Information security management is a way of protecting an organisation’s sensitive data from threats and vulnerabilities.
The process is typically embedded via an ISMS (information security management system), which provides the framework for managing information security.
At the centre of the framework is information risk management in, which organisations assess risks and the ways that they can compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
By managing risks, organisations gain a comprehensive understanding of the specific ways that they could suffer data breaches and other disruptive events, and the steps they can take to protect themselves.
With the ever-growing threat of data breaches and associated regulatory action, it’s essential that organisations manage information security risks effectively. In this blog, we explain how you can create such a system and the benefits of doing so.
Why is information security management important?
Modern businesses process and store vast amounts of sensitive data. The information might be necessary to provide services, to improve the user experience or to make better decisions about the way it operates.
Whatever the purpose of this data, it’s essential that organisations protect it. If unauthorised actors get their hands on the information, whether that’s from a cyber attack or a privacy breach, it will cause lasting damage.
The introduction of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and its UK equivalent have emphasised the importance of effective information security, giving supervisory authorities the power to issue sizeable fines.
But by creating an ISMS, organisations mitigate the risk of a breach and demonstrate to regulators that they take information security seriously. This will help during the investigation stage and will result in a more lenient penalty – or potentially no penalty at all.
Benefits of information security management
In addition to reducing the risk of data breaches and subsequent penalties, information security management provides a variety of other benefits.
For example, organisations that implement an ISMS will:
- Reduce information security costs
Thanks to the risk assessment and analysis approach of an ISMS, organisations can reduce costs spent on indiscriminately adding layers of defensive technology that might not work.
- Improve company culture
The Standard’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.
- Win new business and enter new sectors
Many organisations nowadays will only work with third parties that can demonstrate effective information security. This is understandable, given that a data breach could result in costly delays, and may even instigate a supply chain attack.
What are the objectives of information security management?
The main objective of information security management is to prevent data breaches, but it’s helpful to break this down into more granular detail.
For example, the prevention of data breaches begins with risk management, in which an organisation identifies its information assets and the ways they can be compromised.
To do this, organisations must split risk into its constituent components:
- Vulnerabilities: known flaws that can be exploited to damage or compromise sensitive information.
- Threats: the actions by which vulnerabilities are exploited. For example, a cyber criminal leveraging a software flaw.
- Likelihood: how likely it is that a vulnerability will be exploited.
- Impact: the damage that occurs when a threat is exploited. This encompasses delays, lost business, financial effects and reputational damage.
Meanwhile, organisations also need to consider the different ways that information can be breached. This can be considered across the three pillars of information security.
The first is confidentiality, which refers to whether information is accessible to or disclosed to unauthorised people.
Second is integrity, which refers to the completeness and accuracy of sensitive information.
Finally, there is the availability of sensitive information, which refers to whether authorised users are able to access information on demand.
Information security management standards and compliance
In many cases, information security management is not simply a recommendation but a compliance requirement.
For example, any organisation that wishes to certify to ISO 27001, the international standard that describes best practice for information security, must implement an ISMS.
Likewise, an ISMS is a required for organisations that are subject to the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) and the US’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
Additionally, although the GDPR doesn’t expressly require organisations to implement an ISMS, doing so helps them achieve compliance.
This includes the requirement to adopt “appropriate technical and organisational measures” to protect sensitive data.
Notably, the Regulation doesn’t provide detailed guidance on how organisations should do this, instead compelling companies to look at existing best practices, such as those outlined in ISO 27001.
Get started with ISO 27001
For those looking for further guidance on ISO 27001 and how it helps organisations with information security management, IT Governance is here to help.
Our free green paper, Information Security and ISO 27001 – An introduction, provides a comprehensive overview of the Standard and the benefits of implementing an ISMS.
You’ll discover how ISO 27001 works, and the ways it relates to ISO 27002, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
You’ll also learn how the Standard can help your organisation meet its legal and regulatory obligations, and the value of certification.
The guide also contains key points to consider when implementing your ISMS, helping you get develop effective information security management processes.