What exactly is an information security management system (ISMS)?

If you start making forays into the world of information security and management systems, you will quickly stumble across the term ‘ISMS’. An ISMS, or information security management system, is a defined, documented management system that consists of a set of policies, processes, and systems to manage risks to organizational data, with the objective of ensuring acceptable levels of information security risk.

By designing, implementing, managing, and maintaining an ISMS, an organization is able to protect its confidential, personal, and sensitive data from being leaked, damaged, destroyed, or exposed to harmful elements. The point of an ISMS is to proactively limit the impact of a data security breach.

The ISMS is relevant for a defined organization or business unit that falls within the scope of the ISMS.

Implementing an ISMS

There are numerous ways of approaching the implementation of an ISMS.  The most common method to follow is a ‘Plan Do Check Act’ process. The international standard detailing the requirements for implementing an ISMS, ISO 27001, along with the best-practice guidelines contained in ISO 27002, serve as two excellent guides to get you started with implementing an ISMS.  A certified ISMS, independently audited by an approved certification body, can serve as the necessary reassurance to customers and potential clients that the organization has taken the necessary steps to protect their personal and confidential data from a range of identified risks.

The strength of an ISMS is based on the robustness of the information security risk assessment, which is key to any implementation.  The ability to recognize the full range of risks that the organization and its data may face in the foreseeable future is a precursor to implementing the necessary mitigating measures (known as ‘controls’).

ISO 27001 provides a list of recommended controls that can serve as a checklist to assess whether you have taken into consideration all the controls necessary for legislative, business, contractual, or regulatory purposes.

vsRisk

A very simple yet effective tool comes in the form of vsRisk™, a software solution that automates the entire risk assessment and provides the various risk assessment reports that are needed for an audit. Including built-in controls and databases of common threats, vulnerabilities, and risks, it can cut the time taken of conducting a risk assessment in half.

Another essential resource that comes in pretty handy when implementing an ISMS is an ISMS documentation toolkit, which does exactly what it says on the tin: it provides you with a set of customizable and editable documentation templates, processes, and policies, also aligned to ISO 27001, that will eliminate the need for starting the process from scratch.

If you want to do a bit of reading before embarking on a full-scale ISMS implementation, you can download one of our free ISO27001-related resources, which will give you all the information you need to make a decision.

IT Governance also offers a range of combined ISMS implementation product bundles at discounted rates that will suit any budget or organizational need.

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