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ISO 27001 and Information Security

ISO/IEC 27001:2013 (ISO 27001) is the international standard that describes best practice for an information security management system (ISMS). Accredited certification to ISO 27001 demonstrates that an organisation is following international information security best practices.

ISO 27001 (formally known as ISO/IEC 27001:2005) is a specification for an information security management system (ISMS). An ISMS is a framework of policies and procedures that includes all legal, physical and technical controls involved in an organisation’s information risk management processes.

According to its documentation, ISO 27001 was developed to “provide a model for establishing, implementing, operating, monitoring, reviewing, maintaining and improving an information security management system.”

ISO 27001 uses a topdown, risk-based approach and is technology-neutral. The specification defines a six-part planning process:

  1. Define a security policy.
  2. Define the scope of the ISMS.
  3. Conduct a risk assessment.
  4. Manage identified risks.
  5. Select control objectives and controls to be implemented.
  6. Prepare a statement of applicability.

The specification includes details for documentation, management responsibility, internal audits, continual improvement, and corrective and preventive action. The standard requires cooperation among all sections of an organisation.

The 27001 standard does not mandate specific information security controls, but it provides a checklist of controls that should be considered in the accompanying code of practice, ISO/IEC 27002:2005. This second standard describes a comprehensive set of information security control objectives and a set of generally accepted good practice security controls.

ISO 27002 contains 12 main sections:

1. Risk assessment
2. Security policy
3. Organization of information security
4. Asset management
5. Human resources security
6. Physical and environmental security
7. Communications and operations management
8. Access control
9. Information systems acquisition, development and maintenance
10. Information security incident management
11. Business continuity management
12. Compliance

Organisations are required to apply these controls appropriately in line with their specific risks. Third-party accredited certification is recommended for ISO 27001 conformance.

What is an information security management system (ISMS)?

An information security management system (ISMS) is “a systematic approach for establishing, implementing, operating, monitoring, reviewing, maintaining and improving an organisation’s information security to achieve business objectives” (ISO/IEC 27000:2014).

It encompasses people, processes and technology, recognising that information security is not just about antivirus software, implementing the latest firewall or locking down your laptops or web servers. Technology alone is simply too weak to defend against the evolving nature of information security threats.

The overall approach to information security should be strategic as well as operational, and different security initiatives should be prioritised, integrated and cross-referenced to ensure overall effectiveness.

An ISO 27001-aligned ISMS helps you coordinate all your security efforts (both electronic and physical) coherently, consistently and cost-effectively.

Implementing ISO 27001

An ISMS is specific to the organisation that implements it so no two ISO 27001 projects are the same.