5 July 2023

ISO 27001: Unlocking Trust and Security

ISO 27001: Unlocking Trust and Security

If you work in or around IT, you’ve already heard about the ISO 27001 standard. Set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), these certifications can help your organisation demonstrate that its actions, services, and solutions are built around continuous improvement and risk assessments.

Particularly relevant to IT is the ISO 27001:2022 certification, which refers to Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). Developed through a joint partnership between ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), it provides a framework for your organisation to implement a best-practice approach to information security. Specifically, this certification addresses 93 information security controls that cover your organisational, people, physical security, and technological controls.

So, what can this certification offer your organisation? What’s involved? What circumstances dictate if certification may or may not be pertinent?

Digging into ISO 27001

On first introduction, you’re often told that organisations can “harness the transformative power of ISO 27001 and drive your business towards success in today’s digital landscape”.

Proponents will say that it offers:

  • industry compliance with a recognised certification standard
  • increased resilience against cyber threats
  • enhanced information security
  • the chance to foster trust with key stakeholders
  • the opportunity to unlock new avenues of success

Which all sounds like a great set of outcomes– but what do they mean in practice?

To start answering this question, it helps to look at the features and outcomes of an ISO 27001 certification.

ISO 27001 outcomes

Robust Information Protection – ISO 27001 ensures the secure exchange of information, safeguarding all forms of data, whether digital, physical, or cloud-based. By identifying and managing information security risks, your organisation can prepare to mitigate threats effectively.

Competitive Edge – With ISO 27001 certification, your organisation gains a competitive advantage by demonstrating a solid commitment to protecting your and your customer’s sensitive information. This certification builds client trust, differentiates you from competitors without certification, and enhances your reputation.

Compliance and Obligations – ISO 27001 ensures that your information security meets legal and regulatory requirements. It also helps meet contractual obligations set by clients or third parties who expect a certain level of information security. The certification acts as proof that your ISMS meets the highest standards.

Improve Security Structure – ISO 27001 adds structure and focus to your organisation, raising employee awareness of cybersecurity and promoting shared responsibility for information security. Integrating people as part of information risk considerations improves understanding of security risks, leading to better training and healthier work practices.

Independent Security Assessment – Regular reviews, internal audits, and external assessments by accredited third parties align your ISMS with ISO 27001 standards. These independent assessments provide impartial expert opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of your information security. They offer valuable insights that help your organisation improve its security posture.

Business benefits of ISO 27001 certifications

Making a case for ISO 27001 certification largely depends on how your organisation operates – the kind of information it manages, the customers it works with, and the risk appetite of any stakeholders involved.

International recognition – as a globally recognised and trusted standard for information security management, an ISO 27001 certification denotes international recognition and carries significant credibility. If your organisation operates outside of Australia, an international certification makes sense, as it removes the need for equivalence testing or converting one set of security standards to another.

Stakeholder reassurance – the public awareness of information safety has never been greater. With a number of high-profile breaches taking place at well-known organisations, both B2B and B2C markets now face added scrutiny when it comes to informational safety. Implementing the ISO 27001 certification goes a long way to assuaging key stakeholders’ fears, letting your organisation get on with business with improved public confidence.

Cyber insurance – if your organisation handles any volume of proprietary information (or even a small amount of sensitive data), it is a target for cybercriminals. With the total cost of recovery after a cyber breach reaching an average of $2.9 million in 2020, being without cyber insurance is a choice few organisations can consider. Implementing ISO 27001 certification can go a long way towards meeting the conditions of cyber-insurance policies, minimising the risk of data breaches to potentially reduce the cost of policy rates. Additionally, the comprehensive analysis required by ISO 27001 can help optimise your security budget by ensuring you have implemented all necessary controls, streamlining future audit processes.

ISO 27001 certification myths

Over time, the requirements and outcomes associated with the ISO 27001 certifications have broadened to cover a wide range of industries and use cases.

Still, there is some conjecture over whether ISO 27001 is a good fit for every organisation. These include:

Small businesses don’t need certification: FALSE. ISO 27001 is suitable for organisations of all sizes. Even sole-traders that handle sensitive data can benefit from an ISO 27001 certification.

Certification is prohibitively expensive: FALSE. There are many ways to minimise the up-front costs of certification. Plus, with the recent cost of data breaches averaging out at $2.9 million for Australian businesses, the question is can you afford to not be certified?

Businesses that don’t use IT don’t need certification: FALSE. ISO 27001 covers information security management. That means all kinds of data – whether it’s stored on a cloud server or printed on paper and locked in a filing cabinet.

Cyber insurance will cover my costs: FALSE. In the same way that an insurance company will only cover your car if it passes safety inspections, they’re unlikely to offer cyber insurance to a business that does not meet their criteria for information safety.

My organisation does not handle any proprietary information: TRUE. Certain industry verticals do not handle any significant volume of sensitive information and gain little value from pursuing an ISO certification of information safety management. That being said, they still should follow best practices to keep their including staff, suppliers, and customers safe from cyber criminals.

If you’re unsure if your organisation can benefit from certification, it’s a good idea to speak with a representative from your industry’s peak body. They can give you the requirements for your industry and are well placed to offer professional advice on certification requirements.

Assuming you’re keen to move on with the certification process, how do you get started?

Getting ready for ISO 27001 assessment

Before you go for the certification process, you must first build your ISMS. While this process will vary widely depending on your organisation, there area few key steps that are common across most system builds.

  1. Get leadership buy-in – make sure that the people in charge of the organisation understand and appreciate the need for ISO certification and are able and willing to make resources available.
  2. Get directions on implementation – knowing how to implement the solution is half the battle, but that information has to come from a credible source. This can be an internal resource, an independent ISO consultant, or even a governance risk & compliance platform.
  3. Make changes required by the standard – now that you know what changes are required, it’s time to start making changes to your organisation’s information management systems.
  4. Implement the 93 information security controls – ensure that your organisational, people, physical security, and technological controls align with the certification requirements.
  5. Review your new ISMS to ensure it aligns with the ISO standards – doing this with the help of an external assessor can help ensure that the certification process goes smoothly.

Want to know more about the 93 controls required by ISO 27001?

Watch this webinar – ISO 27001 Demystified – to uncover how your organisation can achieve this certification.

Processes involved in ISO 27001 certification

To obtain an official ISO 27001 certificate for your organisation, you must go through a formal audit conducted by an accredited certification body. These audits are crucial to determine whether your organisation’s ISMS complies with the ISO 27001 standard. Let’s explore the process and gain invaluable insights into achieving information security excellence.

  1. Assessment by Accredited Certification Body: The first step is to engage with an accredited certification body. They will audit your ISMS to assess its compliance with ISO 27001. During the audit, they will review your ISMS documentation, procedures, and controls. They will also evaluate whether your ISMS aligns with the scope and objectives defined by your organisation.
  2. Verification of ISMS Compliance: The certification body will thoroughly examine your ISMS processes and verify its compliance with ISO 27001 requirements. They will assess the effectiveness of your management practices, including how you identify, evaluate, and address information security risks. This evaluation ensures that your organisation has established a robust framework for managing information security.
  3. Identification of Nonconformities: During the audit, the certification body may identify nonconformities or lapses in your ISMS processes. These are areas where your organisation may not fully meet the ISO 27001 standard’s requirements. The certification body will provide detailed feedback on these nonconformities, allowing you to address and rectify them effectively.
  4. Successful Audit and Certification: If your organisation successfully demonstrates compliance with ISO 27001 and addresses any nonconformities, the certification body will issue an ISO 27001 certificate. This certificate formally recognises that your organisation has achieved the internationally recognised standard for information security management. It showcases your commitment to protecting sensitive information and managing security risks.
  5. Annual Surveillance Audits for Continuous Compliance: ISO 27001 certification is not a one-time process. To maintain your certification, your organisation will undergo annual surveillance audits. These audits ensure that your ISMS continues to meet the ISO 27001 standard and operates effectively. They provide opportunities for improvement, allowing you to continuously enhance your information security practices.
Critical components for ISO 27001 success

To achieve information security excellence, it’s crucial to focus on the following key components:

Effective management – implement strong leadership, governance, and resource allocation to support your ISMS.

Risk assessments – conduct comprehensive risk assessments to identify, evaluate, and mitigate information security risks.

Continuous improvement – emphasise a culture of continual improvement, regularly reviewing and enhancing your ISMS.

Crucial controls – implement appropriate information security controls to protect your organisation’s assets and sensitive data.

By following these steps and embracing these key components, you can navigate the ISO 27001 certification process and work towards achieving information security excellence for your organisation.