May 24, 2024

Everything You Wanted to Know About ISO 27001 But Were Afraid to Ask

Samuel Bismut
CTO and co-founder

An introduction to ISO 27001 and what companies need to consider before getting on the path to get certified.

In an era where data breaches and cyber threats are escalating, companies want to ensure that their suppliers are compliant and cautious around cyber risks. But as a company cannot screen every single vendor (most companies have hundreds), they increasingly look at official certifications. Enter ISO 27001, a globally recognized standard for information security management systems (ISMS). If you've heard of ISO 27001 but felt overwhelmed by its intricacies, you're not alone. This article answers all the questions you ISO 27001 (and those questions you did not even think of), shedding light on its importance, implementation, costs and benefits.

What is ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 is an international standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in conjunction with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It provides a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an ISMS. The goal is to help organizations protect their information systematically and cost-effectively.

Is ISO 27001 or SOC 2 more relevant for me?

Both certifications ensure secure IT operations and show compliance to stakeholders. However, ISO 27001 is more common in Europe, while SOC 2 is more common in the US.

Why is ISO 27001 Important?

In today's digital landscape, data is a valuable asset. Protecting it against unauthorized access, breaches, and cyberattacks is critical. ISO 27001 offers a structured approach to safeguarding sensitive information, thereby enhancing an organization's reputation, trustworthiness, and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. For example, adhering to ISO 27001 can help a company avoid significant fines associated with data breaches.

What are the key components of ISO 27001?

Risk Management: At its core, ISO 27001 revolves around risk management. It requires organizations to identify information security risks and implement appropriate controls to mitigate them. For instance, this might involve using encryption to protect sensitive data or setting up firewalls to guard against unauthorized access.

ISMS Policy: The foundation of ISO 27001 is an ISMS policy that defines the organization's approach to managing information security. This policy acts as a guiding document that aligns security efforts with business objectives and regulatory requirements.

Leadership and Commitment: Top management must be actively involved in the ISMS, ensuring resources are allocated, and objectives are aligned with business goals. This commitment is essential for fostering a culture of security within the organization, from the executive level down to the operational teams.

Planning: This involves identifying risks, assessing their impact, and planning how to address them through risk treatment plans. For example, a company might plan to implement multi-factor authentication to reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

Support: Adequate resources, competent personnel, and appropriate communication channels are essential for an effective ISMS. This support ensures that security measures are effectively implemented and maintained across the organization.

Operations: Implementing the planned controls and processes to manage information security risks. This could include regular software updates, access control measures, and employee training programs.

Performance Evaluation: Regular monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation of the ISMS are necessary to ensure its effectiveness. Performance evaluation might involve conducting internal audits and reviewing incident reports to identify areas for improvement.

Improvement: Continual improvement is a critical aspect, requiring organizations to adapt and enhance their ISMS in response to internal audits, reviews, and changing circumstances. This ensures the ISMS remains effective in addressing new and evolving security threats.

Was is the process like to get certified?

I hope you are ready for a marathon, or at least a 10k run if you're well prepared. It is definitely not a sprint!

Preparation: Understand the requirements of ISO 27001 and conduct a gap analysis to determine where your current ISMS stands. This initial step helps identify the specific areas needing improvement before proceeding further.

Scope Definition: Define the boundaries of your ISMS, identifying which parts of your organization will be covered. For example, you might decide to include only certain departments or types of data in the initial scope.

Risk Assessment: Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities. This might involve evaluating the risk of cyberattacks, data leaks, or physical security breaches.

Implementation: Develop and implement the necessary policies, procedures, and controls to address identified risks. This could involve setting up new security protocols, updating software, and training staff on new procedures.

Internal Audit: Conduct an internal audit to ensure your ISMS meets the requirements of ISO 27001. This step helps identify any remaining gaps or areas needing further attention before the official certification audit. You will typically discover many easy fixes so you can focus your proper audit on the essential things.

Management Review: Top management reviews the ISMS to ensure its continued suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness. This review might include assessing the outcomes of internal audits and making strategic decisions about future improvements that are necessary for the audit. You typically involve CTO, CIO, DPO, CISO or other people that work on IT security and IT operations.

Certification Audit: An external auditor from a certification body assesses your ISMS. If compliant, your organization will be awarded the ISO 27001 certification. This final step provides formal recognition of your organization's commitment to information security.

What are the benefits of ISO 27001?

Enhanced Security: Provides a structured approach to protecting sensitive information. This ensures that all aspects of information security, including physical and digital measures, are addressed comprehensively.

Customer Trust: Certification demonstrates your commitment to security, building trust with customers and partners. For instance, a certified company can reassure clients that their data is handled with the highest standards of security. The ISO label is known worldwide (even if the SOC 2 label is more common in the US).

Regulatory Compliance: Helps meet legal and regulatory requirements, avoiding fines and legal action. Compliance with ISO 27001 can simplify adherence to other regulations such as GDPR or HIPAA.

Competitive Advantage: Differentiates your organization in a competitive market. Being ISO 27001 certified can be a key differentiator when bidding for contracts or attracting new customers. This can be a door opener to large enterprises or companies in senstitive industries.

Improved Processes: Encourages continuous improvement of your information security practices. This ongoing improvement helps maintain high security standards and adapt to new threats and vulnerabilities. It can also help you run more efficient IT Operations, for example for automated user provisioning.

Common misconceptions

ISO 27001 is Only for Large Enterprises: While large companies often pursue certification, ISO 27001 is equally beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, smaller companies might find that ISO 27001 provides a competitive edge and enhances their credibility.

It's Too Expensive: The costs of the certification are significant. However, those costs can be managed and they are often outweighed by the benefits, such as reduced risk of breaches and improved efficiency. Additionally, the costs associated with non-compliance and data breaches can far exceed the investment in certification. One thing to consider is that the costs will increase the longer the company waits with the certification as size and complexity of the organisation increase.

It's Only About IT Security: ISO 27001 covers all aspects of information security, including physical and human factors, not just IT. For example, it addresses physical access controls, employee awareness training, and incident response planning.


ISO 27001 is more than just a certification; it's a commitment to safeguarding your organization's most valuable asset - information. By implementing an ISMS based on ISO 27001, businesses can systematically address risks, enhance security, and build trust with stakeholders. While the journey may not always feel like a walk in the park, the long-term benefits of protecting your information and demonstrating your commitment to security are well worth the effort. If you've been hesitant about ISO 27001, now is the time to embrace it and strengthen your organization's information security posture.

Corma can help companies to prepare for the audit and stay compliant afterwards. Corma's Identity Access Management platform provides the structure needed to enforce user management and access reviews that are a core part of the certification process.

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