CIS Benchmark

What Is CIS Benchmark?

One common thing among IT companies is that they all wish to eradicate vulnerabilities to improve, solidify, and attack-proof their IT architecture and systems. Data security and compliance regulations are inseparable. Maintaining a good cybersecurity strategy for your organization helps compliance operations and frameworks find gaps and make changes and enhancements in your data protection processes and strategies.

In 2009, when the Center for Internet Security (CIS) was formed, there was a pressing need in the security and IT industries ecosystem to develop an efficient way to secure data and IT systems. On a task to meticulously identify, engineer, authenticate, promote, and support the best course of action and ideal strategies to ensure security, a nonprofit organization, the Center for Internet Security (CIS), came into being.

It is a respected global community of cybersecurity academics and professionals which develops CIS benchmarks. These benchmarks entail multiple and efficient practices to ensure the safe configuration and modeling of software, IT systems, cloud infrastructure, and networks.

Each of these benchmarks and CIS requirements equips organizations to better their cyber defense capabilities. Currently, there are 140+ CIS benchmarks covering seven of the significant core technologies. CIS Benchmarks are established through a unique agreement-based approach by cybersecurity professionals and subject-matter experts (SMEs) from around the world, each of which regularly finds, refines, and verifies security practices within the respective competency.

More Insights Into The Center For Internet Security (CIS)

CIS is led by a global IT community with the common purpose of finding, creating, verifying, marketing, and sustaining best practice cyber protection standards and solutions. Over the years, CIS has developed and provided several free-of-cost solutions and tools to businesses of all kinds to improve their cybersecurity structure.

Other than this, CIS is best known for the publication of CIS Controls, a comprehensive reference of 20 safeguards and countermeasures for successful cyber protection. CIS Controls give a prioritized checklist that businesses can use to decrease their cyber-attack surface dramatically. When developing recommendations for more secure system setups, CIS Benchmarks relate to these rules.

Importance Of Center Of Internet Security (CIS) Benchmarks

Cybersecurity is vast and complicated. Worse, operating systems and apps are usually highly configurable, with numerous services and options ready to be customized. It would take years to develop a safe business environment if firms were required to decide on the optimal configuration of every asset.

CIS benchmarks define standards for setting common digital assets, such as operating systems and cloud infrastructure. This eliminates the need for each business to create a new efficient strategy and offers enterprises a clear route to reducing their attack surface, leaving their business secure.

Consensus Process Of The Center Of Internet Security (CIS) Benchmarks

A CIS benchmark is subjected to two rounds of consensus assessment. The first happens during the early development phase, when experts consider, generate, and test working outlines until they all agree on the benchmark. After the benchmark has been released, the consensus team evaluates the input from the online community and infuses relevant feedback into the benchmark as the second phase.

CIS Benchmark Levels

Levels of security provided by CIS benchmarks are as follows:

Level 1

Basic or necessary security criteria can be enabled on any system and should result in little or no service disruption or diminished functionality.

Level 2

Security settings are recommended for areas requiring increased security, which may result in some restricted functionality.

The Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) profile

STIG is a collection of configured baselines by DISA. These security standards are maintained and published by the Department of Defense of the USA, carefully curated to match the requirements of the US government.

In order to comply with the STIG, there is a specified Level 3 STIG from CIS benchmarks. Level 1 and Level 2 are included in the STIG profile, offering more recommendations that DISA’s STIGs need.

Your IT infrastructure will be STIG and CIS compliant if you set up your systems per the CIS STIG Benchmarks.

7 Core Classifications Of CIS Benchmarks

To completely understand CIS benchmarks and to achieve them for your organization, you need to gather more insights on CIS benchmarks. Let us explore seven categories of it:

Server Software Benchmarks

The respective CIS benchmarks carefully examine the security setups of popular server software such as SQL Server, Microsoft Windows Server, Kubernetes, VMware, and Docker. They contain considerations on configuring API server settings, Kubernetes PKI certificates, storage limitations, server admin controls, and vNetwork regulations.

Operating System Benchmarks

It covers the security settings of key operating systems, including Apple, Linux, OSX, Microsoft Windows, etc. These benchmarks also cover the best standards for local and remote access limitations, user profiles, configurations for internet browsers, and driver installation protocols.

Mobile Device Benchmarks

This type of CIS benchmark keenly focuses on developer choices and settings, OS privacy preferences, browser settings, and app permissions for mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS.

Cloud Provider Benchmarks

This benchmark addresses security setups for Microsoft Azure, Google, IBM, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and other prominent public clouds. They cover Identity and Access Management framework settings, system logging mechanisms, regulatory compliance measures, and network arrangements.

Network Device Benchmarks

This benchmark provides generic and vendor-centric security setup standards for Juniper, Palo Alto Networks, and other network devices and gear.

Multi-Function Print Device Benchmarks

This type of benchmark outlines the best security practices for installing multi-function printers in office environments and addresses subjects such as an update of firmware, TCP/IP setups, sharing of files, wireless access configuration, and management of users.

Desktop Software Benchmarks 

Lastly, the CIS benchmark of desktop software encompasses security settings for popular software products, such as Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Exchange Server, and Microsoft Office. These benchmarks are mostly concerned with server and email privacy settings, management of mobile devices, default browser settings, and third-party software blocking.

Promising Benefits Of CIS Benchmarks

An organization can reap multiple benefits from CIS benchmarks and be a step closer to a secure IT infrastructure. Some of the CIS benchmark benefits are as follows:

Combined Technical Acumen And Knowledge

CIS benchmarks are designed carefully considering the IT landscape and cybersecurity, keeping in mind all of their expertise-driven capabilities.

Fortified Security

CIS standards establish superior methods for the target systems, and after proper application, they assist in closing vulnerabilities and decrease an organization’s susceptibility to attack.


These standards and benchmarks are designed by keeping in mind the seamless deployment of necessary controls and configurations. So you do not have to worry about the strenuous process of their implementation.

Persistent Security

These benchmarks and standards define best practices for protecting multiple technologies, allowing a company to attain security throughout its infrastructure.

Updated Guidance

To keep up with recent industry trends, continuous updates are a must. These benchmarks are updated periodically, ensuring the instruction remains current when solutions evolve per requirements.

How Can One Achieve CIS Regulatory Compliance And Benchmarks?

An increasing number of rules require businesses to attain, maintain, and show compliance. It can be challenging for a company to achieve compliance with all applicable regulations when the regulatory landscape becomes highly complicated.

The CIS benchmarks enhance compliance efforts by laying out best practices that fit and comply with significant legislation. For instance, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), ISO 27001, NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA) are all closely related to CIS Benchmarks.

Adding to best practices recommendations, the Center for Internet Security provides CIS Controls and CIS Hardened Images that are virtual images already configured to the benchmarks. These tools can also help firms speed the compliance process by giving them access to solutions that should be compliant with the rules.

Additional Significant Security Resources With The CIS Benchmarks

Two of the main resources published by CIS are as follows:

CIS Controls

Another resource published by the CIS as an end-to-end best-practice reference for system and network security is CIS Controls (previously known as CIS Critical Security Controls). The book includes a checklist of 20 high-priority precautions and activities that have proved successful against the most prevalent and damaging cybersecurity attacks on IT systems.

CIS Hardened Images

A virtual machine (VM) is a type of virtual computing that mimics dedicated computer hardware. System administrators use VM images as templates to easily build several VMs with comparable operating system specifications. If the VM image is incorrectly made, the VM instances produced from it will likewise be incorrectly configured and susceptible.

The CIS provides CIS Hardened Images that are pre-configured VM images that adhere to CIS Benchmark criteria.

A Step Closer To Achieving CIS Compliance

Implementing the best practices recommended in the CIS standards can help a business achieve CIS compliance. These publicly available materials provide all essential instructions for safeguarding various systems. Alternatively, an organization can use CIS Hardened Images, which comprise prebuilt versions of several operating systems configured to meet CIS criteria.

One can meet the CIS regulations manually. However, when scalability is concerned, it gets challenging, and manually carrying out this intricate process might result in errors. The management software may assist an organization in achieving and maintaining CIS benchmark compliance by finding and flagging non-compliant setups for correction.

Developing CIS Benchmarks

The CIS benchmark development process comprises a couple of steps. Following them can meet the Center for Internet Security (CIS) requirements and easily develop benchmarks.

  1. The organization or community recognizes the importance of a given criterion.
  2. Given all the important metrics, they define the benchmark’s scope.
  3. On the CIS benchmark community website, volunteers engage in discussion forums.
  4. Experts from the CIS community and other IT security professionals examine and ponder the draft.
  5. The experts develop, debate, and test their proposals until they reach an agreement.
  6. They complete the benchmark and post it on the CIS website.
  7. More community members with valuable input participate in the CIS Benchmark discussion.
  8. The consensus team considers valuable feedback from the benchmark implementation team.
  9. They make adjustments and improvements to the CIS Benchmark in new editions.

A Brief Insight Into CIS Control Implementation Groups

CIS Controls are prioritized to assist companies in performing impactful activities. The CIS Controls have been prioritized for several ‘implementation groups.’ In essence, they are distinct types of businesses that range in size, breadth, and cybersecurity requirements. Organizations determine which category they belong to, which helps them determine which CIS Controls to adopt based on their risk rating and planning.

Risk management and planning rely heavily on implementation groups. They balance assets to assist firms in taking targeted cybersecurity initiatives.

There are three groups in charge of implementation:

Group 1 Of Implementations

This group comprises smaller enterprises with fewer cybersecurity resources, as their resource pool is already committed to other important tasks. Data sensitivity may be minimal, and firms will likely use off-the-shelf IT systems and software.

Group 2 Of Implementations

The second group usually covers large enterprises with several departments and more complicated information technology systems. Cybersecurity compliance may be required, and the firms will most likely use enterprise-class IT solutions and systems.

Group 3 Of Implementations

This group entails complex organizations with cybersecurity compliance needs. Cybersecurity professionals may be within the business with complicated risk management and IT governance strategies. CIS controls will assist in limiting the danger of targeted cyber-attacks.

CIS Controls strives to increase cybersecurity defense and correctly coordinate resources across all three organizational groupings. They are linked to other cybersecurity standards, such as the ITIL Framework, and thus may be simply integrated into existing systems. CIS Controls assist enterprises in prioritizing their resources for an impact on cybersecurity protection.

Kubernetes CIS Benchmark

By hardening Kubernetes environments, CIS Benchmark recommended practices are a critical first step towards securing Kubernetes in production. Numerous commercial tools and open-source tools are readily available that automatically verify Kubernetes clusters to ensure they comply with the rules defined in the benchmark and identify any non-compliant settings.

Use Of CIS Benchmarks On Amazon Web Services

AWS is a CIS Security Benchmarks Member firm, and CIS is an AWS ISV partner. Guidelines for secure setups for a selection of AWS cloud services and account-level settings are included in the CIS Benchmarks.

Moreover, the ideal practices for AWS configuration settings are clearly stated by CIS. CIS Hardened Images are also available on the AWS marketplace.

Assessing Risk With Microsoft Purview Compliance Manager

The Microsoft Purview compliance portal assists you in understanding your organization’s compliance status and taking measures to help decrease risks. The Compliance Manager provides a premium template for constructing an assessment for this legislation. This template can be found on the Compliance Manager’s assessment templates page.

The Next Step With CIS Benchmarking

With many benchmarks and software technologies to choose from and consider, cybersecurity has become a challenge for companies. Planning, monitoring, and deploying CIS benchmarks can be complex, but there are multiple ways to make this process seamless for you. The goal is to achieve continued compliance and improved performance and identify and eliminate the entry points vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Security does not have to be complicated when there is a detailed plan to aid you.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.
SUBSCRIBE for more resources
Related Content

Agent-based SaaS Discovery

    When it comes to Augmentt Discover, we believe in flexibility and power. Augmentt Discover can collect SaaS usage data using both an Agent and Agentless model. Here is a quick [...]

    Product Evaluation Guide

      Thank you for starting your Augmentt Product Evaluation and Trial   Here are a few resources that will help you through this technical process. Support Technical Support is available to [...]
      Augmentt is a centralized SaaS security platform built for MSPs to deliver scalable managed security services for Microsoft and cloud apps. Our multi-tenant platform gives you visibility across all your end-users to easily audit, protect and detect security threats for a holistic approach to cyber security.