ISO 27001: The International Information Security Standard

ISO 27001 definition: What is ISO 27001?

ISO/IEC 27001:2013 (also known as ISO 27001) is the international standard for information security. It sets out the specification for an information security management system (ISMS).

ISO 27001’s best-practice approach helps organisations manage their information security by addressing people, processes and technology.

Certification to the ISO 27001 Standard is recognised worldwide to indicate that your ISMS is aligned with information security best practices.

Part of the ISO 27000 series of information security standards, ISO 27001 is a framework that helps organisations “establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain and continually improve an ISMS”.

The latest version of the ISO 27001 information security standard was published in September 2013, replacing the 2005 iteration.

For an introduction to the principles of information security management and ISO 27001:2013, read our bestselling An Introduction to Information Security and ISO 27001 (2013) A Pocket Guide, Second Edition.

Speak to an ISO 27001 expert

Having led the world’s first ISO 27001 certification project, we understand what it takes to implement the Standard. Throughout your project, we can support you, from carrying out an initial gap analysis to choosing a certification body. Speak to one of our experts for more information on how we can help you.

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What is an ISMS?

An ISMS is a holistic approach to securing the confidentiality, integrity and availability (CIA) of corporate information assets.

An ISO 27001 ISMS consists of policies, procedures and other controls involving people, processes and technology.

Informed by regular information security risk assessments, an ISMS is an efficient, risk-based and technology-neutral approach to keeping your information assets secure.

You can build your ISO 27001 information security management system using the ISO 27001 toolkit, which includes all the pre-written policies, procedures and templates you need.

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ISO 27001 and risk management

Risk management forms the cornerstone of an ISO/IEC ISMS. All ISMS projects rely on regular information security risk assessments to determine which security controls to implement and maintain.

The Standard defines its requirements for the risk management process, including risk assessment and treatment, in section 6.1.2.

ISO 27001 clauses and controls

The Standard has ten management system clauses. Together with Annex A, which lists 114 information security controls, they support the implementation and maintenance of an ISMS, as shown in the infographic below.

  1. Scope 
  2. Normative references 
  3. Terms and definitions 
  4. Context 
  5. Leadership
  1. Planning and risk management 
  2. Support 
  3. Operations 
  4. Performance evaluation
  5. Improvement

Download the ISO 27001 management system clauses infographic

What is ISO 27001?

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ISO 27001 benefits

ISO 27001 is one of the most popular information security standards in existence. Independent accredited certification to the Standard is recognised worldwide. The number of certifications has grown by more than 450% in the past ten years.

Implementing the Standard helps you meet the requirements of laws such as the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the NIS (Network and Information Systems) Regulations. This helps reduce the costs associated with data breaches.

Protect your data, wherever it is

Protect all forms of information, whether digital, hard copy or in the Cloud.

Increase your attack resilience

Increase your organisation’s resilience to cyber attacks.

Reduce information security costs

Implement only the security controls you need, helping you get the most from your budget.

Respond to evolving security threats

Constantly adapt to changes both in the environment and inside the organisation.

Improve company culture

An ISMS encompasses people, processes and technology, ensuring staff understand risks and embrace security as part of their everyday working practices.

Meet contractual obligations

Certification demonstrates your organisation’s commitment to data security and provides a valuable credential when tendering for new business.

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ISO/IEC 27001:2013 controls

The Standard doesn’t mandate that all 114 Annex A controls be implemented. A risk assessment should determine which controls are required and explain why other controls are excluded from the ISMS. 

Below is the list of control sets.

  • A.5 Information security policies
  • A.6 Organisation of information security
  • A.7 Human resource security
  • A.8 Asset management
  • A.9 Access control
  • A.10 Cryptography
  • A.11 Physical and environmental security
  • A.12 Operations security
  • A.13 Communications security
  • A.14 System acquisition, development and maintenance
  • A.15 Supplier relationships
  • A.16 Information security incident management
  • A.17 Information security aspects of business continuity management
  • A.18 Compliance

How to achieve ISO 27001 compliance

Implementing an ISMS involves:

  • Scoping the project.
  • Securing management commitment and budget.
  • Identifying interested parties and legal, regulatory and contractual requirements.
  • Conducting a risk assessment.
  • Reviewing and implementing the required controls.
  • Developing internal competence to manage the project.
  • Developing the appropriate documentation.
  • Conducting staff awareness training.
  • Reporting (e.g. the Statement of Applicability and risk treatment plan).
  • Continually measuring, monitoring, reviewing and auditing the ISMS.
  • Implementing the necessary corrective and preventive actions. 

Discover our ISO 27001 implementation checklist and our nine-step approach to implementing an ISMS in our best-selling guide.

Demonstrating GDPR compliance with ISO 27001 and ISO 27701

Like all ISO management system standards, ISO 27001 follows Annex SL. This common high-level structure makes implenting integrated management systems that conform to multiple standards easier.

For instance, an ISO 22301-compliant BCMS (business continuity management system) could share components with an ISO 27001-compliant ISMS.

ISO/IEC 27701:2019 (ISO 27701) is an extension to ISO 27001, expanding its requirements to cover privacy management – including the processing of personal data/PII (personally identifiable information).

Implementing an integrated management system that combines an ISMS and an ISO 27701-compliant PIMS (privacy information management system) will help you meet the GDPR's requirements for managing, processing and protecting personal data.

Learn more about ISO 27701

How IT Governance can help you get ISO 27001 certified

  • Our implementation methodology has been honed for over 15 years.
  • We are known as the global authority on ISO 27001 – our management team led the world’s first certification project when the Standard was known as BS 7799.
  • We offer everything you need to implement an ISMS – you don’t need to go anywhere else.
  • We guarantee certification (provided you follow our advice!).
  • You benefit from real-world practitioner expertise, not just academic knowledge.
  • We have trained over 7,000 professionals on ISO 27001 implementations and audits worldwide.
  • We’ve helped more than 800 consultancy clients achieve certification and compliance with ISO 27001.
  • We have a proven and pragmatic approach to assessing compliance with international standards, no matter your organisation's size or nature.
  • Our pricing and proposals are completely transparent so that you won’t get any surprises.
  • We can help small businesses prepare for certification in three months.

Ready to simplify your security? Let’s get started.

Having led the world’s first ISO 27001 certification project, we are the global pioneer of the Standard. Let us share our expertise and support you on your journey to ISO 27001 compliance.

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