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What every CIO should know about the new ISO 27001:2013 framework

November 27, 2013, Karl Steinkamp, Director, PCI Product and Quality Assurance

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Karl Steinkamp

ISO 27001:2013 overhauls risk management processes
Originally released in 2005, the ISO 27001 standard has recently been updated with additional guidelines for assessing risks within information management systems. These changes constitute the first revisions to the standard in eight years and have major implications for organizational compliance. With greater focus on risk ownership and continuous improvement, ISO 27001:2013 will require companies to formulate new risk management processes that incorporate procedures to ensure compliance.  According to CSO magazine’s David Braue, these revisions in ISO 27001:2013 address the complex current security environment and incorporate necessary user feedback.

Important new features of ISO 27001:2013
The standard's previous iteration, ISO 27001:2005, featured a framework called Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) that guided risk assessment across the planning and implementation of a system, resulting in monitoring and corrective action that improved security over time. The new standard provides more flexibility towards the PDCA approach, permitting companies to ensure improvement through their own processes if they choose. In effect, PDCA has become one of many options for pursuing continuous compliance.

Some of the other key features of ISO 27001:2013 include:

  • Alignment with Annex SL to Part I of the ISO directives that makes ISO 27001:2013 similar to ISO 9000 and ISO 20000, with high-level structure for better clarity. The new standard is also aligned with the risk assessment requirements of BS ISO 31000.
  • Renewed emphasis on metrics for performance and meeting objectives. More specifically, ISO 27001:2013 contains a new section on efficiency measurement and surveillance.
  • Replacement of "asset ownership" terminology with "risk ownership" language, a change designed to give organizations greater flexibility in creating their own risk management processes.
  • Control standard includes a nearly complete remapping of the control standard and Annex A controls, based on the new additions to the risk assessment processes.   
  • Additional focus on ‘Interested parties’ and their specific compliance requirements.  Under Clause 4.2, organizations are required to determine and ensure that relevant third-party vendor/partner entities are meeting their applicable compliance requirements.
  • The new "non-conformity" section provides guidance about any deviations from compliance in the setup of the organization’s ISMS. Organizations should utilize the section to supplement remediation and gap closure efforts to ensure that all noted areas in the organization’s specific ISO are operating effectively.

What can companies do to transition to ISO 27001:2013?
Many compliance strategies created under ISO 27001:2005 will likely be acceptable under the new standard. The new standard introduces flexibility, which may benefit organizations that once felt confined by ISO 27001:2005's structure. Still, each company may need to update its strategy to accommodate the risk ownership concept and demonstrate a clear link between risk treatment and its Statement of Applicability.

Organizations should continue to maintain and operate their ISMS during the transition process.  Certification under the new standard will be released in the near future providing guidance and additional audit requirements to certification bodies.  

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