If your business recently began the journey towards information security and compliance, you may find the entire ISO audit process overwhelming. Indeed, an ISO audit takes on a risk-based approach that requires numerous documentations, interconnected business processes, and risk analysis for sensitive data.

An ISO audit is essentially a process that ensures your company has taken all relevant steps to protect sensitive business information.

ISO: Where it all began

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) was originally developed to provide a common set of standards for industrial companies. Nowadays, ISO has evolved into a quality assurance standard that encompasses many different industries. Its overall aim is to establish a compliance model that increases the quality of services and creates a productive business environment.

The link between ISO and Information Security

ISO has also made its way into information security. The ISO standard for data security takes on a risk-based approach, which involves analyzing the risks that various businesses face- all in an attempt to establish guidelines that mitigate those risks. In particular, ISO in data security works by creating a standard for all Information Security Management Systems (ISMS).

ISO 27001 provides specific guidelines that businesses must meet with regards to how their ISMS work. These guidelines apply to many different businesses, including non-profits, governmental, and commercial enterprises.

The ISO 27001 standard is so popular because of its flexibility. It can be used in many different industries to apply a risk-based approach that safeguards sensitive company data. In fact, some of the controls listed in ISO 27001 allow you to pick individual risks that you wish to accept, avoid or transfer when setting up your ISMS.

The link between ISO and information security arises from ISMS. Information Security Management Systems are the guiding principles that establish a framework for data protection. Simply put, they are used by businesses to outline the specific policies and procedures that govern data security. ISO 27001 outlines suggestions that a business’s ISMS should have. Rather than setting specific requirements for how your ISMS should operate, the ISO guidelines offer suggestions regarding internal audits, preventative measures, and continuous monitoring. This gives your business the flexibility to establish a system that suits your specific preferences without leaving your data at risk.

Understanding ISO Certification

ISO certification means that you ISMS has been inspected by an external body to meet all required ISO standards. The certification acts as evidence that you’re complying with all ISO requirements at a particular time.

To be ISO certified, there are 4 important steps that need to be taken:

  1. Gap analysis

ISO certification begins with a GAP analysis. This step involves a review of all your current controls to ensure that they’re in line with the standards established for ISO.

Each type of certification will have different requirements. For example, if you’re looking to become both ISO 27001 and PCI DSS compliant, you need to meet the controls of both standards during a GAP analysis.

  1. Formal assessment

The assessment stage involves identifying previous risks that you faced, the steps you took, and any current/future risks you’ve encountered (or you expect to run into).

  1. Implementation

The implementation step is where you get to establish policies and procedures that are aimed at dealing with various forms of risks. These policies should create controls where you decide how current risks will be dealt with (by either accepting, transferring, or mitigating).

  1. Audit

The 4th step to ISO certification is demonstrating continuous compliance. This is done through regular audits that provide documentation to prove compliance at any given time.

Auditing is one of the most important parts of the certification process. In fact, you can use an audit checklist to guide auditors in testing the most relevant parts of your compliance model. This audit checklist comes in handy for new organizations that are beginning the journey towards becoming ISO certified. In a nutshell, the audit checklist reviews all policies, assets, and plans that have been put in place to meet the required ISO standard.

3 Types of ISO audits

Auditing is the most effective way of providing proof of continuous compliance with ISO standards. In fact, there are 3 types of audits that are carried out to ensure that your business is implementing all the necessary controls.

  1. Internal audits

This is essentially a self-policing audit report that ensures you remain complaint in your daily operations.

  1. Certification audits

This is an external audit that determines if you meet the documentation, processes, and controls established for ISO 27001.

  1. Surveillance audits

These are audits that are carried out during the year to ensure that you’re taking adequate steps towards correcting any issues identified during a certification audit. Surveillance audits check if your business is implementing the recommended steps towards securing your ISMS.