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Information Security for Businesses - How Companies Can Benefit from ISO 27001 Certification

By Natalia Giraldo, Subject Matter Expert at CertiProf 

Whether it's corporate espionage, disrupting business activity, encrypting data with ransomware, or extorting cash, cybersecurity attacks are on the rise and continue to threaten the business world. Despite the growing number of incidents, many businesses don't have prevention mechanisms or contingency plans in place to prevent, detect, and mitigate these threats. The 2020 FireEye Cyber Trendscape indicated that more than 50% of businesses operating across the globe are not prepared to combat an attack or breach. 

Companies need to know how to minimize the risk of information breaches to prevent legal implications or endanger a company's valuable internal and client data. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed an effective information security management system for institutions, organizations, and businesses: the 27001 ISO. By becoming ISO certified, organizations not only learn how to earn value in their information security efforts but also how to prevent future leaks.

Let's get the full picture of the ISO 27001 certification process, the benefits an official certificate offers, and how executives can develop a culture of compliance.

How the ISO 27001 certification process works

Overcoming a data breach and recovering routine operations demands a lot of time, money, and resources. A documented system of controls and management best practices can cut recovery costs and down to a fractional amount. 

The international ISO 27001 standard helps businesses establish control systems that touch upon all business units that process information, including marketing, IT, business operations, sales, R&D, and human resources. 

By completing the ISO 27001 certification process, infosec professionals develop the ability to determine potential hazards and define strategies used to prevent problems before they occur. Let's take human resource security as an example: People who are under an organization's employ need to be hired, trained, and managed in a way that protects information and data and includes teaching them how to react to an information breach. ISO 27001 standards put in place a set of controls that help foster a culture of awareness and trust in order to prevent employees from logging in to unsecured networks, chousing weak passwords, or talking about sensitive information in public places.

Participants who complete the ISO 27001 certification process advance through three levels. First, they familiarize themselves with the standards and control procedures specified under ISO guidelines to receive a more clarified understanding of their current cybersecurity strengths and flaws. This step includes developing a business project plan, performing a risk assessment, and planning monitoring and control measures. 

The next step requires an internal audit organization to make sure that the best standards and practices are applied across the organization at an enterprise level. Every business has different but similar data architecture including multiple sensitive systems to protect. Therefore, the audit stage requires reviewing current information security practices and scheduling routine compliance reviews on a monthly or quarterly basis. The goal is to achieve a diagnosis of the areas that need improvement and input the necessary controls (technical, organizational, legal, physical, human, etc.) in order to identify and fill the gaps within your organization.

Professionals who achieve the grade of the lead auditor will acquire the skills and knowledge required. A lead auditor is the one that manages the team of internal auditors and ensures that the reports are impartial and accurate. Their knowledge of various control mechanisms and methodologies helps the whole business to combat future threats in a changing business environment.

The benefits of official ISO certification

Even though it's not obligatory for every company to apply to the ISO 27001 standards, companies' interest in achieving this certification is increasing worldwide due to the level of trust it represents. The latest ISO survey of 2019 reports that 31,910 certificates were issued and 59,934 sites were certified the same year. ISO certifications are popular because of the immense benefit they provide to businesses. By applying the rules to internal systems, operational management, and day-to-day procedures you learn how to identify risks, like malware, insecure data backups, and vulnerable legacy systems

ISO 27001 certification helps your organization develop and audit operational and control processes which provides an immense advantage in times of crisis. Continuously assessing and improving internal control systems helps you to develop a mitigation strategy and react more rapidly in the event of a data breach or cybersecurity incident. 

Further, being able to show your up-to-date ISO certifications enhances your business's attractiveness in the global marketplace - among customers, public authorities, and businesses. 

Many countries in Europe and the Americas give higher scores in public bids to certified companies because there is a guarantee that the potential contractor complies with all commercial, contractual and legal requirements. In Colombia for example, companies that are operators of invoicing are required to comply with this international standard. 

Worldwide, an increasing number of B2C customers and B2B clients value compliance and they are interested in how their information is managed and protected. In a survey conducted by Cisco, 32% of respondents said they care about privacy, are willing to act, and have done so by switching companies or providers over data or data-sharing policies. For those privacy-interested clients, risks involved in cybersecurity and data breaches of any kind are too great and ISO 27001 builds their trust in a company's transparency, credibility, and security.

When you are ISO certified you can prevent fines and a bad reputation in the event of a breach. Shocking attacks like the one on Marriott International resulted in a $124 million fine for the company. In another incident, the company Equifax agreed to pay a minimum of $575 million for its 2017 breach - sums that can break a company's bank easily.

Finally, ISO enhances your business network as you join a professional organization linking you up with like-minded companies and IT security professionals globally.

Building an ISO compliant company culture

The biggest challenge you might face applying the standard in your business is your current information security culture. According to Cybint, 95% of cybersecurity breaches occur because of human error. This happens when staff and organizational units are unaware of the importance of information security and of their responsibility in protecting data.

To achieve a compliant company culture, you should follow three steps:

First of all, you need to integrate security management systems and the standard and rules of ISO 27001 directly into your company's strategy and business goals. Define what implications the guidelines have in various departments and on day-to-day operations.

Information security is an encompassing and complex process. That's why you should involve and educate your staff via workshops and training sessions on the specific operations and requirements. Assess and strengthen people's commitment to apply to standards during those workshops.

Third, try to continually evaluate and improve your current management system. Continuous development is at the top of effective security management. You can participate in peer-review discussions on ISO 27001, engage with your network of IT professionals and join seminars and workshops on the latest security challenges and how to mitigate them.

Final Thoughts

Information security threats are the biggest, underrated hazard the business world has to adapt to and it is high time for companies to face this new reality. 

Those companies that have cybersecurity management tools in place are often still indecisive on whether to get an official ISO 27100 certification. But the advantages speak for themselves: ISO 27100 helps businesses to strengthen business continuity, enhances a company's reputation with clients, increases the likelihood of contracting the company by other companies and public authorities, and reduces the likelihood of financial loss. ISO certification is an investment that's worth it in the long run.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalia Giraldo 

Natalia has over 13 years of experience working in quality management administration. Under both international and national standards, Natalia has been able to expand her consulting knowledge at the Organizational level in management systems implementation.

Additionally, Natalia is a university professor, teaching quality management systems with a focus on international standards (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, ISO 27001). Her areas of expertise include comprehensive management systems, improvement of processes, management of control indicators, project management under agile methodologies, and customer service.

Published Tuesday, June 15, 2021 7:43 AM by David Marshall
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