What is an ISMS and 8 reasons why you should implement one

An ISMS (information security management system) is a centrally managed framework for keeping an organisation’s information secure. It contains a set of policies, procedures and controls for protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.

Confidentiality refers to the ability to make sure data is only accessed by authorised people, integrity refers to the accuracy and completeness of records, and availability refers to the ability to ensure that data is accessible when required.

An ISMS covers not only technical defences but also those related to common risks concerning people, resources, assets and processes.

The best practices for an ISMS are laid out in ISO 27001, which covers the compliance requirements, and ISO 27002, which covers the guidelines and general principles for implementing and maintaining those requirements.

What companies should manage their information security?

Although there are no laws requiring organisations to implement ISO 27001, compliance is often essential for an organisation to succeed.

One reason for this is the increasing demand from suppliers and clients for the organisations they work with to demonstrate effective security. Certifying to the Standard enables organisations to do this, giving them a competitive advantage.

Another reason is that the Standard can help organisations comply with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), NIS (Network and Information Systems) Regulations and other information security laws.

Neither the GDPR or NIS Regulations specify how to meet their requirements, but their similarities to ISO 27001 mean that many requirements can be met by following the Standard’s instructions.

What are the benefits of an ISMS?

An ISO 27001-compliant ISMS does more than simply help you comply with laws and win business. It creates a new way of thinking about information security, helping your employees become more aware of their responsibilities and the steps they must take to keep information secure.

It also:

  1. Secures your information in all its forms: An ISMS helps protect data in all its forms, including digital, paper-based and in the Cloud.
  2. Increases your resilience to cyber attacks: Implementing and maintaining an ISMS will significantly increase your organisation’s resilience to cyber attacks.
  3. Provides a centrally managed framework: An ISMS provides a framework for keeping your organisation’s information safe and managing it in one place.
  4. Offers organisation-wide protection: An ISMS protects your entire organisation from technology-based risk and other, more common threats, such as poorly informed staff and ineffective procedures.
  5. Helps you respond to evolving security threats: Risks are continually evolving, but an ISMS reduces the threat by constantly adapting to changes both in the environment and inside the organisation.
  6. Reduces costs associated with information security: The risk assessment and analysis approach of an ISMS means organisations can reduce spending on defensive technology that might not work.
  7. Protects the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data: An ISMS offers a set of policies, procedures and physical controls to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
  8. Improves company culture: ISO 27001’s holistic approach covers the whole organisation, not just IT, and encompasses people, processes and technology. This enables employees to readily understand risks and embrace security controls as part of their everyday working practices.

The ISO 27001 implementation process

To get you started on your ISO 27001 compliance journey, we recommend reading our free green paper: Implementing an ISMS – The nine-step approach.

This guide explains how to create an ISMS that meets ISO 27001’s requirements in a time- and cost-effective way. It goes into more detail about what an ISMS is and how having one can benefit you, and lays out our tried-and-tested implementation approach.

The steps outlined in this green paper cover the full extent of the project, from initial discussions with managers through to testing the completed project and pursuing accredited certification.

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