Everything you need to know about ISO 27001 Standards

Published on : 13 Mar 2021

iso 27001 standard

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a global organization that is responsible for the collection and management of various standards across different fields and industries. The ISO 27001 standard is designed to function as a framework for an organization’s information security management system (ISMS).

This standard covers all policies and processes related to how data is controlled and used by an organization. It does not do so by mandating specific tools or methods but instead functions as an inclusive compliance checklist. For gaining a better perspective or understanding of what an ISO 270001 Standard is, let us dive deeper into the topic.

In the article covered, we have explained why organizations require ISO27001 and why it is essential for organizations to know about the ISO 27001 standard. But before that let us first learn what an ISO 27001 Standard is.

What is an ISO 27001 Standard?

As we already know, ISO is a global standard, the ISO 27001 is a standard concerning the Information Security Management Systems of a company. The goal of ISO 27001 is to provide a framework for how a modern organization should manage its information and data.

Companies of all sizes have begun to recognize the importance of strong cyber-security, but simply setting up an IT security system in place is not enough to ensure Data Integrity. This is when the ISO 27001 Standard comes into the picture providing organizations a framework to implement necessary Information Security Management Systems in place. 

For organizations seeking ISO 27001 certification, the Standard acts as a primary piece of reference used for determining their compliance level. The ISO 27001 Standard lays down a framework by putting in place information security rules, responsibilities, and controls that help in managing complex Information Security Management Systems of a company. So, how does it really matter for organizations ‘whether they achieve or meet the ISO 27001 requirements?’

Why is an ISO27001 Standard required?

A simple answer to this is that in certain industries where organizations like you handle highly-sensitive data, ISO 27001 certifications become a requirement for your customers and the stakeholders. So being an ISO 27001 certified organization will only mean and prove to your customers, stakeholders, governments, and regulatory bodies that your organization is secure and trustworthy.

The certification adds value to your business and enhances your reputation in the marketplace. It further helps you avoid financial damages or penalties caused due to data breaches or security incidents.

It also provides a standard framework for your organizations to manage your information security and risk exposure. So, organizations looking to strengthen Information Security Controls are required to meet ISO27001 Standards and achieve certification.

This will assure your clients of your enhanced ability to secure systems and information. Further, having an independent assessor to provide you with this certification adds to the credibility. It is important to note that organizations looking to work in an environment where the data is securely processed becomes a prerequisite and will always seek and favor organizations that are ISO 27001 Certified.

To whom is an ISO27001 Standard Applicable?

Now that we know why an ISO 27001 certification is important, let us move on to understanding ‘which organization requires an ISO 27001 certification?’ The ISO 27001 Standard is a framework designed and implemented to protect the sensitive data of an organization. For an organization dealing with sensitive data, be it profit or non-profit, a small business, a large business, a state-owned business, or a private sector company, ISO 27001 certification is an indispensable asset for all of them.

Basically, any company dealing with sensitive information will find this standard greatly beneficial to them. Not many people fully understand the ISO 27001 standard and thus make the mistake of thinking of it as a purely IT undertaking. However, it is a tool that can be applied to various aspects of a business and can help organizations like you achieve concrete business benefits by achieving it.

ISO27001 Audit Controls Explained

Proceeding further, let us now learn about the ISO27001 Audit Controls. In total there are 114 Annex A ISO 27001 controls which have been divided into 14 categories. For detailed information on our Audit Controls, you can refer to this link. Taking a closer look at the 14 categories for an overview let us understand what they entail and how they break down into further control sets which help identify and tackle the security threats faced by an organization. These 14 categories are:

1.Information Security Policies (Annex A.5) – Information Security Policies are the categories designed to ensure that the policies developed and enforced by the organization are in line with the overall direction of the organization’s Information Security Practices. Auditors will closely monitor how an organization’s procedures are documented and reviewed regularly before granting them ISO 27001 certification.

2.Organization of Information Security (Annex A.6) – This category details the classification of roles and responsibilities of individuals within an organization concerning the Security of Information Management Systems of the organization. This would include ensuring that there is an established framework in place that is adequately implemented and maintained adopting industry best information security practices.

3.Human Resource Security (Annex A.7) – Annex A.7is about ensuring whether the employees you hire and contractors you deal with are suitable for the defined roles and responsibilities and made aware of their roles and responsibilities concerning the information security processes.

4.Management of Assets (Annex A.8) –Annex A.8 involves the process of classifying, managing, and securing sensitive data/assets.

5.Access Controls (Annex A.9) – This provides a framework on how access controls for employees are maintained, detailing the access controls based on business requirements, user access management, user responsibilities, system and application access controls, based on roles and responsibilities of employees.

6.Cryptography (Annex A.10) – This category covers best practices in data encryption and the management of confidential information. The controls designed must ensure the adoption of cryptography to effectively protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.

7.Physical and Environmental Security Practices (Annex A.11) – Annex A.11is a Standard framework addressing an organization’s Physical and Environmental Security. This would include preventing unauthorized physical access and securing hardware, software, or physical files containing sensitive data.

8.Operations Security (Annex A.12) – Annex A.12 involves ensuring that information processing facilities are secure with necessary defense measures, back-ups, and establishing frameworks for implementing operational procedures, responsibilities, logging, monitoring process, and technical vulnerability management in place.

9.Communications Security (Annex A.13) – This includes securing the network that stores, processes or transmits sensitive data within the organization or to third parties and ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information in the networks.

10.System Acquisition, Development, and Maintenance Process (Annex A.14) – This involves having in place measures that address the security requirements for internal systems and organizational processes for those who provide services over public networks.

11.Supplier Relationships (Annex A.15) – Annex A.15 talks about the contractual agreement an organization must have with third-parties that they deal with, addressing the security of the organization’s valuable assets that are accessed by suppliers or the third-parties. 

12.Information Security Incident Management Practices (Annex A.16)- This talks about adopting best practices for managing and responding to security issues. It would include establishing roles and responsibilities concerning incident management and adopting an effective approach to responding and handling incidents.

13.Information Security Aspects of Business Continuity Management (Annex A.17) – Annex 17 ensures businesses effectively manage disruptions and handle major changes taking place in the organization. This would involve ensuring that businesses establish Information Security and Business Continuity Management frameworks that are well- embedded in their entire business process and operations.

14.Compliance Practices (Annex A.18)- This involves identifying government laws or industry regulations that are relevant to the organization and accordingly understanding the legal and contractual requirements and their implication of non-compliance pertaining to the regulation.

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Do not be intimidated by the 114 controls of ISO 27001 as organizations are not required to implement all of them. Instead, they simply serve as a list of possibilities that you should consider based on your organization’s requirements, nature of the business, and its operations. These processes help organizations identify the risks they face and the controls they must implement to handle them effectively.

It is recommended that when preparing for an ISO 27001 certification audit you seek assistance from an expert consultant with strong experience in compliance practices. Organizations like VISTA InfoSec take pride in being 100% vendor-neutral and prioritizing clients’ Cyber Security needs.

Earning an ISO 27001 certification is simply the first step to being fully compliant for most organizations. However, ensuring to remain certified is a tedious ongoing process for the organization. But, as professionals our job is to ensure that your organization gets the assistance it requires to maintain compliance with the standards by ensuring you adopt the best practices to remain certified for a long time.

Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.