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ISO 27001 Compliance and Certification: What You Need to Know

Cybersecurity is a significant concern for organizations of any size. Rapid digital transformation and the rise of remote working have put it under the spotlight.

Data breaches will not only land you in regulatory hot waters and result in hefty penalties. They will also tarnish your reputation and diminish customer trust that will take years to remediate.

To keep your data safe, you need to implement an airtight information security management system (ISMS). But how do you know yours is up to par?

The good news is that you don't need to figure it out on your own. The ISO 27001:2013 standard gives you the framework to implement the latest ISMS and data security best practices.

What Is ISO/IEC 27001:2013?

The ISO/IEC 27001 is an international information security standard published jointly by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC.)

It's part of the ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards and offers a framework to help organizations establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain, and continually improve their information security management systems.

ISO 27001 details the specification for ISMSs to help organizations address people, processes, and technology about data security to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their information assets.

The ISO 27001 framework is based on risk assessment and risk management. Compliance involves identifying information security risks and implementing the appropriate information security controls to mitigate them.

Why Should You Become ISO 27001 Certified?

Being ISO 27001 certified means that an organization is fully compliant with the ISO 27001 standard, consisting of 114 information security controls and ten management system clauses.

An information graphic showing the 10 management system clauses in the ISO 270001 standard. The listed clauses are: scope, normative references, terms and definitions, context, leadership, planning and risk management, support, operations, performance evaluation, improvement

The 10 Management System Clauses in ISO 27001 Standard

The Benefits of ISO 27001 Certification

ISO 27001 is the only auditable international standard that defines the requirement of an ISMS. Here are the advantages of getting ISO 27001 certified:

Avoid the High Cost of Data Breaches

The ISO 27001 standards help strengthen your security posture to minimize the risk of data breaches and the high costs associated with data recovery, remedial actions, and loss of business.

Stay Compliant With Data Privacy Laws

Meeting the requirements of ISO 27001, a global benchmark, helps organizations comply with various data security regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, NIS Directive, and more, to avoid hefty fines.

Enhance Your Organization's Reputation

An ISO 27001 certification shows partners and customers that your company takes information security seriously. This builds trust and credibility, which can help enhance your relationships and win more business.

Improve IT Structure

With the proliferation of information assets, organizations must establish information risk responsibility. The ISO 27001 standard helps you clarify the roles and processes, so nothing falls through the cracks.

Reduce Frequent Audits

More organizations are auditing their vendors' ISMSs to ensure that their supply chain is protected. An ISO 27001 certification can help you reduce the number and costs of these audits while facilitating the sale cycle.

Who Is ISO 27001 Certification For?

The ISO 27001 certification applies to any organization that wants or needs to formalize its business processes regarding information security and data privacy.

Any organization that handles sensitive data, such as customers' personal or payment information, should be ISO 27001 compliant.

Organizations that can benefit from getting ISO 27001 certified include information technology companies (e.g., managed services providers,) financial institutions, healthcare providers, telecom companies (e.g., internet services providers,) and government agencies.

ISO/IEC 27001 Certification Requirements

Achieving ISO 27001 compliance is often a complex undertaking. Before starting your internal audit and certification process, you must meet these requirements:

  • Context of the organization: Identify internal and external issues, define the scope of the ISMS, and determine how you would apply ISO 27001 to the company.

  • Leadership: Align the objectives of your ISMS with the organization's strategic goals. Get executive support, which is key to securing financial resources and enforcing information security policies.

  • Planning: Conduct an information security risk assessment to identify risks and opportunities when planning your ISMS.

  • Support: Ensure that you have adequate resources, competence, employee awareness, and communication to support the implementation and continual improvement of the information security controls.

  • Operation: Plan and implement information security processes throughout the organization. Establish risk management procedures to identify and treat vulnerabilities as soon as they arise.

  • Performance evaluation: Monitor, measure, analyze, and evaluate your ISMS with regular internal audits to ensure compliance at all times.

  • Continual improvement: Ensure a high level of performance of your ISMS and adapt to the changing information security landscape.

  • Reference control objectives and controls: Follow Annex A of the ISO 27001 standards to implement the 114 required controls covering technical, organizational, legal, physical, and human resource security. You can refer to ISO/IEC 27002 for detailed guidance.

In addition, your ISMS must address the 14 domains outlined in the ISO 27001 standards. These include information security policies, human resource security, access control, asset management, business continuity management, information security incident management, and more.

An infographic that lists the 14 Domains of ISO 27001. The listed domains are: information security policies, human resource security, access control, physical and environmental security, operations security, organization of information security, asset management, cryptography, system acquisition/development/maintenance, supplier relationships, communication security, business continuity management, compliance, information security incident management

The 14 Domains of ISO 27001

Key Steps In the ISO 27001 Certification Process

Here are the key steps involved in achieving ISO 27001 certification:

1. Prepare For the Certification Process

Review the ISO 27001:2013 standards to understand the requirements. Appoint an internal champion and secure support from senior leadership by developing a solid business case for ISO 27001 implementation.

2. Define Context, Scope, and Objectives

Get a big-picture view of the implementation process to establish a high-level timeline and budget. Define the scope by considering organizational context, the needs of interested parties, and whether you'd be hiring external support.

3. Establish a Management Framework

Outline the processes your organization needs to follow to meet your ISO 27001 implementation objectives. These include accountability of the ISMS, an activity schedule, and regular internal auditing to support continual improvement.

4. Conduct a Risk Assessment

Establish baseline security criteria regarding the organization's business, legal, and regulatory requirements on information security. Then, document the risk assessment process, analysis, results, and risk treatment plan in detail.

5. Implement Information Security Controls

Mitigate identified risks by deciding whether to treat, tolerate, terminate, or transfer them. You must document the decisions regarding risk responses for review during the certification audit.

6. Provide Employee Training

The ISO 27001 standard requires organizations to raise information security awareness through employee training and education.

7. Update Mandatory Documentations

The certification process requires extensive documentation to support the necessary ISMS processes, policies, and procedures. You can purchase customizable documentation templates to help ensure that you're covering all your bases.

8. Implement Ongoing Monitoring and Measurement

Meet the requirement for continual improvement by constantly analyzing and reviewing all aspects of your ISMS. Additionally, you should identify improvements to existing processes and update your information security controls as needed.

9. Plan Your Internal Audits

Conduct internal audits at regular intervals to meet the ISO 27001 requirements. This is also key to ensuring that you have all the controls and documentation in place for your certification audit.

10. Schedule Your Certification Audit

To obtain an ISO 27001 certification, you need to have an accredited certification body perform a certification audit.

During stage 1, the auditor will assess your documentation against the ISO 27001 certification requirements. You will have the opportunity to take corrective actions and make improvements before the stage 2 registration audit.

An infographic showing the ISO 27001 certification procecss steps. The steps are: 1. Prepare for the certification process. 2. Define context, scope, and objectives, 3. Establish a management framework. 4, Conduct a risk assessment. 5. Implement information security controls. 6. Provide employee training. 7. Update mandatory documentation. 8. Implement ongoing monitoring and measurement. 9. Plan your internal audits. 10. Schedule your certification audit

Navigating the ISO 27001 Certification Process

Before you start, line up all the resources you need for the entire ISO 27001 certification process. As such, you must understand the cost, timeline, and other factors (e.g., stakeholder participation) associated with implementing various controls and requirements.

How Much Does the ISO 27001 Certification Process Cost?

The cost of the entire process from preparation to certification varies, depending on your organization's current security posture, the number of employees, and available resources.

Account for the main costs associated with providing employee training, creating documentation, hiring external assistance, updating technologies, and of course, the certification audit.

How Long Does the ISO 27001 Certification Process Take?

The certification process can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months. To increase its cost-effectiveness, you can perform a preliminary gap analysis of your current ISMS to understand the efforts required in implementing necessary changes to meet the standards.

How Long Is the ISO 27001 Certification Valid For?

Once you get certified, you should conduct internal audits regularly. The certification body will re-audit your ISMS annually to check for ISMS operations and performance, documentation updates, risk management review, corrective actions, and resolution of nonconformities from the last audit.

Tips For Achieving and Maintaining ISO 27001 Certification

The certification process is complex but don't be intimidated. Here are some tips to help make your life easier:

  • Get stakeholder commitment, guidance, and resources to implement changes, remediation actions, and ISMS reviews.

  • Identify which ISO 27001 controls are needed by your organization. Then, write a statement of applicability to put the requirements in context.

  • Perform risk assessments regularly and write a risk treatment plan to document your decision on whether to treat, tolerate, terminate, or transfer each risk.

  • Establish monitoring processes for ISMS performance and information security controls.

  • Implement employee training programs to raise data security awareness and ensure that all staff members and contractors follow the security protocols.

  • Perform regular internal audits to uncover issues and take corrective actions.

Challenges of Implementing ISO 27001 Standards

Meeting all the requirements under the ISO 270001 standards is a substantial undertaking. Understanding what challenges you may face can help you avoid common pitfalls.

A substantial amount of time and resources are required to collect data, compile numerous documentation, conduct reviews, and obtain approvals. Meanwhile, the process of coordinating, tracking, and documenting various activities and corrective actions is complex.

Yet, failure to gather the latest data from dispersed sources can impact your ability to gain the most current view of your ISMS.

Poor communications and coordination among stakeholders can lead to confusion, errors, and delays. The lack of coordination among different departments can affect your ability to implement various controls and achieve compliance.

Additionally, the complexity of managing a large number of endpoint devices coupled with employees' lack of understanding or adherence to the information security policy can impact your ability to maintain long-term compliance.

Getting Everyone On the Same Page For ISO 27001 Compliance Success

After you have obtained your ISO 27001 certification, you must ensure ongoing compliance. Otherwise, all your investment will be for naught.

Employee cooperation is the key to making sure that all your information security policies are followed. However, strong-arming your staff into compliance can backfire.

The good news is that we have a better option.

You can automate the process and crowdsource security by involving end-users in the compliance effort.

Kolide is a different breed of user-first endpoint security solution that allows you to configure your security policy based on the ISO 27001 requirements. Our software will message end-users automatically when their Linux, Mac, or Windows devices aren't compliant with your policy and guide them to take corrective actions right away.

Unlike most endpoint security applications, Kolide offers an honest and transparent solution to help you get stakeholder buy-in and ensure long-term success. We help your employees understand security so they can take ownership of it.

Try Kolide for free and see how we can help you achieve and maintain ISO 27001 compliance.

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