Hiring an ISO 27001 Consultant: A Fast-Track to Compliance?
ISO 27001 compliance can be a lengthy process filled with endless audits, policy creation, and many other tedious tasks. In this post, we’ll discuss how hiring an ISO 27001 consultant can help streamline the entire process while better securing your company.
From gathering evidential data to reviewing company policies and writing audit reports, there’s a lot to do when it comes to staying ISO 27001 compliant. While some companies try to take on this Herculean task using internal resources, it usually results in spreading valuable resources too thin, only compounding existing security issues.
With an ISO 27001 consultant, your company can streamline the compliance process while benefiting from a new set of eyes. Read on to learn more about ISO 27001 consultants and how their services can help your business stay compliant and secure well beyond the first audit.
Why Use a Consultant for ISO 27001 compliance?
When you don’t have enough in-house resources to run an internal audit, hiring an outside ISO 27001 consultant is a great way to save company resources while making sure your security management is up to par.
As a security management standard, ISO 27001 has extensive requirements for your organization’s Information Security Management System (ISMS). While most of these requirements are related to documentation, achieving compliance requires much more than having your documents in order.
A brief overview of ISO 27001 compliance and certification
Developed in part by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO 27001 is an international standard for information security management. The standard places a particular focus on building, managing, and maintaining an ISMS, along with the policies and procedures that support it.
Like other security standards, ISO 27001 compliance requires companies to implement certain internal security controls (i.e., systems and processes) into their ISMS. Unlike other security standards, however, ISO 27001 is the only standard that focuses exclusively on security management. As a result, achieving ISO 27001 compliance is one of the best ways to make sure that your security management is doing all it can to keep your organization secure.
While we won’t provide an exhaustive (and exhausting) list of every ISO 27001 requirement, keeping a few key requirements in mind should give you a sense of what you need.
- ISMS is fully implemented and operational
- Secure cloud infrastructure
- Complete security policies and procedures
- Risk assessment and management
- Leadership dedicated to upholding cybersecurity
- Security awareness among personnel (security training, etc)
- Continuing improvement and evidence collection
- Regular audits
Okay, so while that’s a bit more than “a few” key requirements, it should hopefully give you the gist of ISO 27001 requirements. As you can imagine, meeting these requirements can sometimes require extensive rehauls of existing security management procedures.
Though it may be hard work, achieving ISO 27001 compliance is always worth the effort. Doing so not only guarantees better security for your organization, but it can also help build trust with customers and business partners. This trust is especially valuable if you deal in sensitive data, such as financial information.
Compliance can also lead to ISO 27001 certification, though it requires an extra external audit from an accredited certification body. Even so, ISO 27001 certification only doubles the trust benefits that come with compliance.
ISO 27001 certification or not, however, compliance is always the first goal toward better security management. When there’s too much tedious work or the path seems unclear, many companies turn to an ISO 27001 consultant to help them through.
How hiring an ISO 27001 consultant streamlines compliance
ISO 27001 consultants have a specialized knowledge of all things ISO 27001, making them ideal guides for navigating the compliance process.
Specialized knowledge isn’t the only benefit they provide. With a good track record, an experienced consultant also knows how to streamline every step of the compliance process from building an ISMS to conducting an audit. Some consultants also have access to specialty tools that can streamline documentation, audit reporting, evidence gathering, and many other tedious tasks required by ISO 27001.
While an ISO 27001 consultant is the most useful when internal resources are limited, even the most capable companies can still benefit from hiring out. Since meeting compliance requirements and conducting audits still takes up tons of time and internal resources, most companies are usually better off hiring a consultant rather than sacrificing the valuable time of their staff.
Delegating compliance to a consultant doesn’t just save time and resources, however: It also provides a fresh and objective perspective. A third party is always more likely to recognize security holes or missing links than internal staff who may view their systems with a slight bias (or a blind eye). Since ISO 27001 compliance requires a truly objective look, hiring out is often the best way to achieve it.
As we’ll see in the next section, an ISO 27001 consultant offers services which just so happen to mesh perfectly into compliance requirements.
Services offered by ISO 27001 consultants
ISO 27001 consultants offer a range of specialized services meant to implement the key components necessary for compliance.
While the bulk of these services is often building an ISMS and conducting internal audits, many ISO 27001 consultants also offer employee onboarding, automating evidence collection, and more.
While every ISO 27001 consultant is different, they should offer most of the following services.
A functional Information Security Management System (ISMS) is the core requirement of ISO 27001 compliance. As a result, your ISO 27001 consultant should be able to help you design, build, and implement every management system component according to compliance requirements.
But what makes up an ISMS?
Simply put, an ISMS is a centralized collection of documents, processes, and technology that support cyber security. This collection includes anything from basic security policies to access control and cryptography- basically, whatever helps your organization manage, maintain, and improve its security.
While the concept of an ISMS isn’t exclusive to it, the ISO 27001 standard is what defines the minimum requirements for a “secure” ISMS. Annex A of ISO 27001 defines these requirements as 14 control sets, including basic information security policies (A.5), human resource security (A.6), access control (A.9), and more.
While there’s a lot to it, a good ISO 27001 consultant can help you understand and meet these requirements while improving your overall security.
Securing cloud infrastructure
With most companies using cloud infrastructure in some way, cloud security has become another key requirement for ISO 27001 compliance.
While many of the controls that help secure cloud environments are part of a compliant ISMS, an ISO 27001 consultant should pay special attention to cloud monitoring. In the best cases, your consultant will help you implement and use tools for scanning and securing your cloud infrastructure.
ISO 27001 or not, security policies and procedures are the heart of any good security strategy. However, where it’s difficult to write them from scratch, many companies resort to recycling boilerplate without truly understanding its substance, resulting in their security falling short.
An ISO 27001 does the exact opposite: As they get to know your organization, they’ll be able to draft up security policies that meet your organizational needs and compliance requirements. Many consultants also streamline the process by customizing ready-made reports, which saves even more time.
Risk assessment and management
Risks are everywhere in the security environment: From unusual users to vulnerable vendors, identifying and mitigating risks is key to both information security and ISO 27001 compliance.
In addition to implementing risk management and assessment, your ISO 27001 consultant should also perform and manage vendor risk assessments. Risk management is often an ongoing procedure that involves staying up to date with your vendor’s compliance statuses.
While an ISO 27001 consultant won’t be sitting on your hiring committee anytime soon, they can definitely improve your employee onboarding.
A common problem in many companies is making new hires (and all staff, quite frankly) more security-aware. Even if your company is already good at exposing new hires to security training during onboarding, a consultant can help you make it more effective and widespread. Many auditors will raise exceptions if employees don’t acknowledge security policies.
Evidence collection is an important stage of any ISO 27001 audit. Consultants use this evidence and documentation to perform a gap analysis evaluating how well an organization is following its security policies.
While every consultant has different methods for evidence collection, the best consultants can help integrate automated evidence collection with real-time alerts.
Auditing and reporting
Last but certainly not least, an ISO 27001 consultant may also conduct an internal audit and generate audit reports. Note that not every consultant offers this service, especially in the cases of an external ISO 27001 certification audit.
In any case, a consultant will at least prepare you for an upcoming audit if they aren’t performing it themselves. A consultant should also be able to generate a readiness assessment based on your preparation.
Benefits of hiring an ISO 27001 consultant
As the previous section might indicate, hiring an ISO 27001 consultant offers plenty of benefits. Here’s just a few to summarize.
Streamlined ISMS integration and compliance
Equipped with a wealth of knowledge and experience, ISO 27001 consultants know exactly what you need to get your ISMS fully up and running as soon as possible. Even for an existing ISMS, a consultant can also identify and implement missing pieces.
By themselves, these qualities are enough to streamline ISMS integration and the entire compliance process. Even for other areas of compliance, such as risk assessments and audits, using a consultant helps save both time and internal resources.
Easier audits and reporting
There’s nothing more discouraging than going through an entire audit only to find missing pieces. If an audit wasn’t difficult enough, having to go through it again is a major pain.
Many ISO 27001 consultants help prevent this problem by conducting a readiness assessment before the audit even begins. A readiness assessment also helps streamline the audit and reporting, since the consultant will have already collected most of the documentation and evidence required for compliance.
Less guesswork and more oversight
In addition to streamlined compliance, a consultant’s expertise also provides peace of mind. By having someone intimately familiar with ISO 27001 compliance and its requirements, you won’t have to guess whether your ISMS or other compliance requirements are fully implemented.
Consultants also provide an outside perspective that’s useful for improving oversight and identifying key areas for improvement.
Better security for the long-term
Many ISO 27001 consultants stay on with their clients long-term to help with regular internal audits and make sure that ISMS key processes maintain compliance. By maintaining compliance this way, companies enjoy robust security for the long-term.
Drawbacks of hiring an ISO 27001 consultant
Despite their many benefits, hiring an ISO 27001 consultant can also come with drawbacks for some companies.
Significantly higher costs
Like any other specialized consultant, hiring an ISO 27001 consultant doesn’t always come cheap. Although many companies can justify the cost through time and resource savings, smaller companies sometimes have to go without.
While almost every ISO 27001 consultant can build and implement an ISMS, some aren’t always well-versed in risk management or other compliance requirements. As a result, some consultants may not provide the complete suite of services companies need for compliance.
For companies on a limited budget, an ISO 27001 compliance platform offers the best of both consultants and easy-to-use software. With consulting services available as software tools, companies can enjoy all the benefits without the budget.
Hiring an ISO 27001 consultant is undeniably one of the best ways to implement your ISMS and achieve compliance. However, due to their high cost and limited services, many companies are turning to compliance platforms to achieve compliance. Many of these platforms can design and build an ISMS, draft security policies, and even help perform audits and automatically generate reports.
Secureframe’s ISO 27001 compliance platform offers all of the services of a consultant backed by a dedicated account manager. Contact us today to request a free demo and start streamlining compliance.