NIST vs ASD Essential 8: A Comparison for Cybersecurity Professionals

NIST vs Essential 8: A Comparison for Cybersecurity Professionals

In today’s digital landscape, organisations face an ever-increasing number of cyber threats. To combat these risks, cybersecurity frameworks provide essential guidelines and best practices to protect sensitive data and systems. Two prominent frameworks that organisations often consider are the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the Essential 8. In this blog post, we will explore the similarities and differences between these frameworks, helping cybersecurity professionals make informed decisions to enhance their organisation’s security posture.


Cybersecurity frameworks serve as roadmaps, guiding organisations in their efforts to mitigate risks and protect valuable assets. These frameworks provide a structured approach to managing cybersecurity, addressing critical areas such as risk assessment, incident response, and security controls. Among the myriad of frameworks available, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the Essential 8 stand out as widely recognised and respected approaches.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is a comprehensive framework that provides organisations with guidelines and best practices to manage and improve their cybersecurity posture. The framework consists of five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. Each function represents a set of activities that must be carried out to achieve effective cybersecurity.

The advantages of NIST include its flexibility, as it can be tailored to fit different organisational needs, its wide adoption and recognition among industry leaders, and its alignment with other cybersecurity standards and regulations. However, implementing the NIST framework may require significant resources and expertise, making it more suitable for larger organisations with mature cybersecurity programs.

Essential 8 Framework

The Essential 8 Framework, developed by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), focuses on eight essential mitigation strategies to prevent targeted cyber intrusions. These strategies are based on real-world cyber threats and are designed to address common vulnerabilities exploited by malicious actors. The Essential 8 includes measures such as application whitelisting, regular patching, and multifactor authentication.

The advantages of the Essential 8 framework lie in its simplicity and practicality. The strategies outlined in the framework are clear and actionable, making them accessible to organisations of all sizes. Additionally, the ASD Essential 8 provides a prioritised approach to mitigating cyber risks, allowing organisations to focus their efforts on the most critical areas. However, the framework may not cover all possible cybersecurity risks and may need to be supplemented with additional controls.

Comparison of NIST and Essential 8

When comparing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the Essential 8, several factors should be considered. Both frameworks aim to enhance cybersecurity, but they have distinct approaches and focus areas.

The NIST framework provides a holistic view of cybersecurity, covering a broad range of functions and activities. It emphasises risk management, continuous improvement, and adaptability. On the other hand, the Essential 8 focuses on specific mitigation strategies that address common vulnerabilities.

Choosing the right framework depends on various factors, such as the organisation’s size, industry, risk appetite, and regulatory requirements. Larger organisations with robust cybersecurity programs may benefit from the comprehensive nature of the NIST framework. Smaller organisations or those looking for a prioritised approach to cybersecurity may find the Essential 8 more practical.

In addition to their different scopes, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the Essential 8 differ in terms of implementation guidance. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework offers a flexible implementation tier system that helps organisations measure the degree of rigor and sophistication of their cybersecurity practices. Conversely, the Essential 8 provides straightforward strategies without a tiered approach, thereby simplifying the implementation process, which can be particularly advantageous for organisations with limited cybersecurity expertise or resources.

Understanding these differences is key for decision-makers to align cybersecurity measures with organisational objectives and to ensure a proactive stance in combating cyber threats. Both frameworks serve as valuable tools for protecting an organisation’s information and systems, but they should be seen as complementary rather than mutually exclusive options.

Choosing the Right Framework

Selecting the appropriate framework for your organisation requires careful consideration of several factors:

  • Organisational Needs: Assess your organisation’s size, industry, and risk profile to determine which framework aligns best with your unique requirements.
  • Resources and Expertise: Evaluate the availability of resources, including budget, staffing, and expertise. Consider whether you have the necessary capabilities to implement and maintain the chosen framework.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Determine if your organisation operates in a regulated industry and whether specific frameworks are mandated or recommended.
  • Alignment with Standards: Consider the alignment of each framework with other relevant cybersecurity standards and regulations that your organisation must comply with.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Assess how well the framework can adapt to your organisation’s evolving cybersecurity needs and growth.

By carefully considering these factors, organisations can make informed decisions regarding which framework best suits their cybersecurity goals.


Cybersecurity frameworks play a crucial role in helping organisations establish effective cybersecurity programs. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework and Essential 8 are two prominent frameworks that offer valuable guidance to bolster cybersecurity defences. While the NIST framework offers a comprehensive and adaptable approach, the Essential 8 provides a practical and prioritised strategy.

When choosing between these frameworks, it is essential to assess your organisation’s specific needs, available resources, regulatory requirements, and risk profile. Ultimately, the selected framework should align with your organisation’s goals, enhance your cybersecurity posture, and contribute to the protection of valuable assets.

Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing effort that requires continuous improvement and adaptation. Regular assessments and updates to your chosen framework will ensure that your organisation remains resilient in the face of rapidly evolving cyber threats.
Stay secure, stay vigilant!




National Institute of Standards and Technology. (2014). Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. Retrieved from [](

Australian Cyber Security Centre. (2021). Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Security Incidents. Retrieved from