How do we Become ISO 27001 Certified?

Currently, most organizations decide to become ISO 27001 certified because of customer or market pressure or because they deal with “important” customers and want to prove they are capable of handling information. More increasingly there are requirements in RFQs, when dealing with government contracts and meeting legislation e.g. HIPPA. These types of requirements are not going to go away and are likely to become more and more important. ISO 27001 certification answers these questions without any effort.

ISO 27001 is a management system standard for controlling information security that requires defined and documented procedures and processes that “assure” the management of information.

When working on ISO 27001, many organizations overlook the management system part and focus on strengthening information security. This is a mistake. The truth is that ISO 27001 does not require any particular security technique or performance of information security. Theoretically you could have very poor information security and still be ISO 27001 certified.

Management should be keen to do ISO 27001 because it gives them an objective understanding of the information security perspective without committing to spending indeterminate amounts of money on security.

Information Security Personnel should be keen to do ISO 27001 because it spreads the awareness of the importance of information security and clearly assigns ultimate responsibility to organization management.

You become certified following a successful audit by an accredited certification body. In order to satisfy the audit you must write procedures and define processes that describe your approach to conducting an information security risk assessment. There are other standards that provide information on how to do a risk assessment but unless you are going to invest in a computer based risk assessment tool, then excel provides an excellent mechanism. Microsoft also has a free risk assessment tool that could be used but the emphasis here is on “keep it simple”.

The risk assessment process needs to be comprehensive and includes criteria for risk calculation and a re-assessment cycle once any corrective actions have been taken.

A few other processes need to be in place too, including a formal process for dealing with security incidents that occur (or nearly occur), a process to review and generate a statement of applicability (defining which security controls are applicable and explaining them), contingency planning and a process for having information security contacts and knowledge of relevant legislation.

Additionally you need all of the supporting processes and procedures in place to make sure the management system remains effective including document control, record control, management review, objective setting, training, internal audit and corrective and preventive action.

All of these processes and procedures operate in a comprehensive and congruent management system that ensures awareness, responsibility and control over information security.

Although focusing on the security controls is a mistake (both from a certification and management perspective), it cannot be ignored. There are about 173 information security control requirements identified in ISO 27001 (and expanded in ISO 27002) from managing the physical access controls to HR issues (e.g. employment contracts) to software development controls to technical network and operating controls to legal and contingency planning. These requirements must be reviewed and conscious decisions made about how they are to be applied (or not). All of these reviews and decisions need to be recorded and traceable.

No individual control (or group of controls) are mandatory so long as management accept the responsibility for the residual risks that exist. In practice the system of information security controls need to be “appropriate” or it is likely that a certification body auditor will be uncomfortable recommending certification. Once everything is working a certification assessment needs to be completed.

Cavendish Scott provides consulting, training and auditing for ISO 27001. We guarantee that our consulting clients will pass their ISO assessment and get certified. Getting certified to ISO 27001 is fairly easy to achieve and our unique approach takes nearly all of the effort while providing a meaningful and easy to maintain system.