How Do I Get Cyber Essentials Certified?

How do I get cyber essentials certified

Gaining Cyber Essentials certification is a practical move to protect your business against common cyber threats and demonstrate your commitment to cyber security. This government-backed scheme guides you through the basic steps necessary to secure your IT systems. Should you decide to pursue this certification, you will not only improve your organisation’s defences but also gain a valuable credential that can enhance your company’s reputation with customers and partners alike.

Understanding the requirements of the Cyber Essentials scheme is your first step in the certification process. The framework includes five essential controls: secure configuration, boundary firewalls and internet gateways, access control and administrative privilege management, patch management, and malware protection. By implementing these controls, you ensure that you’re covering the most important aspects of cyber security.

Obtaining Cyber Essentials certification involves self-assessment against the scheme’s criteria, followed by an external verification. It’s not just about ticking boxes but ensuring that these cyber security measures are effectively implemented within your organisation. Once certified, you can proudly display the Cyber Essentials badge, showing your dedication to protecting your business and customer data against cyber threats.

Understanding Cyber Essentials

Cyber Essentials is a UK government-backed scheme designed to help you protect your business against a range of common cyber attacks. This scheme is an excellent starting point for organisations looking to bolster their cybersecurity.

Goals of the Scheme

The Cyber Essentials scheme was developed with the goal of providing a clear set of guidelines for businesses looking to safeguard themselves from cyber threats. Governed by the National Cyber Security Centre, the scheme aims to help you:

  • Understand the basic controls all organisations should implement to mitigate the risk from common internet-based threats.
  • Achieve a baseline of cybersecurity that can be easily demonstrated to others, helping to reassure customers that you take cyber security seriously.

Key Components

The scheme revolves around five crucial controls that can significantly reduce your vulnerability to cyber attacks:

  • Boundary firewalls and internet gateways – These act as a buffer zone between your IT network and external networks and help control incoming and outgoing network traffic according to an applied rule set.
  • Secure configuration – This involves ensuring your systems are configured in the most secure way for the needs of your organisation.
  • Access control – It’s vital to ensure that only those who should have access to your systems actually do and at the appropriate level.
  • Malware protection – This means ensuring that virus and malware protection is installed and up to date.
  • Patch management – Keep the software on computers and network devices up to date and properly patched.

To become Cyber Essentials certified, your organisation must adhere to these controls as assessed by an appointed Certification Body. The IASME Consortium is one of the four accreditation bodies appointed by the UK government to deliver the scheme, so they will be a crucial contact point in your path to certification. By focusing on these components, your business can establish a robust defence against common cyber threats.

The Certification Process

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In order to obtain Cyber Essentials certification, you will need to go through a straightforward process that ensures your business meets the necessary cyber security standards.

Eligibility and Application

Firstly, determine if your organisation is eligible for Cyber Essentials certification. All businesses, regardless of size, can apply. Start by submitting your application through a licensed Certification Body, ensuring you provide all the required information about your organisation.

Completing the Self-Assessment Questionnaire

Upon application approval, you’ll receive a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ). This is your chance to demonstrate your organisation’s compliance with the Cyber Essentials criteria. It is essential to answer all questions honestly and accurately, providing evidence where necessary. 

Technical Verification

After submitting your self-assessment questionnaire, your application will undergo technical verification by the Certification Body. They will verify the accuracy of your SAQ and may carry out vulnerability scans to ensure compliance with Cyber Essentials. To pass this stage, your business’s cyber defences must meet the framework’s requirements, demonstrating robust protection against common online threats.

Benefits of Getting Certified

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Obtaining Cyber Essentials certification provides crucial advantages, particularly in enhancing your business’s cybersecurity posture and market presence.

For Business Protection

Data Protection – By becoming Cyber Essentials certified, you’re ensuring that your company adheres to essential precautions for safeguarding sensitive information. This reduces the risk of data breaches and helps maintain the trust of your customers and suppliers.

Malware Protection – The certification requires you to have defences against a wide range of malware, offering peace of mind that your systems are resistant to common cyber threats.

Access Control – It ensures that only those who should have access to your systems can obtain it, preventing unauthorised access and potential internal threats.

Secure Configuration – Your business is guided to securely configure devices and software (including your public Wi-Fi), minimising vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber criminals.

For Gaining New Business

New Business and Contracts – As a certified company, you can bid for government contracts that require Cyber Essentials certification, broadening your horizons to new business opportunities.

MOD Contracts – Specifically, with certification, you can engage with Ministry of Defence (MOD) contracts, which may require stringent cybersecurity measures.

Insurance Organisations – Certain insurance organisations may offer better terms to businesses that demonstrate a commitment to cybersecurity by holding a Cyber Essentials certificate.

Maintaining Compliance

To ensure your Cyber Essentials certification remains in good standing, it’s essential to focus on proactive measures and regular activities that prevent security lapses and address vulnerabilities promptly.

Regular Updates and Patch Management

You must establish a robust patch management system. This entails regularly checking for and applying updates to your on-premise / cloud computing systems to fix security vulnerabilities. Here’s how you can stay ahead:

  • Identify which software and systems need regular updates.
  • Schedule routine checks for updates from vendors.
  • Apply patches promptly once they are released.
FrequencyAction RequiredBenefit
Daily or as released by vendorCheck for critical updatesAddresses vulnerabilities immediately
At least monthlyReview and apply all updatesKeeps systems secure from known threats

By implementing these steps, you adhere to best practices that minimise the risk of exploitation from known vulnerabilities, which are common entry points for ransomware and phishing attacks.

Continuous Improvement

Cyber Essentials certification is not a one-time achievement. It requires your ongoing commitment to enhancing security controls. Consider the following:

  • ISO 27001 – Align your practices with this international standard for an information security management system (ISMS) to continuously improve.
  • Employee Training – Regularly train staff on recognising and responding to threats like phishing attempts.
  • Review Compliance – Consistently verify that your security controls meet or exceed the requirements set forth by the Cyber Essentials scheme.

Maintaining compliance is more than ticking a box – it’s about ensuring you continually evolve your defences to protect against emerging threats.

Advanced Protection with Cyber Essentials Plus

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Achieving Cyber Essentials Plus certification means meeting a more rigorous set of criteria, ensuring a stronger safeguard against cyber threats for your organisation.

Differences from Basic Certification

Cyber Essentials Plus offers advanced protection compared to the basic Cyber Essentials certification. While basic certification requires you to complete a self-assessment questionnaire, with Cyber Essentials Plus your cybersecurity measures are independently verified. This involves a comprehensive review of your cybersecurity infrastructure by an external certifying body. The key elements of this elevated level of certification are as follows:

  • You’ll undergo an on-site assessment to ensure that your physical security is aligned with the Cyber Essentials requirements.
  • An internal vulnerability scan will be conducted to identify and rectify any weaknesses within your internal network.
  • An external vulnerability scan is performed to search for and mitigate vulnerabilities that could be exploited from outside your organisation.

The Additional Assessment Requirements

To achieve the Cyber Essentials Plus certificate, your organisation is subject to additional checks which are not part of the basic certification process. It’s essential you’re prepared for:

  • An assessor visiting your premises to perform the on-site assessment in person.
  • Scheduling both internal and external vulnerability scans, allowing the assessor to review your cyber defences in real time.
  • Addressing any vulnerabilities found swiftly, as your Cyber Essentials Plus certification depends on passing these rigorous checks.

Staying Cyber Essentials certified isn’t a one-time affair – you need to renew annually to maintain the plus-level certification and the trust that comes with it.