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What you need to know about your ISO risk assessment methodology

April 1, 2022

In life and in information security, one fact is always true: being fully risk-free is impossible. We cannot eliminate all the risks around us, but we can manage them so they have the lowest possible impact.

That is why risk assessment is such a vital component of ISO 27001. Creating a comprehensive risk assessment methodology doesn’t only impact your ISO 27001 certification—it affects the long-term security of your data too. Let’s journey further into ISO risk assessment and how to create an effective methodology.

How risk assessment fits into ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is a set of in-depth security controls to fortify and safeguard your information security. Risk assessment is one of the components within ISO 27001. Keep in mind that there are specific methodologies and criteria outlined in ISO 27001 that should be part of your risk assessment strategy, so even if you have risk assessment measures in place, it’s vital to review them to see if they align with the ISO 27000 risk assessment methodology.

Developing your ISO risk assessment methodology

The first stage in creating a comprehensive risk assessment plan that is ISO compliant is to define your methodology; how you identify, assign ownership to, prioritize, and address security vulnerabilities. ISO 27001 requires you to have the following components in place for your methodology:

  1. A plan for how you will identify and document vulnerabilities that could compromise the security of your data
  2. A strategy for determining who in your organization should own each risk, which typically involves designating a staff member who has enough knowledge of the organization to assign ownership
  3. A methodology for gauging the likelihood that a risk will happen as well as the extent of the consequences if the risk does occur. It’s also important to rank or categorize the overall priority of each risk (such as a numbered scale)
  4. Criteria for determining which risks you will address and when, based on their priority rankings

Tips for creating your ISO risk assessment methodology

As you go through the steps above and create your risk assessment methodology, there are a few tips to keep in mind to make your strategy as effective as possible.

Align your methodology with your organization

There is no universal risk assessment methodology that works for every organization. Your methodology should align with the format of your organization. For instance, one organization might assign their CTO to determine risk ownership, while another organization might hire a head of security to keep up with risk ownership.

Create a plan that works for your organization and your personnel. If you go through a reorganization at any point, be sure to review your risk assessment methodology to determine if it still works, and if it doesn’t, how it needs to change.

Make your methodology reasonable

Your risk assessment methodology needs to be thorough, of course, but it also needs to be sustainable. If your methodology is overly ambitious and your staff cannot keep up, you’ll get less protection than you would if you had a less ambitious strategy.

Keep your documentation organized

As you develop your risk assessment methodology, be sure to keep detailed documentation of that methodology and compile it in an accessible place. When you bring in an ISO auditor to assess your ISO 27001 compliance, this will help the audit proceed more smoothly because the auditor can quickly find your documentation. This also makes it easier to access internally when you need to reference it.