An Information Security Management System or ISMS is a set of controls or practices that an organisation needs to establish to protect its vital information assets stored in ICT systems or paperwork/files. Organisations also need the ISMS formulated and implemented to become eligible for ISO 27001 certification. This is the international benchmark certification that validates the ISMS and demonstrates its effectiveness in securing all forms of data of the organisation. In other words, achieving the certification gives a competitive edge to an organisation by protecting their integrity in the market and helping them acquire more business contracts.

To help you understand the role of ISMS in businesses, we have mentioned the crucial facts about it in the next section. Have a read.

ISMS: Brief Definition of its Scope

A well-planned ISMS will govern everything, including the measures, practices, and policies that are chosen by the organisation to use, save, or transfer the information across the organisation. It is also responsible for protecting the information flowing in from external sources, evidence-based decisions, company’s patents, financial records, stakeholder details, and data accumulated through market researches.

The organization, which has an ISMS to administer its information security practices, needs a uniform document to provide evidence of the management system. Thus, it is quite similar to that of the quality management system (QMS) documentation which is required for ISO 9001 certification. It shows details of how the organisation’s QMS meets the ISO 9001 requirements and strives to continually improve the quality of products or services.

So, the key elements for successful implementation of the ISMS are a set of information security practices, clear policies, and legitimate documentation mentioning everything about the governance process of the ISMS.

ISMS Needs to Treat All Data Equally

The ISMS of the organisation should not only lay down ways to manage and protect the information, but it should also give equal importance to every type of information that is collected, recorded, generated, or used by the organisation. There is a wide range of information that an organisation deals with every day. This includes:

• Financials of the business,
• Login credentials of IT systems used by the organisation,
• Customer profiles,
• Employee details,
• Investors information,
• Company’s intellectual assets,
• Corporate cards and banking details,
• Inventory data,
• Sales and revenue data,
• Services records,
• Emails, and many more.

Not every type of information needs the same protection. However, each has a crucial and independent role in the operations of the organisation and should be protected with required security controls. For instance, the login credentials or passwords of the IT systems can be protected by two-factor authentication. The information recorded in written documents should be kept in files and stored in high-security lockers. Also, any sensitive digital data can be concealed in encrypted form in IT systems.

ISMS should be Dynamic

Organisations need to remind themselves that the conditions of information security need to be changed as often as possible according to changing data structure, evidence, and emerging privacy threats. So, the ISMS is never a static system for the organisation. When the ISO 27001 certification has been achieved, the ISMS should be subjected to the PDCA cycle. This stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act, and the cycle says that the organisation needs to:

1. Establish the ISMS (Plan),
2. Operate it effectively to maintain the security of information (Do),
3. Review its effectiveness and compliance with prevailing security guidelines (Check), and
4. Update or act on improving the ISMS if it is found ineffective in certain aspects (Act).

ISMS should be Risk-based

Lastly, the organisation needs to safeguard their vital data from being stolen, intruded upon, mishandled, or manipulated. Security breaches cost a lot to any organisation, and inevitable damage to corporate reputation and heavy penalties are the worst costs. Therefore, the ISMS of the organisation needs to be designed considering the potential threats to data security, risks of cyber-attacks, and failures of information security controls. For that, organisations need to thoroughly conduct a risk assessment, determine the nature of the information/data, and allocate resources and tools to protect them effectively.

The ISMS is undeniably the most significant structure for organisations to prove their commitment to data security. It will not only help to enforce practices and controls to secure all types of information (in written and digital form), it will also pave the way for successful ISO 27001 certification. The ISMS will gain certification once it is assured that it complies with the guidelines and requirements of the global information security standard, ISO 27001. Therefore, the certification will help you prove to your clients and stakeholders that you have a standardised ISMS to take care of the information assets.

Author's Bio: 

Damon Anderson is a practising ISO 27001 certification consultant who helps organisation owners manage risks to their information security with a robust ISMS certified with ISO. He presently works at an eminent ISO certification agency that gives advisory to businesses to meet requirements of key certifications, including ISO 9001 requirements.

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