ISO/IEC 27001 , part of the growing ISO/IEC 27001 family of standards, is an information security management system (ISMS) standard published in October 2005 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Its full name is ISO/IEC 27001:2005 – Information technology — Security techniques — Information security management systems — Requirements.
ISO/IEC 27001 formally specifies a management system that is intended to bring information security under explicit management control. Being a formal specification means that it mandates specific requirements. Organizations that claim to have adopted ISO/IEC 27001 can therefore be formally audited and certified compliant with the standard (more below).
How the standard works
Most organizations have a number of information security controls. However, without an information security management system (ISMS), controls tend to be somewhat disorganized and disjointed, having been implemented often as point solutions to specific situations or simply as a matter of convention. Security controls in operation typically address certain aspects of IT or data security specifically; leaving non-IT information assets (such as paperwork and proprietary knowledge) less protected on the whole. Moreover business continuity planning and physical security may be managed quite independently of IT or information security while Human Resources practices may make little reference to the need to define and assign information security roles and responsibilities throughout the organization.
ISO/IEC 27001 requires that management:
- Systematically examine the organization’s information security risks, taking account of the threats, vulnerabilities, and impacts;
- Design and implement a coherent and comprehensive suite of information security controls and/or other forms of risk treatment (such as risk avoidance or risk transfer) to address those risks that are deemed unacceptable; and
- Adopt an overarching management process to ensure that the information security controls continue to meet the organization’s information security needs on an ongoing basis.
While other sets of information security controls may potentially be used within an ISO/IEC 27001 ISMS as well as, or even instead of, ISO/IEC 27002 (the Code of Practice for Information Security Management), these two standards are normally used together in practice. Annex A to ISO/IEC 27001 succinctly lists the information security controls from ISO/IEC 27002, while ISO/IEC 27002 provides additional information and implementation advice on the controls.
Organizations that implement a suite of information security controls in accordance with ISO/IEC 27002 are simultaneously likely to meet many of the requirements of ISO/IEC 27001, but may lack some of the overarching management system elements. The converse is also true, in other words, an ISO/IEC 27001 compliance certificate provides assurance that the management system for information security is in place, but says little about the absolute state of information security within the organization. Technical security controls such as antivirus and firewalls are not normally audited in ISO/IEC 27001 certification audits: the organization is essentially presumed to have adopted all necessary information security controls since the overall ISMS is in place and is deemed adequate by satisfying the requirements of ISO/IEC 27001. Furthermore, management determines the scope of the ISMS for certification purposes and may limit it to, say, a single business unit or location. The ISO/IEC 27001 certificate does not necessarily mean the remainder of the organization, outside the scoped area, has an adequate approach to information security management.
Other standards in the ISO/IEC 27001 family of standards provide additional guidance on certain aspects of designing, implementing and operating an ISMS, for example on information security risk management (ISO/IEC 27005).
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