ASD Essential 8 vs NIST

ASD Essential 8 vs NIST

In the realm of cybersecurity, protecting organisational assets against burgeoning cyber threats is not just an IT concern but a strategic imperative. With an ever-expanding digital landscape, the imperative for robust cybersecurity frameworks has never been more critical. This blog post will delve into two notable security frameworks: Australia’s ASD Essential 8 and the US-based NIST Cybersecurity Framework, equipping cybersecurity professionals, IT managers, CISOs, and business owners with the insights to choose the right shield for their digital fortress.

ASD Essential 8 Framework

The ASD Essential 8 is a set of defensive strategies provided by the Australian Signals Directorate for organisations to protect their computer systems. These strategies are designed as a baseline defence method and have become a standard for Australian government agencies, encouraging its adoption across various sectors.

The Essential 8 focuses on three key objectives:

  1. Preventing malware delivery and execution: Strategies such as application control, patching applications, and disabling untrusted Microsoft Office macros strive to mitigate this risk.
  2. Limiting the extent of cybersecurity incidents: Through restriction of administrative privileges, patching operating systems, and employing multi-factor authentication, organisations can effectively minimise the consequences of an incident.
  3. Recovering data and system availability: By ensuring that daily backups are created and kept secure from cyber adversaries, companies can recover quickly from data corruption or loss.

Implementing Essential 8 is considered fundamental to a defence-in-depth strategy, providing a foundational layer that is both prescriptive and actionable.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

In contrast, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework offers a risk-based approach to managing cybersecurity risk and is well-regarded internationally, with its principles being adopted by various industries beyond the United States.

The framework comprises of five core functions:

  1. Identify: Develop an organisational understanding to manage cybersecurity risk.
  2. Protect: Implement safeguards to ensure the delivery of critical infrastructure services.
  3. Detect: Define activities to identify the occurrence of a cybersecurity event.
  4. Respond: Outline actions to take when a detected cybersecurity incident occurs.
  5. Recover: Identify plans for resilience and restoration of any capabilities or services that were impaired due to a cybersecurity event.

The NIST framework is known for its flexibility, allowing customisation according to an organisation’s specific industry, risk appetite, and regulatory requirements.


While both frameworks aim to improve cybersecurity postures, they differ in approach and implementation:

  • ASD Essential 8 is prescriptive, providing a checklist of strategies for cyber defence, whereas NIST offers a more holistic risk management framework that is adaptable across sectors.
  • The Essential 8 is centered around direct actions, whereas the NIST framework is more strategic, focusing on processes and continuous improvement.

Pros of ASD Essential 8:

  • Simplicity and ease of implementation
  • Direct and action-oriented

Cons of ASD Essential 8:

  • Less customisable
  • May not cover all aspects of cybersecurity needs for every organisation

Pros of NIST Cybersecurity Framework:

  • Comprehensive and holistic
  • Highly adaptable and flexible

Cons of NIST Cybersecurity Framework:

  • May require more resources and time to implement fully
  • Can be complex for smaller organisations

Choosing the Right Framework

Selecting a cybersecurity framework necessitates a careful analysis of your organisational needs:

  • Consider factors such as industry-specific regulations, company size, and existing security postures.
  • Weigh the complexity and resources available against the thoroughness and strategic value of each framework.
  • Evaluate how each framework aligns with your cybersecurity objectives and risk strategy.

Both frameworks can be effectively used in tandem, with organisations employing Essential 8 for specific security controls while embedding them within the larger structure offered by NIST’s full spectrum of cybersecurity activities.


No single framework serves as a cyber panacea; however, employing a structured approach to cybersecurity is crucial. In an environment where cyber threats evolve at a staggering pace, the fusion of strategy, process, and specific defensive actions represents the best line of defence.

For organisations seeking expertise and guidance in implementing these frameworks, Siege Cyber offers seasoned know-how and customised services to bolster cybersecurity postures. Contact our team to discover how our solutions can fortify your security strategy.

Stay proactive, remain vigilant, and continuously adapt. The digital world waits for no one, and neither do cyber adversaries. Equip your organisation with the robust protection it deserves by choosing a cybersecurity framework that aligns with your unique challenges and goals.