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MFA for Cyber Essentials Certification

Learn about the role of multi-factor authentication (MFA) in Cyber Essentials certification, and how UserLock can help your organization meet the MFA requirement.

Published April 25, 2024
Cyber Essentials MFA requirement

Cyber Essentials is a government-backed certification scheme in the U.K. designed to help organizations prevent the most common cyber attacks. The scheme outlines key security controls such as secure configuration, access control, malware protection, and patch management. A key access control requirement is the implementation of multi-factor authentication (MFA). Here’s how UserLock can help you meet the Cyber Essentials MFA requirement.

Understanding Cyber Essentials compliance

Cyber Essentials is an independently verified self-assessment certification for organizations to demonstrate they have basic cybersecurity controls in place.

Achieving Cyber Essentials compliance demonstrates an organization's commitment to cybersecurity best practices. It instills trust among stakeholders, enhances resilience against cyber attacks, and can even open doors to new business opportunities, as many U.K. government contracts now require suppliers to adhere to Cyber Essentials standards.

What is the difference between Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus?

According to IASME, the difference between Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus has to do with the level of assurance.

Cyber Essentials certification is based on a verified assessment questionnaire. Cyber Essentials Plus goes a step beyond the assessment questionnaire. While based on the same technical requirements, Cyber Essentials Plus requires a technical audit. In other words, an auditor verifies that your organization has put in place all Cyber Essentials controls. This allows organizations to offer a higher level of assurance that they’re in compliance with the scheme.

The role of MFA in Cyber Essentials compliance

While Cyber Essentials lays the groundwork for robust cybersecurity, organizations must complement these measures with additional layers of protection.

Cyber Essentials' technical requirements include key user access controls, including the implementation of multi-factor authentication (MFA).

“As well as providing an extra layer of security for passwords that aren’t protected by the other technical controls, you should always use multi-factor authentication to give administrative accounts extra security, and accounts that are accessible from the internet.”

MFA is a security mechanism that requires users to provide two or more authentication factors to verify their identity before granting access to a system or application. These factors typically fall into three categories:

  1. Something you know: This includes passwords, PINs, or answers to security questions.

  2. Something you have: This involves physical tokens, smart cards, or mobile devices.

  3. Something you are: This encompasses biometric identifiers such as fingerprints or facial recognition.

By requiring multiple factors for authentication, MFA significantly reduces the likelihood of unauthorized access, even if one factor is compromised.

How MFA enhances key aspects of Cyber Essentials compliance

Here's how MFA enhances key aspects of Cyber Essentials compliance requirements:

  1. Access control: Cyber Essentials emphasizes the importance of restricting access to authorized users. MFA adds an extra layer of authentication, ensuring that only legitimate users with the proper credentials can access sensitive systems or data.

  2. Secure configuration: Properly configuring MFA settings reinforces the security of authentication processes, making it harder for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities or bypass security controls.

  3. Patch management: MFA can mitigate the risk of unauthorized access in instances where patches cannot be immediately applied. Even if a system is vulnerable due to a pending patch, MFA provides an additional barrier against exploitation.

  4. Malware protection: While Cyber Essentials advocates for robust antivirus and anti-malware solutions, MFA acts as a safeguard against malware that attempts to steal credentials or hijack user accounts.

Implementing MFA for Cyber Essentials compliance

To effectively leverage MFA within a Cyber Essentials framework, organizations should follow these best practices:

  1. Choose the right MFA solution: Select an MFA solution that aligns with your organization's needs, considering factors such as usability, scalability, cost, and whether you will need to recruit to manage a solution that requires knowledge or additional time your existing IT team may not have.

  2. Deploy MFA across all users: Ensure that MFA is implemented uniformly across all user accounts to maintain consistent security standards.

  3. Educate users: Provide comprehensive cyber awareness training to users on the importance of MFA and how to use it correctly. Encourage them to use strong, unique passwords in conjunction with MFA for added security.

  4. Monitor and update MFA policies: Regularly review and update MFA policies to adapt to evolving threats and changes in the organization's IT infrastructure. Monitor MFA logs for any suspicious activity and take immediate action if anomalies are detected.

Meet the MFA requirement for Cyber Essentials certification with UserLock

In an era marked by relentless cyber threats, organizations must adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity. The U.K.’s Cyber Essentials program seeks to support organizations seeking to do just that. If you’re looking to complete the assessment to achieve Cyber Essentials certification, learn more about how UserLock supports Cyber Essentials compliance.

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