Every organization, no matter the size, has something they need to protect. ISMS or information security management system, do just that. ISMS refers to a series of policies, procedures, frameworks, and monitoring measures that control the information security in an organization.
Certifiable ISMS exists for many companies for Security best practices, even outside the tech industry. Like the ISO 27001-13, many security standards cover various parts and guidelines for certification and compliance. This article, however, will cover the basics of ISMS – and the first steps you need to take to get certified.
Why does my company need ISMS?
(1) Reduced risk
Information is vulnerable. Whether it is affected by outside threats or internal damages, you are liable to many threats without a layer of safety. With ISMS – you’re able to properly assess these threats, their sources, their policies and procedures, and the steps you will take to prevent them. Additionally, an ISMS integrates Security at every level of an organization – making Security a part of your company framework, making you less susceptible to threats.
(2) Regulatory requirements
An ISMS like the ISO doesn’t differentiate between the protection of organization data or user data. However, other regulatory requirements, like the GDPR, need you to assign a particular focus on protecting the data of individuals in the EU who use your service. Ignoring international security standards can lead to heavy fines and additional risk.
(3) Company reputation
When you are compliant with specific universal standards, it raises the value and reputation of the product you provide. Being certified with GDPR, ISO or other regulatory standards can foster a sense of trust in your users and solidify your product performance in front of investors.
Since ISMS affect your company’s internal and external value, it’s understandable that they should be a high priority for any organization. So now, you’d like to implement an ISMS. How do you begin?
1. Build your security task force
ISMS is a top-down approach. This means that it’s integrated at every level of your company – everything must be approved by your authorities. Once you’ve defined your goals, you need to manage your security team.
Building your security team involves creating a Security and Compliance Committee charter responsible for planning, implementing, and managing your ISMS. Your team should set clear, definite objectives, reflective of your current business goals and handle the following responsibilities:
- Initial implementation of your ISMS
- Security resource allocation
- Creation and implementation of policies and procedures relevant to your ISMS.
- Change management and policy approval
- Implementation of rollback plan
Maintenance of backups
2. Assess the scope of the system
Without the scope, your ISMS has no value. The scope of your system assesses the areas of your organization that require protection, the reasons behind it, and how you will achieve it. Defining the scope is the most crucial step since you can critically assess the following key questions:
- Which certification standards should I abide by?
- What will my ISMS cover?
- Which part of my organization requires the most protection?
- Who is responsible for implementation?
- By when can I be certified?
- How do I implement ISMS across departments?
- How can my ISMS give me a competitive advantage?
- Why is Security important for this part of my company?
- Which assets are the most vulnerable?
- How do we avoid risks?
- What is my first step?
By defining the scope and setting the standard (Such as ISO 27001), you can understand your ISMS’ technical and non-technical requirements. Without the scope, you would no longer have the next step to take.
3. Risk and asset management
Your Security and Compliance Committee Charter will be responsible for creating both your risk management policy and plan. While the policy will cover the critical measures to take in the case of risk, the plan would instead act as a failsafe and a preventive measure. This would involve creating a plan to handle risk, conducting monthly Risk Management Audits, specifically training employees for risk management. Then, with the plan and corresponding policy, you can define the purpose, audience and criteria for risk management, followed by any subsequent reporting.
Asset management can cover many things since every department in your organization has different assets for information management. Whether hardware, network management, or cloud-based assets, your team must evaluate them clearly for risks and create corresponding documents. Your team can then create a standard document from all assets across your company based on asset management across the board.
4. Define ISMS policies and procedures
Defining your existing system is a significant step. With the know-how you develop with your team, you can define and fine-tune your ISMS in various areas.
Some of these include the various components of your ISMS, the main areas of focus, the roles and responsibilities you assign to your team, the policies and procedures you must enforce. For example, policies surrounding Incident Management and Auditing Management can be vital since they will help you develop a plan – creating a response team that allows you to maintain Security. Access management policies can supplement these, integrating Security in your team, giving access to only the relevant people.
5. Establish security standards
An ISMS integrates Security and compliance into your company philosophy. When you take an information-protection approach, you can better assign, manage and control internal Security.
It fosters trust from day one, where even new employees are provided with the correct security training to keep company information safe. It can create an overall understanding of the importance of IT security, even for those not in your development team. Your HR department will understand the training required for new hires, and your whole team will have a straight, single point of contact for Security.
A password policy and other documents can help security measures internally. Audit policies can also influence documentation and processes across teams.
6. Monitoring and continuous improvement
Monitoring and improvement is an essential part of your ISMS. By monitoring, adjusting, and changing policies along with your growth, you can immediately adapt to unprecedented challenges. Risk management includes prevention, and you can predict and adjust your resources to minimize risk.
Before the certification audit, documentation is essential. While it can be tedious, every single document supports the efficacy and functionality of your current system. ‘Continuous Improvement’ is a cornerstone of ISMS – since it can protect, improve and monitor the everyday happenings of your system. Whether this is through annual internal audits, corrective and preventive actions and more, monitoring is the key to ISMS success – both before and after certification.
After your certification audit, you will be compliant with the ISO 27001 standard. While this certification lasts three years, audits and internal assessments are still required to make sure you meet the criteria and are committed to improving your security practices.