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Who needs ISO 27001 certification?
In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of the ISO 27001 certification and help you determine if it will serve your business goals and customers’ needs. We’ll discuss what is ISO 27001 certification and who needs ISO 27001.
What is ISO 27001 certification?
Published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the ISO 27001 standard helps businesses organize their people, processes, and technology. ISO 20071 was designed to ensure the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of information.
The focus of ISO 27001 standard is on a company’s Information Security Management System (ISMS), which outlines how they’ve integrated information security into their business processes.
The ISO 27001 standard requires companies to identify information security risks to their system and the corresponding controls to address them. ISO 27001 comprises 114 controls divided into 14 categories.
There is no requirement to implement the full list of ISO 27001’s controls. The ISO 27001 controls represent the possibilities for an organization to consider based on its particular needs.
A primary goal of ISO 27001—as well as other compliance certifications such as SOC 2—is to prove to your clients and customers that security is a top priority.
ISO 27001 is considered the global gold standard for ensuring the security of information and data. Obtaining an ISO 27001 certification can help an organization prove its security practices to potential customers worldwide.
Who needs ISO 27001 certification?
To decide whether you need an ISO 27001 certification, first consider the regions in which your company does business: are you primarily working in North America? Are you working internationally or planning to expand your operations?
SOC 2 is a well-known US security standard and has become a common business practice. If your company only performs business with US-based customers, ISO 27001 certification may not be necessary.
If your company focuses much of its work outside of North America, ISO certification may be needed. Additionally, if your clients and prospects have sought proof of your company’s security against an internationally accepted standard, then ISO 27001 certification may also be important.
Your buyers are your best source of information to help you decide which standard to pursue and if ISO 27001 certification is needed. If customers or prospects are requesting an ISO 27001 certification, then your next steps are clear.
If a SOC 2 meets the requirements of your customer in tandem with your own company’s security and compliance needs, you’ll move forward with a SOC 2 instead of an ISO 27001 certification.
Many companies decide they eventually need both a SOC 2 and an ISO 27001 certification based on the demands of their growing customer base. At first, your company may consider a SOC 2 and later pursue ISO 27001 as your business expands.
ISO 27001 certification for various industries
ISO 27001 certification isn’t isolated to a select field. In fact, there are organizations across all industries that benefit from upholding this high standard of security. Some of the primary industries where we find ISO 27001 certification include IT, finance, telecom, healthcare, and government.
Information is the commodity at IT and software companies, and in many cases, it’s highly sensitive information. A company’s ability to keep this data secure, confidential, and proprietary is the core of its viability as a business. These organizations also often do business worldwide, so an international standard like ISO 27001 is a high priority.
The financial industry is highly concerned with security. Currency is largely digital today, so something as simple as a doctored formula or a small data deletion can equate to millions or billions of dollars being “misplaced.” While the finance industry is a common target for cybercrime, ISO 27001 compliance helps organizations stay secure and maintain the consumer trust that can make them or break them.
Essentially all the data that passes through the healthcare industry is highly sensitive information. In the US, HIPAA laws require certain organizations in the industry to follow specific security standards, but ISO 27001 allows healthcare organizations anywhere in the world to maintain and prove their high level of security.
The telecom industry is a data superhighway, and by the same token, it can be an immensely profitable access point for cybercriminals. For that reason, security is critical in the telecom industry, and the most widely accepted standard these organizations turn to is ISO 27001.
Perhaps no industry deals with as much confidential and vital information as the public sector. Governments around the world rely on ISO 27001 compliance to not only guide them toward a secure ecosystem but also to have a unified standard that tells them other governments are thoroughly secure.
ISO 27001 certification process and requirements overview
The 27001 certification process involves:
- Scoping and effectively implementing an Information Security Management System (ISMS)
- Establishing an ISMS governing body composed of senior management and key stakeholders from throughout the company
- Performing an internal audit to assess the organization’s ISMS and its implementation
- Undergoing an ISO audit with an external third-party auditor
The internal audit is one of the best ways to ensure that your organization’s ISMS is operating effectively and in alignment with the ISO 27001 standard.
The internal audit is required under the ISO 27001 standard and internal auditors must be objective and impartial. In order to make sure your ISO 27001 certification is up to industry standards, auditors should not be responsible for implementing, operating, or monitoring any of the controls under audit.
Once the internal audit is complete, results should be shared with the company’s ISMS governing body and senior management to address any issues before proceeding to the next step of the ISO 27001 certification process—the external audit.
The external audit is composed of two stages. Stage 1 Audit consists of an extensive documentation review, during which an external ISO 27001 auditor reviews an organization’s policies and procedures to ensure they meet the requirements of the ISO standard and the organization’s ISMS.
Stage 2 Audit consists of the auditor performing tests to ensure that an organization’s ISMS was properly designed and implemented and is functioning appropriately.
An ISO 27001 certification is valid for three years, however, ISO requires that surveillance audits be performed each year to ensure that the ISMS and its implemented controls continue to operate effectively. This means that every 12 months during the 3-year cycle, an organization’s ISMS must undergo an ISO 27001 external audit, where an auditor will assess portions of the ISMS.
Who benefits from ISO 27001 compliance?
ISO 27001 compliance offers a win-win-win situation: it benefits you, your staff, and your customers in various ways.
The ISO 27001 certification benefits for your business include:
- Positioning your business as a stronger competitor so you can win more customers
- Protection for your intellectual property, brand, and professional reputation
- Retaining more of your customers
- Time savings and cost savings due to having more efficient processes
- Better security against a data breach and the associated costs like investigative costs and lawsuits
- Adherence to security and privacy regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, allowing you to avoid penalties
- Ability to attract stronger, more security-minded staff
When your business is ISO 27001 compliant, it offers certain benefits to your staff too, such as:
- More efficient operations leading to fewer avoidable frustrations
- Comfort of working in a stable company that is at lower risk for financial devastation
- Clear and predictable policies and procedures
The biggest winners of all, though, may be your customers, who stand to gain several benefits from your ISO 27001 compliance:
- Assurance that their data will be managed safely and securely
- Lower risk of their data and their end users’ data being exposed in a data breach
- More streamlined onboarding when they sign on with you as a vendor
Streamline and simplify the ISO 27001 process with Vanta
Vanta’s automated security and compliance software supports your company in building a strong security program that will enable you to prove compliance and prepare for multiple audit formats.
Vanta provides a suite of interconnected tools automating security and compliance to tackle ISO 27001, SOC 2, HIPAA, and more. Vanta helps you build a list of controls tailored to your company, then connects to your company’s software, admin, and security systems to continuously monitor your systems and services.
Vanta eliminates manual data collection and consistently monitors your security systems with its automated platform. Once Vanta is connected to your systems, we can identify and resolve any gaps in your security implementation—preparing you for a smooth and successful security compliance audit.
Determine whether the GDPR applies to you and if so, if you are a processor or controller (or both)
Do you sell goods or service in the EU or UK?
Do you sell goods or services to EU businesses, consumers, or both?
Do you have employees in the EU or UK?
Do persons from the EU or UK visit your website?
Do you monitor the behavior of persons within the EU?
Create a Data Map by taking the following actions
Identify and document every system (i.e. database, application, or vendor) which stores or processes EU or UK based personally identifiable information (PII)
Document the retention periods for PII in each system
Determine whether you collect, store, or process “special categories” of data
Determine whether your Data Map meets the requirements for Records of Processing Activities (Art. 30)
Determine whether your Data Map includes the following information about processing activities carried out by vendors on your behalf
Determine your grounds for processing data
For each category of data and system/application have you determined the lawful basis for processing based on one of the following conditions?
Take inventory of current customer and vendor contracts to confirm new GDPR-required flow-down provisions are included
Review all customer contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Review all in-scope vendor contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed a risk assessment on vendors who are processing your PII?
Determine if you need to do a Data Protection Impact Assessment
Is your data processing taking into account the nature, scope, context, and purposes of the processing, likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons?
Review product and service design (including your website or app) to ensure privacy notice links, marketing consents, and other requirements are integrated
Does the notice to the data subject include the following items?
Does the notice also include the following items?
Do you have a mechanism for persons to change or withdraw consent?
Update internal privacy policies to comply with notification obligations
Update internal privacy notices for EU employees
Determine if you need to appoint a Data Protection Officer, and appoint one if needed
Have you determined whether or not you must designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO) based on one of the following conditions (Art. 37)?
If you export data from the EU, consider if you need a compliance mechanism to cover the data transfer, such as model clauses
If you transfer, store, or process data outside the EU or UK, have you identified your legal basis for the data transfer (note: most likely covered by the Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed and documented a Transfer Impact Assessment (TIA)?
Confirm you are complying with other data subject rights (i.e. aside from notification)
Do you have a defined process for timely response to Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR) (i.e. requests for information, modification or deletion of PII)?
Are you able to provide the subject information in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language?
Do you have a process for correcting or deleting data when requested?
Do you have an internal policy regarding a Compelled Disclosure from Law Enforcement?
Determine if you need to appoint an EU-based representative, and appoint one if needed
Have you appointed an EU Representative or determined that an EU Representative is not needed based on one of the following conditions?
If operating in more than one EU state, identify a lead Data Protection Authority (DPA)
Do you operate in more than one EU state?
If so, have you designated the Supervisory Authority of the main establishment to act as your Lead Supervisory Authority?
Implement Employee Trainings to Demonstrate Compliance with GDPR Principles and Data Subject Rights
Have you provided appropriate Security Awareness and Privacy training to your staff?
Update internal procedures and policies to ensure you can comply with data breach response requirements
Have you created and implemented an Incident Response Plan which included procedures for reporting a breach to EU and UK Data Subjects as well as appropriate Data Authorities?
Do breach reporting policies comply with all prescribed timelines and include all recipients i.e. authorities, controllers, and data subjects?
Implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk
Have you implemented encryption of PII at rest and in transit?
Have you implemented pseudonymization?
Have you implemented appropriate physical security controls?
Have you implemented information security policies and procedures?
Can you access EU or UK PII data in the clear?
Do your technical and organizational measure ensure that, by default, only personal data which are necessary for each specific purpose of the processing are processed?
Develop a roadmap for successful implementation of an ISMS and ISO 27001 certification
Implement Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process to recognize challenges and identify gaps for remediation
Consider ISO 27001 certification costs relative to org size and number of employees
Clearly define scope of work to plan certification time to completion
Select an ISO 27001 auditor
Set the scope of your organization’s ISMS
Decide which business areas are covered by the ISMS and which are out of scope
Consider additional security controls for business processes that are required to pass ISMS-protected information across the trust boundary
Inform stakeholders regarding scope of the ISMS
Establish an ISMS governing body
Build a governance team with management oversight
Incorporate key members of top management, e.g. senior leadership and executive management with responsibility for strategy and resource allocation
Conduct an inventory of information assets
Consider all assets where information is stored, processed, and accessible
- Record information assets: data and people
- Record physical assets: laptops, servers, and physical building locations
- Record intangible assets: intellectual property, brand, and reputation
Assign to each asset a classification and owner responsible for ensuring the asset is appropriately inventoried, classified, protected, and handled
Execute a risk assessment
Establish and document a risk-management framework to ensure consistency
Identify scenarios in which information, systems, or services could be compromised
Determine likelihood or frequency with which these scenarios could occur
Evaluate potential impact of each scenario on confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information, systems, and services
Rank risk scenarios based on overall risk to the organization’s objectives
Develop a risk register
Record and manage your organization’s risks
Summarize each identified risk
Indicate the impact and likelihood of each risk
Document a risk treatment plan
Design a response for each risk (Risk Treatment)
Assign an accountable owner to each identified risk
Assign risk mitigation activity owners
Establish target dates for completion of risk treatment activities
Complete the Statement of Applicability worksheet
Review 114 controls of Annex A of ISO 27001 standard
Select controls to address identified risks
Complete the Statement of Applicability listing all Annex A controls, justifying inclusion or exclusion of each control in the ISMS implementation
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the ISMS
Include information or references to supporting documentation regarding:
- Information Security Objectives
- Leadership and Commitment
- Roles, Responsibilities, and Authorities
- Approach to Assessing and Treating Risk
- Control of Documented Information
- Internal Audit
- Management Review
- Corrective Action and Continual Improvement
- Policy Violations
Assemble required documents and records
Review ISO 27001 Required Documents and Records list
Customize policy templates with organization-specific policies, process, and language
Establish employee training and awareness programs
Conduct regular trainings to ensure awareness of new policies and procedures
Define expectations for personnel regarding their role in ISMS maintenance
Train personnel on common threats facing your organization and how to respond
Establish disciplinary or sanctions policies or processes for personnel found out of compliance with information security requirements
Perform an internal audit
Allocate internal resources with necessary competencies who are independent of ISMS development and maintenance, or engage an independent third party
Verify conformance with requirements from Annex A deemed applicable in your ISMS's Statement of Applicability
Share internal audit results, including nonconformities, with the ISMS governing body and senior management
Address identified issues before proceeding with the external audit
Undergo external audit of ISMS to obtain ISO 27001 certification
Engage an independent ISO 27001 auditor
Conduct Stage 1 Audit consisting of an extensive documentation review; obtain feedback regarding readiness to move to Stage 2 Audit
Conduct Stage 2 Audit consisting of tests performed on the ISMS to ensure proper design, implementation, and ongoing functionality; evaluate fairness, suitability, and effective implementation and operation of controls
Address any nonconformities
Ensure that all requirements of the ISO 27001 standard are being addressed
Ensure org is following processes that it has specified and documented
Ensure org is upholding contractual requirements with third parties
Address specific nonconformities identified by the ISO 27001 auditor
Receive auditor’s formal validation following resolution of nonconformities
Conduct regular management reviews
Plan reviews at least once per year; consider a quarterly review cycle
Ensure the ISMS and its objectives continue to remain appropriate and effective
Ensure that senior management remains informed
Ensure adjustments to address risks or deficiencies can be promptly implemented
Calendar ISO 27001 audit schedule and surveillance audit schedules
Perform a full ISO 27001 audit once every three years
Prepare to perform surveillance audits in the second and third years of the Certification Cycle
Consider streamlining ISO 27001 certification with automation
Transform manual data collection and observation processes into automated and continuous system monitoring
Identify and close any gaps in ISMS implementation in a timely manner
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Determine which annual audits and assessments are required for your company
Perform a readiness assessment and evaluate your security against HIPAA requirements
Review the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights Audit Protocol
Conduct required HIPAA compliance audits and assessments
Perform and document ongoing technical and non-technical evaluations, internally or in partnership with a third-party security and compliance team like Vanta
Document your plans and put them into action
Document every step of building, implementing, and assessing your compliance program
Vanta’s automated compliance reporting can streamline planning and documentation
Appoint a security and compliance point person in your company
Designate an employee as your HIPAA Compliance Officer
Schedule annual HIPAA training for all employees
Distribute HIPAA policies and procedures and ensure staff read and attest to their review
Document employee trainings and other compliance activities
Thoroughly document employee training processes, activities, and attestations
Establish and communicate clear breach report processes
to all employees
Ensure that staff understand what constitutes a HIPAA breach, and how to report a breach
Implement systems to track security incidents, and to document and report all breaches
Institute an annual review process
Annually assess compliance activities against theHIPAA Rules and updates to HIPAA
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a year-round risk management program and integrate continuous monitoring
Understand the ins and outs of HIPAA compliance— and the costs of noncompliance
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