ISO/IEC 27001 is widely known, providing requirements for an information security management system (ISMS), though there are more than a dozen standards in the ISO/IEC 27000 family. Using them enables organizations of any kind to manage the security of assets such as financial information, intellectual property, employee details or information entrusted by third parties.
While security is important, it can be difficult to understand the types of certifications that would best fit your business. Moreover, it can be tempting to forego certain kinds of certifications or authorizations to cut costs.
Not every organization should have every certification. But there are many worthwhile frameworks that can provide critical, and often underserved, processes and features to an organization. ISO 27001 is one of those.
If you are looking to improve your overall security posture with a focus on governance and risk management across IT, employees and administration, then consider the following information about ISO 27001.
What is ISO 27001?
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), comprised of scientists, engineers and policymakers, regularly release suggested standards for technical and administrative systems to provide a basis for best practices and compliance. This is particularly important for areas like cybersecurity and compliance. With evolving threats both inside and outside organizations, standards help organizations protect critical data in their specific industry.
ISO 27001 (also known as ISO/IEC 27001) is a framework that defines requirements and best practices for IT system security. More specifically, these standards provide requirements for what is known as an Information Security Management System (ISMS). Typically, an ISMS is defined by three key aspects:
- Technology: Security safeguards, authentication measures, encryption algorithms.
- Processes: Data governance and risk assessment, policies and processes for incident response, reporting, documentation.
- People: Trust and authentication, proper training and continuing education.
So, when talking about ISO 27001, we’re talking about compliance for building and managing your security system across your entire organization.
Where is ISO 27001 Required?
The reality is that ISO 27001 isn’t just an IT standard, but rather an organizational standard for security and reliability regarding information. As such, having a certification in ISO 27001 demonstrates that you have taken specific steps to ensure the security of stored data in your system from a risk management and governance perspective.
Now if you are a consumer-driven business, you may find that customers (outside of a select few) really care about that. That is, until there is a data breach. If you have any business partners or third-party vendor relationships, however, they are going to care a great deal about this because they need to account for the security of their data.
That’s why many IT companies choose to adopt ISO 27001 either by itself or in conjunction with other required frameworks. For example, IT companies working in the following industries will already have different compliance demands in place, but will also likely pursue ISO 27001 certification as well:
- Federal or DoD government agencies
- Retail, especially technology retail
- Financial services
- Managed Service Providers (MSPs), including cloud service and SaaS providers
That being said, often service contracts can stipulate that you meet ISO 27001 compliance before entering a working relationship.
Is ISO 27001 Compliant with Other Frameworks?
The best rule of thumb is to assume that one compliance framework will not automatically make you compliant with another. that’s because frameworks are built for a specific purpose, with a specific audience and market in mind. ISO 27001 is no different.
For example, ISO 27001 is not compliant with GDPR, the European Union security standard for consumer data protection. Likewise, it is not 1-to-1 with other U.S. compliance frameworks like NIST 800-53.
How are they different? It depends on the context. NIST 800-53 defines security control groups that cover major security areas like authentication and authorization, risk management, data protection, physical safeguards and so on. Specifically, it is purpose-built to help define control groups to support tech companies work with federal agencies handling non-classified data.
Conversely, ISO 27001 is built to focus on things like the risk inherent in your system, including risk from employees, administrative processes and technical configurations related to an overarching ISMS.
Because of this difference, a CSP working with federal agencies will undergo FedRAMP Authorization, which builds off of frameworks like NIST 800-53. At the same time they may complete ISO 27001 certification to demonstrate that additional commitment to security and governance above and beyond their minimum requirements.
What Are the ISO 27001 Standards?
Last Updated in 2013, the ISO 27001 standards cover a few overarching categories:
- Contextualizing your organization’s context, including industry and operations, the needs and expectations of your stakeholders and the scope of the ISMS in question.
- Understanding the totality of your organization’s ISMS.
- Organizing leadership at the senior level in terms of dedicated security management.
- Specifying an Information Security Policy related to the above items.
- Defining organizational roles and responsibilities (from the bottom up).
- Addressing risk and risk management across your ISMS.
- Planning and implementing achievable security goals.
- Resourcing for the achievement of goals, assessment of risk and development of ISMS procedures.
- Developing competence through training, strong hiring practices and evaluations/audits.
- Ensuring that anyone working with protected data in the ISMS has awareness of your policies and procedures.
- Mapping how, when, where, and to whom information about the ISMS may be communicated.
- Maintaining standardized documentation and auditing procedures.
- Managing risk, including internal audits, assessments, and treatments.
- Monitoring and analyzing the performance of the ISMS on a regular basis.
- Implementing continual improvement plans.
- Creating and executing management review and corrective actions when necessary for breach of policy and procedures.
Why Get ISO 27001 Certification
Risk management, governance and compliance should be at the core of your IT or cloud business. ISO 27001 helps you implement critical risk assessment and data governance standards that can serve as the foundation for your organization’s IT offerings.
While we’ve established that this kind of compliance won’t translate into immediate compliance elsewhere, it will help your organization lay the bedrock for future compliance demands. Better still, ISO 27001 will promote good cyber hygiene practices that are important (and in many cases, necessary), part of operations.
It also makes you more competitive. According to a 2019 ISO survey, the ISO found a total of 36,362 ISO 27001 certificates valid just for that year. That’s 36k+ organizations leveraging the standard to set themselves apart from the competition through a commitment to best security practices.
Continuum GRC is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization protect its systems and ensure compliance.
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