CIS Benchmarks—What are they and how to use them

In the realm of cybersecurity and best practices for secure system configurations, CIS (Center for Internet Security) Benchmarks stand out as a valuable resource. 

Developed by security experts, these benchmarks provide organizations with guidelines to safeguard their systems against common security threats. In this blog post, we'll explore what CIS Benchmarks are, their significance, and how organizations can effectively use them to enhance their cybersecurity posture.

What are CIS Benchmarks?

CIS Benchmarks are a set of configuration guidelines for various operating systems, software, and cloud environments. These guidelines are developed by the Center for Internet Security, a nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the security readiness and response of public and private sector entities.

The CIS Benchmarks are comprehensive and cover a wide range of technologies, including popular operating systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as applications like web browsers and databases. Additionally, they offer guidelines for cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

The Significance of CIS Benchmarks

Implementing the CIS Benchmarks brings several significant benefits to organizations:

  1. Security Best Practices: CIS Benchmarks provide a set of security best practices curated by experts in the field. Following these guidelines helps organizations configure their systems securely and reduces the risk of vulnerabilities.
  2. Consistency: By applying standardized configurations across systems and environments, organizations can maintain consistency, making it easier to manage and monitor security settings effectively.
  3. Compliance: Many regulatory frameworks and industry standards reference CIS Benchmarks as a benchmark for secure configurations. Adhering to these guidelines can assist organizations in meeting compliance requirements.
  4. Proactive Defense: By adopting the latest security configurations, organizations can proactively defend against known attack vectors and reduce the attack surface.

Using CIS Benchmarks Effectively

To leverage the full potential of CIS Benchmarks, organizations should consider the following steps:

1. Identify Relevant Benchmarks: Start by identifying the specific operating systems, applications, or cloud platforms that your organization uses. Download the corresponding CIS Benchmarks for those technologies.

2. Understand Your Environment: Before applying the benchmarks, gain a comprehensive understanding of your organization's IT environment. Consider factors like the types of data stored, the sensitivity of that data, and any specific regulatory requirements that apply.

3. Prioritize Critical Systems: Not all systems are equal in terms of their importance to your organization. Prioritize the implementation of CIS Benchmarks on critical systems, especially those that handle sensitive data or control access to other parts of the network.

4. Create a Configuration Management Plan: Develop a plan to apply the CIS Benchmarks systematically. This could involve using configuration management tools like Ansible, Puppet, or Chef to automate the process across multiple systems.

5. Regularly Review and Update: Security threats evolve rapidly, and new vulnerabilities emerge over time. It's essential to periodically review and update the CIS Benchmarks to stay current with the latest security recommendations.

6. Monitor Compliance: Continuously monitor systems to ensure that they comply with the CIS Benchmarks. Regular audits can help identify any deviations and prompt corrective actions.

7. Test Before Implementation: Before applying the CIS Benchmarks to production systems, test them in a controlled environment. This helps identify any potential compatibility issues and unintended consequences.

8. Establish Change Management Procedures: Introducing significant changes to system configurations requires a structured change management process to minimize disruptions and ensure proper documentation.

9. Train Personnel: Educate IT personnel and stakeholders about the importance of CIS Benchmarks and the benefits of secure configurations. Everyone involved should understand their role in maintaining a secure environment.


CIS Benchmarks offer organizations valuable guidance on configuring their systems and cloud environments securely. By applying these best practices, organizations can strengthen their cybersecurity defenses, achieve compliance with industry standards, and protect sensitive data from common threats. With regular reviews and updates to the benchmarks, organizations can stay ahead of emerging threats and continue to improve their security posture. Implementing CIS Benchmarks is not just a one-time task; it's an ongoing commitment to building a robust and resilient cybersecurity foundation.