information security management system (ISMS) – TechTarget

An information security management system (ISMS) is a set of policies and procedures for systematically managing an organization’s sensitive data. The goal of an ISMS is to minimize risk and ensure business continuity by proactively limiting the impact of a security breach.
An ISMS typically addresses employee behavior and processes as well as data and technology. It can be targeted toward a particular type of data, such as customer data, or it can be implemented in a comprehensive way that becomes part of the company’s culture.
An ISMS provides a systematic approach for managing the information security of an organization. Information security encompasses certain broad policies that control and manage security risk levels across an organization.
ISO/IEC 27001 is the international standard for information security and for creating an ISMS. Jointly published by the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission, the standard doesn’t mandate specific actions but includes suggestions for documentation, internal audits, continual improvement, and corrective and preventive action. To become ISO 27001 certified, an organization requires an ISMS that identifies the organizational assets and provides the following assessment:
The goal of an ISMS isn’t necessarily to maximize information security, but rather to reach an organization’s desired level of information security. Depending on the specific needs of the industry, these levels of control may vary. For example, since healthcare is a highly regulated field, a healthcare organization may develop a system to ensure sensitive patient data is fully protected.
ISMS provides a holistic approach to managing the information systems within an organization. This offers numerous benefits, some of which are highlighted below.
The ISO 27001, along with the ISO 27002 standards, offers best-practice guidelines for setting up an ISMS. The following is a checklist of best practices to consider before investing in an ISMS:
Understand business needs. Before executing an ISMS, it’s important for organizations to get a bird’s eye view of the business operations, tools and information security management systems to understand the business and security requirements. It also helps to study how the ISO 27001 framework can help with data protection and the individuals who will be responsible for executing the ISMS.
Establish an information security policy. Having an information security policy in place before setting up an ISMS is beneficial, as it can help an organization discover the weak points of the policy. The security policy should typically provide a general overview of the current security controls within an organization.
Monitor data access. Companies must monitor their access control policies to ensure only authorized individuals are gaining access to sensitive information. This monitoring should observe who is accessing the data, when and from where. Besides monitoring data access, companies should also track logins and authentications and keep a record of them for further investigation.
Conduct security awareness training. All employees should receive regular security awareness training. The training should introduce users to the evolving threat landscape, the common data vulnerabilities surrounding information systems, and mitigation and prevention techniques to protect data from being compromised.
Secure devices. Protect all organizational devices from physical damage and tampering by taking security measures to ward off hacking attempts. Tools including Google Workspace and Office 365 should be installed on all devices, as they offer built-in device security.
Encrypt data. Encryption prevents unauthorized access and is the best form of defense against security threats. All organizational data should be encrypted before setting up an ISMS, as it will prevent any unauthorized attempts to sabotage critical data.
Back up data. Backups play a key role in preventing data loss and should be a part of a company’s security policy before setting up an ISMS. Besides regular backups, the location and frequency of the backups should be planned out. Organizations should also design a plan to keep the backups secure, which should apply to both on-premises and cloud backups.
Conduct an internal security audit. An internal security audit should be conducted before executing an ISMS. Internal audits are a great way to for organizations to gain visibility over their security systems, software and devices, as they can identify and fix security loopholes before executing an ISMS.
There are various ways to set up an ISMS. Most organizations either follow a plan-do-check-act process or study the ISO 27001 international security standard which effectively details the requirements for an ISMS.
The following steps illustrate how an ISMS should be implemented:
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