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What is ISO 27001 and why do you need it?

January 19, 2022

You probably know a lot about your top business competitors. You could tell a potential client about all the ways your competitors don’t measure up: exactly what they’re lacking and what they’re doing wrong. Your clients don’t know what makes you a better choice than others, though, so how do you make your qualifications clear without launching into an unprofessional rant about your competitors?

One way to set your business apart is with well-respected standards certifications - third-party proof that you’re maintaining the best practices on a daily basis. A particularly crucial certification to have is a certification for ISO 27001 compliance.

What Is ISO 27001?

You may be familiar with the International Organization for Standardization, which sets standards, criteria, and best practices for a wide range of purposes. ISO 27001 is their international standard for securing and documenting your information security management system or ISMS.

ISO 27001 is intended to help you keep your data (and your customers’ data) secure from internal and external threats. It is an extensive list of controls and standards, some of which will apply to your business and some of which will not, to ensure that your ISMS is as well-protected as reasonably possible.

It’s important to note that ISO 27001 is not a legal requirement. It’s a certification that is likely to be required by high-level clients and potential business partners so they can ensure that you have proper data security before they do business with you.

What does ISO 27001 include?

ISO 27001 is an in-depth standard of security controls. It divides those controls into 14 categories:

  • Information Security Policies
  • Organization of Information Security
  • Human Resource Security
  • Asset Management
  • Access Control
  • Cryptography
  • Physical and Environmental Security
  • Operations Security
  • Communications Security
  • System Acquisition and Maintenance
  • Supplier Relations
  • Security Incident Management
  • Business Continuity Management
  • Compliance

As your ISMS is assessed for ISO 27001 compliance, the auditor will investigate how you align with the standards in these 14 categories.

The benefits of ISO 27001 certification

Why should you pursue your ISO 27001 certification? While it isn’t legally required and there are no fines for not being compliant, there are critical advantages to obtaining and maintaining your certification.

1. Trust and buy-in from clients and partners

When a client or partner chooses to do business with you, their success is linked with yours. So, if you don’t have a secure and up-to-date ISMS, you are putting not only your data and your business at risk but theirs as well.

When you hold a valid ISO 27001 certification, it earns you trust from clients and potential partners. It shows them that you are doing your due diligence to protect your business, and this will inevitably open doors that you couldn’t reach without this security certification.

2. International opportunities

ISO 27001 is not the only information security standard out there. If you have only done business in the US, you may have been asked for a SOC 2 report by clients and partners in the past. It’s important to note, though, that SOC 2 isn’t widely recognized outside the US. If you want to open doors and earn the trust of clients and partners around the world, ISO 27001 certification is a must.

3. Improved internal and external security

ISO 27001 certification is not an arbitrary checklist. All of the security controls in ISO 27001 exist for a reason: because they make your ISMS safer and more secure. As a result, if you follow the steps to reach ISO 27001 compliance, your data security will be stronger.

This is vital for your business’s stability because it lowers your risk for a data breach. Even a single data breach can be devastating, costing you thousands (or more) to directly fix the problem in addition to potentially driving your clients away by damaging your reputation. Following ISO 27001 will better protect you against both internal and external risks.

How to get started with ISO 27001 certification

If you don’t have an ISO 27001 certification, now is the time to get started. You can begin with an automated compliance tool like Vanta, which automates up to 80% of the compliance process for you. On top of easy-to-use templates and monitoring controls, Vanta gives you a clear checklist of the ISO 27001 controls you meet and the controls you don’t meet so you have a straightforward to-do list from day one.

Once you’re confident that your ISMS meets the ISO 27001 security controls, you’ll hire a certification body to assess your ISMS. The ISO does not provide certification directly, but they have their own list of standards for certifying bodies to adhere to. Your certifying body will start with an informal readiness assessment, and if your ISMS passes, they will move on to the full audit. If you meet the ISO 27001 standards, you’ll be awarded a certification that is valid for up to three years.

To kick off the process, begin by learning more about Vanta and how we can help you simplify your ISO 27001 compliance.