5 reasons why start-ups should care about ISO 27001

There’s a lot to consider when starting your own business, and with almost all your resources focused on recouping your investment, it’s understandable why information security wouldn’t be a top priority.

You might argue that effective defences, particularly those in line with the best practices described in ISO 27001, are a lot of hard work and red tape that don’t help you turn a profit.

But you’d be wrong. Here are five reasons why.

1. ISO 27001 helps accelerate your business growth

New business owners are probably familiar with people telling them that “the first six months are the hardest”. They might even chime in with a statistic like 20% of small businesses fail in their first year.

It doesn’t take an expert to figure out why those businesses failed: they overestimated how much money they would make or underestimated how much they would need to spend.

But that’s only part of the story. You also need to account for why their estimations were off. The answer comes in the form of another familiar business trope: you’ve got to spend money to make money.

Many failing organisations are so focused on cutting costs that they don’t factor in the long-term effects of their decisions. For example, you can save money at the outset by putting off information security, but it will become harder and more expensive to address 6 or 12 months down the line.

And guess what? Your business won’t be any more stable at that point. If anything, you’ll have more financial commitments and processes to maintain, making it harder to fund and implement information security controls.

We’re not suggesting that you dive head first into an ISO 27001 implementation project during your business’s infancy. Not only will this be prohibitively expensive, it’ll also be a waste of time; your organisation will change substantially as it develops, forcing you to reassess your security requirements after just a few months.

However, it’s definitely worth implementing the Standard’s core requirements from the outset. A risk assessment-led ISMS (information security management system) gives you a governance structure that your business can grow around, and which will support an ISO 27001 implementation project when the time is right.

2. You’ll gain a competitive advantage

The booming cyber crime industry has made organisations appreciate how important effective defences are when earning customers’ trust. The public is increasingly aware of the dangers of poor security, and savvy about the difference between unavoidable cyber attacks and lax defences.

ISO 27001 compliance ensures that all the necessary defence measures are in place, helping you avoid destructive security incidents and being tarnished with a reputation that could sink your business just as you’re making a name for yourself.

This not only helps you protect your customers but could also help you win business. When a competitor suffers a data breach, you’ll have the chance to sweep up a horde of customers who have decided to take their business elsewhere.

Depending on your sector, ISO 27001 could be a selling point in itself. Organisations that deal with information that customers are often reluctant to share, such as health records or political opinions, can advertise their certification on their website or in marketing material to demonstrate their dependability.

3. Stakeholders will have more confidence in you

Customers aren’t the only ones concerned about your information security practices; organisations in your supply chain also typically want guarantees that the information they share with you will remain secure.

This might come in the form of contractual requirements that mirror the requirements of ISO 27001, or the supplier might specifically request that organisations they work with are certified to the Standard.

Contracts are obviously a lot more manageable for start-ups, as they’ll only need to commit to a series of core activities. This will probably include, as a minimum, a risk assessment to identify risks and the implementation of appropriate controls that correlate to your biggest risks.

That’s certainly not an extensive list, though. Like almost all contracts, you should expect substantial detail explaining exactly what’s expected of you.

4. You’ll protect your reputation in the event of a breach

ISO 27001 can do a lot to keep you secure, but it won’t make you impenetrable. Some threats can’t be prevented, whether that’s because a crook found a way into your systems or an employee made a mistake that exposed your information.

That’s simply the nature of information security, and with the number of data breaches soaring to 2.3 billion in 2018, start-ups need to realise that no organisation is immune.

But this only reflects part of the information security landscape. Breaches have become so common that the playing field has been levelled. Everyone will be breached sooner or later, and while the damage will no doubt affect your productivity, it won’t necessarily ruin your reputation.

That’s because the public has become more accepting that data breaches occur and more forgiving when they do (provided the breach wasn’t enormous or caused by something embarrassing). But this acceptance comes with the expectation that organisations will be better at responding when incidents occur.

As such, there’s a lot to be gained from following ISO 27001’s incident response requirements. The public will give organisations a lot more leeway if they identify a breach quickly, report it to the appropriate authorities and inform customers.

5. You’re better equipped to adapt to changes in your business environment

As mentioned earlier, your organisation will evolve a lot in its first few years. You’ll scale up, take on more staff, add new processes and possibly move or add locations. Every one of these changes will affect the way you operate and the risks you face.

ISO 27001 is designed with evolution in mind. After all, every business develops over time, and can’t afford to constantly redesign its information security framework.

The Standard enables organisations to keep the structure of their ISMS in place, but to adapt their controls via regular risk assessments that enable them to identify and prioritise their biggest threats.

Organisations should conduct risk assessments at least once a year or whenever there are substantial changes to their business environment.

This enables them to keep a constant eye on the way risks are evolving, and to adjust the scope of their ISMS and the budget allotted to each control accordingly.

ISO 27001 compliance can be easier than you think

Our cost-effective implementation bundles make ISO 27001 easy to understand, and simple to implement.

Choose from a range of guides, risk assessment software, template documents and more to build a bespoke end-to-end compliance solution tailored to your business needs.