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CIS Compliance Core Concepts

The CIS Benchmarks are objective, consensus-driven configuration guidelines developed by security experts to help organizations improve their security posture. The AWS Foundations Benchmark is a set of configuration best practices for hardening AWS accounts to establish a secure foundation for running workloads on AWS. It also provides ongoing monitoring to ensure that the account remains secure.

The CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark is organized into the following sections:

  • Identity and Access Management
  • Storage
  • Logging
  • Monitoring
  • Networking

There are multiple recommendations within each section. Note the use of the term recommendation as opposed to control or requirement. This reinforces the point that CIS is a self-imposed, best-practices standard, as opposed to compulsory or regulated and centralized standards such as the PCI DSS for the payment card industry or HIPAA for covered health care entities.

Assessment Status

Each recommendation is classified as either Automated or Manual. Automated recommendations indicate that the check for the recommendation may be accessed programmatically (e.g., an API exists to validate or enable the recommendation). Manual recommendations must be checked and remediated manually.


The Benchmark defines two profile levels. Level one recommendations are easier to implement, incur less overhead, but still substantially improve security. Level two recommendations are meant for highly sensitive environments with a lower risk appetite. They may be more difficult to implement and/or cause more overhead in day-to-day usage.

CIS Controls

Each recommendation is also linked to a corresponding CIS Control. The controls are distinct from the Benchmark. They’re described by CIS as "a prioritized set of actions that collectively form a defense-in-depth set of best practices that mitigate the most common attacks against systems and networks". Organizations seeking to implement a comprehensive security program or framework can use the controls to measure their progress and prioritize security efforts. The Foundations Benchmark is just one of several guidelines that can help reach the bar set by the CIS Controls. Refer to the Benchmark document directly to view how the recommendations map to controls.