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How GDPR and ISO 27001 work together

February 15, 2022

The world of security compliance is complex enough to make anyone’s head spin. GDPR, ISO 27001, SOC 2, PCI DSS - keeping track of all these sets of standards and maintaining compliance with each of them is a hefty job.


While each standard requires a lot of work and resources, those resources aren’t wasted because each one further protects your critical data and your business. Let’s take a look at two particularly important security standards or regulations, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ISO 27001, and how they work together.

How GDPR and ISO 27001 align

Like many combinations of security standards, GDPR and ISO 27001 have plenty in common. For starters, they both operate in the same general way: They outline a list of security controls you need to have in place to protect users’ data.


The controls in GDPR and the controls in ISO 27001 also have a significant amount of overlap. If you’re compliant with one, you don’t have to start from scratch to be compliant with the other because you’re already part way there.

Differences between GDPR and ISO 27001

While GDPR and ISO 27001 have significant overlap between them, they do have differences as well. The overall focus is slightly different: The GDPR is centered on transparency and privacy rights for end users so that their private information is safe and so that they know how it is being used. ISO 27001, on the other hand, is focused on security against breaches and protecting data from misuse. ISO 27001 doesn’t have direct provisions for user consent.


There are also a variety of differences between the controls detailed in GDPR and ISO 27001. While there is a significant amount of overlap, neither one entirely contains the other, so you cannot assume that if you comply with GDPR, you’re already compliant with ISO 27001 (or vice versa).


In fact, there are some differences between similar security controls in GDPR and ISO 27001. For example, both of these standards require that you report any data breaches promptly if they occur. GDPR, though, requires that you report the breach to users, while ISO 27001 only requires that you report it to supervisory authorities.


Finally, the compliance or certification process is different for GDPR and ISO 27001. There is no official certification for GDPR compliance. Like other laws, it is your responsibility to make sure you are complying with the law and if authorities discover that you are not, there will be steep penalty fines.


With ISO 27001, on the other hand, most companies who will want you to be compliant (such as clients who only do business with ISO 27001-compliant organizations) will expect an ISO 27001 certification. To get this certification, you’ll need to meet the requirements for the security standard and then hire a certification organization to audit your system and determine whether you truly are compliant.

Why you need both GDPR and ISO 27001 compliance

While GDPR and ISO 27001 may seem similar at a glance, making your organization compliant with both of them is not a redundant project. In fact, the two standards work together to make your organization more secure than it would be if you only complied with either one of them.


Most notably, GDPR and ISO 27001 each handle different angles of information security. GDPR deals more with protecting your users’ data and transparency, along with protecting users from misuse of their data from within your organization. ISO 27001, on the other hand, is more focused on traditional information security, such as access controls, firewalls, encryption, and so on.


When you’re covering those two angles, the controls in GDPR and ISO 27001 combine to create a setup that both protects your organization from costly data breaches and garners trust from your users. You’re opening the door for new opportunities for business while also protecting your organization from the financial losses of a data breach.

How to become GDPR and ISO 27001 compliant

If it’s time to step up your information security, we have good news: Complying with GDPR and ISO 27001 may be easier than you think. The key is to begin with Vanta’s compliance software so that you can automate both reports in one place. Not only does Vanta give you a clear to-do list of any security controls in each standard that you haven’t completed, but it documents your compliance at every step so you have all your compliance data clearly detailed in one convenient place for smoother and more efficient audits.

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