Are you considering the ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards for your organization? Are you curious about the purpose of these standards? Why should you choose to implement them? As it turns out, the answers to these questions are simple: the ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards is designed to help organizations keep their information safe and secure.
With the help of these standards, organizations can manage the security of their assets, including financial information, intellectual property, employee details and all other information entrusted to the organization or a third party.
ISO 27001 is currently the first standard in the ISO framework family. It’s also one of the most focused on information security management systems. While there are more than twelve standards in the 27000 groupings, ISO 27001 is the one we are going to talk about today.
Benefits of ISO 27001
ISO 27001 is an international standard recognized around the world for mitigating information security risks. When you obtain certification to ISO 27001, it means you can prove to both your clients and your internal stakeholders that you are serious about and committed to managing the security of the information they trust you with. It’s also good practice to get certified for any company seeking to improve its security resilience in the future, even in the face of changing cybersecurity threats.
Today, ISO 27001:2013 (the current version of ISO 27001) offers a comprehensive set of standardized requirements for an Information Security Management System (ISMS). These standards are designed to adopt a process that relies entirely on establishing, implementing, operating, monitoring, maintaining, and improving your ISMS.
ISO certification also ensures that you’ll prevent fines, loss of reputation, and information damage during a data breach. According to ISMS.online:
“It’s not surprising that organizations want to strengthen their information security posture to avoid a fine. But careful consideration should also be applied to the impact on the reputation of companies that received negative publicity from fines, or even just waning notices. This is likely to harm their profit margins for years to come.”
When you take actionable steps toward improving your data security processes, you also take a step toward improving the visibility and reliability of your business for years to come. Finally, ISO certification allows you to streamline and improve processes and strategies. An ISO 27001 audit requires you to keep your IT systems up to date, install new antivirus protection, and follow applications mandated by guidelines. This helps close security loopholes and protect your organization from threats both now and in the future, no matter what your organization stands to face.
While it’s true that a data breach or cyberattack could always happen, and there’s no real way to prevent it altogether, compliance is an excellent way to demonstrate that you’ve considered the risks and taken active steps to address them.
This makes you less vulnerable to a cyber attack and helps promote security and peace of mind for your entire organization.
ISO/IEC 27001 Certification
If you’re at all familiar with ISO management system standards, you probably know that certification is possible (and, in some cases, encouraged) but not mandatory. Some organizations choose to certify to ISO/IEC 27001 to benefit from the best practices contained in that certification. According to NQA.com:
“A good ISMS involves a systemic response to new risks, allowing it to grow and change alongside your business. Your ISMS must cover every information asset, and you’ll need to run checks whenever a new device or data set is added. The ISO/IEC standards recommend you follow a Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology to maintain your ISMS. The ISO 27001 will give you the framework to develop the method:
Plan: Design an ISMS workflow to assess threats and determine controls
Do: Implement the plan
Check: Review the implementation and evaluate its effectiveness
Act: Make any needed changes to improve the effectiveness of your program.
One essential piece of the ISMS is that you’re only being taught a method. ISO 27001 certification will give you the starting point that can keep your company safe. However, you can add to that as you wish. Some practitioners will layer a Six Sigma DMAIC approach as well, to meet other requirements they may have.”
Still, other organizations decide that certification will offer additional peace of mind to their customers and clients. Bear in mind, though, that ISO does not necessitate or enact certification.
As you can see, there are many benefits to ISO 27001 compliance. No matter what your company’s goals may be, falling into line with these compliance considerations is a smart move that can benefit you in both the short- and the long-term. One of the challenges, however, with attempting to meet the requirements is the complexity of organizing your program.
10 Steps to ISO/IEC 27001 Certification
According to one recent survey, certification to the international information security management standard is becoming increasingly popular - growing at a rate of 91% year-on-year in the United States.
This is significantly higher than the global growth rate, which sits at about 20%. As information security breaches start to become the new standard, security teams everywhere are taking dedicated measurers to cut their risk.
If you’re wondering which steps to take to get certified, here’s a 10-step process to structure your attempts:
1. Get Ready
Start by learning everything you can about ISO 27001. The more you understand the standards, the better your background will be. Here are a few ways to educate yourself:
- Read the IT Governance white paper about ISO 27001
- Take an introductory ISO 27001 training course
- Work with an organization that provides ISO 27001 education
- Download our ISO 27001 compliance guide
No matter how you choose to do it, working with a knowledgeable source to learn everything you can about ISO 27001 is critical and will prepare you for certification.
2. Establish Your Objectives
Before you wade into the certification process, you’ve got to understand your objectives. Why do you want to get certified? Will you be using external support or in-house guidance? If you want to maintain control of the entire project, you may choose to enlist the help of a dedicated online mentor. This will help ensure the certification process stays on-track and will simplify the experience for both you and everyone else in your organization.
3. Establish Management Frameworks
Your management framework should describe the set of processes your organization must follow to meet ISO27001 implementation objectives. These frameworks may include defining who is accountable for the ISMS, creating a comprehensive schedule of activities, and regularly auditing to support a cycle of continuous improvement.
4. Run a Risk Assessment
ISO 27001 is a complete series of guidelines, but it does not prescribe risk assessment methodology. It does, however, require a formal risk assessment process. To be legitimate, the process must be planned, with a structure in place for recording data, results, and analysis.
5. Implement Controls to Mitigate Risks
According to IT Governance USA,
Once the relevant risks have been identified, the organization needs to decide whether to treat, tolerate, terminate, or transfer the risks. It is crucial to document all of the decisions regarding risk responses since the auditor will want to review these during the registration (certification) audit. The Statement of Applicability (SoA) and risk treatment plan (RTP) are two mandatory reports that must be produced as evidence of the risk assessment.
6. Schedule a Training
Staff awareness programs play a critical role in raising awareness about information security in any given organization. This may require virtually all employees to change the way they work, even in simple ways. Abiding by a clean desk policy and locking computers when a workstation is vacant are two such examples.
To help integrate these things, many organizations implement company-wide staff awareness programs, which help educate all team members on the philosophy behind a given standard and how an organization can continue to ensure compliance.
7. Review Required Documentation
When it comes to ISMS processes, policies, and procedures, documentation is essential. Luckily, there are dozens of ISO 27001 documentation templates, which can help streamline much of the process. Keep in mind that the standard requires the following forms of documentation and that you can find templates for most through your educational platform or the internet:
- The scope of the ISMS
- Information security policy
- Information security risk assessment process
- Information security risk treatment process
- The Statement of Applicability
- Information security objectives
- Evidence of competence
- Documented information determined by the organization as being necessary for the effectiveness of the ISMS
- Operational planning and control
- Results of the information security risk assessment
- Results of the information security risk treatment
- Evidence of the monitoring and measurement of results
- A documented internal audit process
- Evidence of the audit programs and the audit results
- Evidence of the results of management reviews
- Evidence of the nature of the non-conformities and any subsequent actions taken
- Evidence of the results of any corrective actions taken
Wherever you get your templates, make sure they’re coming from a reliable source.
8. Review Your Progress so Far
ISO 27001 places a significant focus on ongoing improvement. This means that the performance of the ISMS must be analyzed regularly and reviewed continually for compliance and effectiveness. Additionally, you must routinely identify improvements to existing controls and processes.
9. Audit the Program Internally
ISO/IEC 27001 requires regular internal reviews of the ISMS. The best thing you can do for your organization is to develop a practical, working knowledge of your organization's lead audit process. Plan an effective information security audit that will evaluate your program’s efforts and more.
In addition to helping you identify security risks, internal audits also help you educate your organization about how to conduct both internal and external audits. If you want to run a program audit, look for a third-party registrar or other appropriate organization to help you.
10. Conduct Registration and Certification Audits
During Stage One of the certification process, the auditor will assess whether or not your organization’s documentation meets all ISO 27001 requirements. According to IT Governance USA:
During the Stage One audit, the auditor will assess whether your documentation meets the requirements of the ISO 27001 Standard and point out any areas of nonconformity and potential improvement of the management system. Once any required changes have been made, your organization will then be ready for your Stage 2 registration audit. Certification audit During a Stage Two audit, the auditor will conduct a thorough assessment to establish whether you are complying with the ISO 27001 standard. How long will it take to get certified? With the right preparation, most small to mid-sized organizations can expect to achieve ISO 27001 certification within 6 – 12 months, depending on the size and complexity of the scope of the management system.
While following a ten-step process may seem excessive, it’s critical to ensure certification runs smoothly for your team and organization. After all, ISO 27001 certification is a significant consideration, and ensuring you do it well will benefit your organization both now and in the future.
How Apptega Helps
Apptega provides software that can help you build, manage, and report your cybersecurity program based on ISO 27001 or 12+ other standards. Apptega helps to simplify the complexity of ISO 27001, eliminate spreadsheets, and document and report on an organization’s change and configuration management as part of its overall plan.
Plus, with Apptega's Harmony, you can see how your ISO 27001 controls overlap other frameworks you are required to follow like PCI, NIST, HIPAA, GDPR, and more. Let us help guide you through the certification process and ensure compliance both now and in the future for your organization.