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How to maintain ISO compliance

June 9, 2022

When your organization has gone through the process of achieving ISO 27001 compliance, and you receive that coveted certification, you feel like you’ve crossed a long-awaited finish line. That’s only the beginning.

Maintaining your ISO 27001 compliance requires ongoing effort and monitoring. Let’s take a look at what it takes to maintain your certification and the best ways to remain compliant, even between recertifications.

The mechanics: The ISO certification maintenance process

Your ISO 27001 certification won’t stay valid forever. ISO compliance is an ongoing process. When you receive your certification, it’s technically valid for three years. However, each year, your auditor will conduct a preliminary audit to check select aspects of your ISMS and see if they are in compliance.

If these aspects aren’t up to snuff, you’ll need to go through another full audit, just like you did in the first year, to keep your certification.

In other words, here’s a typical timeline:

Year 0: You successfully complete a full audit and receive your ISO 27001 certification

Year 1: Preliminary audit

Year 2: Preliminary audit

Year 3: New full audit

How to maintain your ISMS compliance: Top strategies

It’s easy for aspects of your ISMS to change and leave you falling short of ISO 27001 compliance. It may be due to integrated software updates, lack of follow-through with your security policies, or a host of other possibilities. Follow these essential tips to stay in compliance throughout your entire three-year audit cycle and beyond.  

Use continuous monitoring with an automated compliance platform

The tools and platforms you integrate with, including cloud providers and other key aspects of your ISMS, will have an impact on ISO 27001 compliance. It’s important to monitor your integrated products as well as the rest of your ISMS for breaches and compliance-breaking issues. To do this thoroughly, you’ll need a continuous monitoring strategy.

An automated platform will instantly alert you when something falls out of place. This gives you immediate action items, so when it comes time for your next preliminary audit, you won’t get caught off guard. Instead of manually monitoring your system, an automated compliance tool can scan your system, gathers evidence of your compliance, and indicate any requirements you’re missing, all without hands-on engineering time.

Establish and enforce a clear onboarding and offboarding process

Much of ISO 27001 compliance centers on limiting access to sensitive data so it’s only visible to necessary personnel. Staying compliant hinges on your ability to quickly and thoroughly remove access when employees and contractors leave or change positions.

It’s critical to establish a clear and consistent onboarding and offboarding process so those changes happen swiftly and correctly. Make sure this process is also well documented so it isn’t compromised when you have turnover in the employees who make those changes.

Update risk management policies as new threats arise

Hackers and seedy organizations are busy finding new ways to get around security blocks. There will always be new hacking techniques, new trends, and new vulnerabilities that arise. Assign a team member to stay aware of the latest developments and to bring up discussions and changes to be made when new risks arise.

Maintain a unified storage location for all ISO 27001 documentation

One of the most challenging aspects of ISO 27001 certification is gathering all the documentation your auditor will need to see. This includes policies and procedures, vulnerability reports, and more. To make documentation easier, set up a unified storage location that will house all of this documentation. Make sure you can easily see when documents were last updated so you know what may need an update before your next audit.

Clearly identify responsible professionals

Depending on the size and complexity of your organization and your ISMS, it’s easy for aspects of your security and your ISO compliance to slip through the cracks because each person thinks it’s someone else’s responsibility. To avoid these misunderstandings, establish clear definitions of which team members are responsible for which aspects of your ISMS and your ISO 27001 compliance.

Set up a clear succession plan

While compliance and security issues can fall through the cracks at any point because of misunderstandings, your business is especially at risk when you have turnover on your security team. You never know when a fireable offense will happen, and if a security employee resigns, you want to have the flexibility to waive their last two weeks for your organization’s safety.

This requires a clear succession plan for each person on the team, documenting who will cover which aspects of their responsibilities if they leave unexpectedly. You also need detailed documentation that will allow your new team members to pick up on their responsibilities quickly and smoothly.

Maintaining your ISO 27001 compliance

Keeping your ISO 27001 compliance up to date is a critical way to protect your clients’ data, your revenue, and your reputation. The tips above can help you maintain your compliance more reliably and easily. The first step is getting a trustworthy compliance tool on your side. Learn more about Vanta’s automated compliance platform and how it can help you maintain your compliance year after year.