
  2. ^ “Understanding Technology Stakeholders: Their Progress and Challenges” by John M. Gilligan, Software Assurance Forum, November 4, 2009
  3. ^ “Consensus Audit Guidelines: Overview” by Lieberman Software Corporation
  4. ^ “Consensus Audit Guidelines: Time to ‘Stop The Bleeding’” by John M. Gilligan, 10th Semi-Annual Software Assurance Forum, March 12, 2009
  5. ^ Version 7.1 on
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Version 7 on
  9. ^ "CIS Controls Version 7 – What's Old, What's New". CIS® (Center for Internet Security, Inc.).
  10. ^ "CIS RAM FAQ". CIS® (Center for Internet Security, Inc.).
  11. ^ James Tarala and Jennifer Adams, "The Consensus Audit Guidelines: Drastically Improve Security of HIT Systems"[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ SANS Website, "20 Critical Security Controls"
  13. ^ "Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, Second Session, March 24, 2010, 'Federal Information Security: Current Challenges and Future Policy Considerations'"
  14. ^ "HALOCK Security Labs: CIS RAM". CIS RAM.