ISO 27001: Your guide to the standard for information security

In today’s interconnected world, where data breaches and cyber threats loom large, safeguarding sensitive information has become a top priority for businesses of all sizes.

Alarmingly, NAB research conducted in April 2023 found that 1 in 5 Australians and just over 1 in 10 businesses (SMEs) had fallen victim to a cyber-attack, scam or data breach in the past year. On average, individuals lost $569, while SMEs lost $19,400. As they navigate the threats of cybercrime, around 1 in 3 Australians are experiencing feelings of distrust, powerlessness, and vulnerability.

The increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats has prompted companies to adopt stringent measures to protect their valuable data. This is where ISO 27001 certification steps in, offering a robust framework for comprehensive information security management.

While industry giants like Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon are some of the more well-known companies achieving ISO 27001 certification, it’s not just the big players reaping its benefits. From multinational corporations to small enterprises, countless businesses worldwide from all types of industries are embracing ISO 27001 compliance to enhance their data protection strategies and gain a competitive edge in the digital realm.

If you want to get ISO 27001 certified, this guide will equip you with the essential knowledge needed to navigate the standard with confidence.

A quick introduction to ISO 27001

The internationally recognised standard for information security management, ISO 27001:2013, has recently undergone significant updates and is set to be replaced by the 2022 version.

The new iteration, released on 25 October 2022, incorporates essential changes designed to address the evolving challenges and threats faced by companies in today’s digital landscape.

The main purpose of updating standards like ISO 27001 is to ensure they remain relevant and aligned with advancements in technology and information security. Over the past decade, the technology and data protection landscape has transformed dramatically. While these advancements have brought significant benefits to businesses, they have also exposed new vulnerabilities, necessitating an updated framework to mitigate increasingly sophisticated security risks.

To maintain certification, businesses must comply with the revised standard by 31 October 2025, as ISO 27001:2013 will no longer be considered valid.

In addition, starting from 31 October 2023, certification against ISO 27001:2013 will not be possible. Instead, all ISO 27001 audits will be conducted exclusively based on the 2022 version.

ISO 27001:2022 core clauses and guidelines

The ISO 27001:2022 requirements are broken down into several clauses. To get ISO 27001 certified, you must meet all of the requirements in clauses 4-10, which are:

  • Clause 4: Context of the organisation: This clause requires organisations to document their activities, the scope of their Information Security Management System (ISMS), and the needs and interests of key stakeholders.
  • Clause 5: Leadership: Senior management must demonstrate their full support and accountability for the ISMS, including establishing relevant policies and ensuring clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Clause 6: Planning: Assess risks, find opportunities for information security improvements, and set goals for the ISMS.
  • Clause 7: Support: Determine which resources are required to ensure the effectiveness of the ISMS.
  • Clause 8: Operation: Establish risk treatment plans and implement appropriate controls.
  • Clause 9: Performance evaluation: Monitor the effectiveness of the ISMS by completing internal audits and reviews.
  • Clause 10: Improvement: Implement a proactive approach to addressing nonconformities and improving the ISMS over time.

Annex A is an appendix listing 114 security controls that can be implemented to fulfil these requirements and improve your ISMS.

These security controls are divided into core groups, which were revised in the 2022 version of the standard to better reflect modern risks and their associated controls. ISO 27001:2022 Annex A controls fit into one of the following areas:

  • Organisational
  • People
  • Physical
  • Technological

To find out more, see our article on transitioning to ISO 27001:2022 or contact our ISO consultants.

ISO 27001 brings clarity to information security

ISO 27001 provides organisations with a clear roadmap to navigate the complexities of information security.

It helps determine and document stakeholder and company expectations, current and emerging risks, short and long-term objectives, approaches to handle security issues if they arise, measurement of performance, and steps for continuous improvement.

Certification to ISO 27001 empowers companies to establish and maintain robust information security measures, safeguard valuable data, and instil trust in stakeholders. With ISO 27001, organisations can navigate the dynamic security landscape confidently and proactively protect their information assets.

Why get ISO 27001 certified?

ISO 27001 certified companies can benefit from their compliance and proactive information security management in a multitude of ways.

  • Certification helps satisfy legal requirements and mitigates the risk of breaches, which could result in costly fines or legal proceedings.
  • Achieving certification provides a competitive advantage by demonstrating a commitment to robust information security practices, giving organisations an edge in the market.
  • In a rapidly changing business landscape, certification enables organisations to stay agile and proactive in addressing emerging security risks.
  • By streamlining systems and removing inefficiencies, certification enhances operational effectiveness.
  • The standard brings structure to information security management, improving organisation and ensuring employees understand their roles and responsibilities.
  • ISO 27001 certification helps prevent financial losses that may arise from security breaches and ensures that organisations are taking all necessary measures to maintain data privacy and integrity.
  • Clearly defining information handling roles and responsibilities helps establish accountability and reduces the risk of errors.
  • Certification helps to protect the company’s reputation, as ISO compliance is widely recognised and respected, solidifying trust with stakeholders and enhancing the organisation’s overall image.

Ultimately, ISO 27001 certification brings peace of mind, strengthens competitive positioning, and safeguards critical assets for organisations committed to robust information security practices.

The core objectives of ISO 27001 compliance

ISO 27001 compliance revolves around three core objectives, each essential for maintaining effective information security management.

  1. Confidentiality: Ensuring that sensitive information is kept secure and safe from unauthorised access or disclosure.
  2. Integrity: ISO 27001 focuses on implementing controls that ensure data can only be modified or altered by authorised individuals or systems.
  3. Availability: Establishing mechanisms that ensure authorised personnel have timely, uninterrupted, and secure access to required information.

How to achieve certification

Achieving ISO 27001 certification involves a systematic approach with four key steps.

Step 1: Initial gap assessment and documentation review

The first step is the initial gap assessment and documentation review, where a high-level review of the company’s systems is conducted to determine readiness for an external audit of information management systems. This assessment identifies any gaps that need to be addressed before proceeding.

Step 2: System development to fill the gaps

The second step involves system development to fill those gaps. If the company lacks essential documentation, management is disengaged, and so on, improvements must be made before moving forward.

Step 3: ISO internal audit

The third step is the ISO internal audit, conducted after the systems have been developed and implemented for several months. This intensive audit examines the systems’ alignment with ISO 27001 requirements, identifies gaps, and prompts the company to develop a plan to address areas of non-conformance. In addition, it assesses risks, identifies flaws or opportunities for improvement within systems, and helps refine the overall information security framework.

Step 4: System maintenance and upkeep

The final step is system maintenance and upkeep, which is crucial for sustaining compliance. This includes regular audits to ensure ongoing adherence to the standard, ongoing training to keep employees updated on best practices, and a commitment to continual improvement. Information security is a complex and ever-changing field, and organisations must actively avoid their systems becoming outdated or ineffective.

This four-step process helps companies establish a robust information security management system, continually adapt to emerging threats, and demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding sensitive data. ISO 27001 certification serves as a testament to an organisation’s dedication to information security and enhances trust among stakeholders.

How to maintain compliance

Maintaining ISO 27001 compliance requires a proactive approach that integrates compliance into day-to-day operations.

  • It’s crucial to ensure that top management is fully engaged and supportive of compliance efforts.
  • Regular audits should be conducted to monitor progress and identify any areas that need improvement.
  • Taking a holistic approach involving all parts of the business helps to create a culture of compliance throughout the organisation.
  • Keeping documentation up-to-date is essential for maintaining compliance and demonstrating adherence to the standard’s requirements.
  • Providing ongoing training to employees is vital to keep them informed about security practices and their responsibilities.

By following these steps, organisations can establish a robust and sustainable compliance framework that effectively safeguards their information assets.

ISO 27001 frequently asked questions

If you’re considering ISO 27001 certification, you likely have a few questions. We address some of the questions commonly asked about compliance below.

I’m already compliant with another ISO standard. Can ISO 27001 be integrated into my existing systems?

Yes, absolutely – Annex SL has standardised clauses of ISO standards against each other. Up to 50% of the standards are very similar, and elements can be integrated.

How long does ISO 27001 certification usually take?

The time needed for certification varies depending on the size and complexity of your organisation. For small businesses, it’s recommended to allow at least two to three months with the assistance of a consultant. However, without a consultant, you should allocate at least half a day a week for six to 12 months.

Do I need an ISO consultant to get certified?

While it’s not mandatory to engage an ISO consultant, having one can be beneficial, especially if you’re limited on time or resources, lack familiarity with the standard, or want to avoid an over-documented system. Consultants provide expertise, guidance, and support throughout the certification process, ensuring a smoother and more efficient journey.

Can I use a template to get ISO 27001 certified?

Using a template is possible, but it may not be the most optimal approach if you plan to incorporate other standards in the future. Templates typically cover only one standard, limiting their adaptability. Instead, it’s advisable to create a system that can easily accommodate additional standards. Cloud-based systems can be an effective and practical solution as they reduce documentation efforts, facilitate sharing across multiple sites, and support remote work arrangements.

Working closely with regulatory authorities and peak industry bodies, Integrated Compliance Solutions developed a comprehensive, cloud-based, industry-specific compliance package. Created by our talented software team, Digital IMS+ is a high-value service that’s fully customised to your specific requirements.

Speak with our ISO 27001 consultants

Get in touch with our team of consultants across Australia for assistance getting ISO 27001:2022 compliant, whether you haven’t been certified with this standard before or need to transition from the 2013 version. We help businesses in a wide range of industries develop lean, low-burden systems.

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