ISO 27001 Explained: Understanding the Fundamentals of Compliance

In this blog, we delve into what ISO 27001 entails and the crucial components of achieving compliance. Discover how ISO 27001 certification can safeguard your organisation's sensitive data, boost customer trust, and ensure legal and regulatory compliance.

ISO 27001 Explained: Understanding the Fundamentals of Compliance

Organisations have become increasingly dependent on data for their daily operations. Whether it’s collecting data about their customers, managing user data within their platforms, or storing employee information, data plays a crucial role in keeping businesses running smoothly. 

Despite its importance, numerous organisations fail to implement effective measures to secure their data. Even in smaller organisations, new threats emerge, growth occurs, and new systems get implemented, introducing unknown information security risks. Staying on top of these risks is often a job in and of itself.

Moreover, enterprises, governments, and investors are now requesting their suppliers to demonstrate that they can be trusted to handle their business information. This is where ISO 27001 comes in. For an increasing number of organisations, obtaining this certification is not only crucial for building a robust information security framework but has also become vital in closing new deals.

What is ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 is an international standard designed to guide organisations through the implementation, monitoring and maintenance of their Information Security Management System (ISMS).

The certification process involves two rigorous audits conducted by certified third parties or external certification bodies to ensure the organisation complies with the standard’s requirements. Due to the rigorous nature of the certification process, by achieving ISO 27001 compliance, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to information security and their ability to implement adequate controls to safeguard sensitive data. 

The ISO 27001 certification process typically follows a three-year cycle, which includes the following stages:

Initial Certification Audit: A third-party or certification body assesses an organisation’s information security management system (ISMS) to determine its compliance with the ISO 27001 requirements. If the organisation meets all the necessary criteria, it becomes ISO 27001 certified.

Surveillance Audits: Once certified, the organisation undergoes surveillance audits at regular intervals (usually annually) during years two and three. These surveillance audits ensure the organisation maintains and adheres to the ISO 27001 standard.

Re-Certification Audit: Towards the end of the three-year cycle, the organisation is due for a re-certification audit. During this audit, the third party or certification body conducts a comprehensive review of the organisation’s ISMS to ensure ongoing compliance with ISO 27001. If the organisation successfully passes this audit, its ISO 27001 certification gets renewed for another three-year cycle.

This three-year cycle helps organisations maintain a consistent and robust information security management system while improving and adapting to evolving security threats.

The ISO 27001 certification typically follows a three-year cycle

What is an ISMS?

As mentioned earlier in this guide, ISO 27001 acts as a playbook, guiding organisations through how they should implement, manage and monitor their Information Security Management System or ISMS.

An ISMS is a set of policies, processes, procedures and controls an organisation implements to manage and protect sensitive information. It includes technical measures like firewalls and encryption and also focuses on the human aspect, ensuring employees are aware of their security responsibilities.

Think of the ISO 27001 standard as a constitution outlining all the requirements your organisation must implement to develop a good information security foundation. Your organisation’s ISMS then acts as your legal system, stating how your organisation implements, manages and maintains the ISO 27001 requirements. 

An ISMS aims to establish a culture of security within an organisation and provide a proactive, strategic, and planned approach to managing the security of an organisation’s information.

Why is ISO 27001 important?

Organisations that have undergone the ISO 27001 certification process can ensure a higher level of information security. This is important for safeguarding their sensitive information and providing partners and customers with a formal, internationally recognised assurance that they are working with an organisation that takes data security seriously.

Achieving compliance with ISO 27001 also ensures:

Protection of Sensitive Information: Businesses of all sizes now deal with a significant amount of sensitive information, not just about their operations but also their customers. ISO 27001 helps safeguard this valuable data from unauthorised access, disclosure, or damage.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance and defence now require their partners and suppliers to meet compliance with ISO 27001 to ensure their highly sensitive data remains secure.

Risk Management: ISO 27001 emphasises a risk-based approach to information security. By proactively identifying and mitigating risk, organisations can minimise the likelihood of cyber security incidents and their potential impact.

Business Continuity: ISO 27001 addresses the continuity of information security, ensuring that organisations can respond to security incidents effectively and recover from disruptions. This resilience is vital for maintaining business operations and services.

Employee Awareness: Implementing ISO 27001 fosters a culture of security awareness among employees. With proper training and policies, employees become an active line of defence against cyber threats.

Continuous Improvement: ISO 27001 is based on a continual improvement model. Regular audits and reviews help organisations adapt to emerging security threats and continuously improve their information security posture.

What are the benefits of ISO 27001 certification?

Enhanced Information Security: ISO 27001 provides a systematic and comprehensive approach to information security management. By implementing the standard’s best practices and controls, organisations can significantly improve the protection of their sensitive data and intellectual property.

Customer Trust and Confidence: Achieving the ISO 27001 certification demonstrates a strong commitment to information security, building trust and confidence among customers, partners, and stakeholders, assuring them that your organisation handles their information securely.

Competitive Advantage: The ISO 27001 certification is now becoming an increasingly necessary requirement to win deals with enterprises, governments and organisations working within highly regulated sectors. 

Cost Savings: While achieving ISO 27001 compliance requires an initial investment, it can lead to cost savings if implemented correctly. Preventing data breaches and security incidents can mitigate potential financial losses, fines and reputational damage.

Global Recognition: ISO 27001 is an internationally recognised standard. Achieving the certification can open up opportunities to work with international partners and expand business prospects globally.

What does the ISO 27001 process involve?

The ISO27001 standard is organised into several clauses, each addressing specific aspects of information security management. These clauses help define the certification’s scope and context, laying the foundation for effective implementation. The clauses cover topics such as establishing an information security policy, applying secure development and conducting risk assessments.

Additionally, ISO 27001 includes a set of controls organisations can implement based on their specific risks and requirements. These are divided into 93 controls which are further grouped into 4 “themes”; People, Organisational, Technological and Physical. 

To give you a clearer picture, the key components of the ISO 27001 process include:

Initiation and Commitment: An effective and efficient ISO 27001 certification process requires a strong commitment from senior management. Obtaining buy-in from all relevant staff members can often be one of the biggest blockers to achieving the certification. Amid numerous priorities, achieving ISO 27001 compliance can sometimes take a back seat, leading to delays in the implementation process. 

Therefore, securing the necessary resources and commitment from the get-go is essential to overcome this hurdle and stay on track towards achieving ISO 27001 as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Scope Definition: Upon getting a commitment from all relevant parties, the organisation can begin to define the scope of their ISMS, determining the boundaries and areas to be covered by the certification. This involves identifying the assets, processes, and locations included in the ISMS.

Risk Assessment: A comprehensive risk assessment must then be conducted to identify potential security risks and vulnerabilities that could impact the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the organisation’s information assets.

Risk Treatment: Based on the findings from the risk assessment, the organisation can begin to develop a risk treatment plan. This plan outlines the measures and controls that will be put in place to mitigate any risks identified as part of the risk assessment exercise.

Statement of Applicability: While working on risks, the organisation can draft their Statement of Applicability (SoA). This document outlines how the organisation will manage and maintain its information security. It includes references to information security policies, procedures, guidelines, and other relevant documentation. 

Naq’s platform generates all the documentation required for your ISMS, saving organisations over 160 hours of manual work and ensuring it meets the standards necessary to meet compliance. Learn why hundreds trust Naq to take the complexity out of their compliance.

Implementation of Controls: Once the documentation is completed, the organisation can implement the security controls defined in its Statement of Applicability (SoA). This involves putting in place the necessary security controls to address the risks identified in the risk assessment, such as assigning security roles and responsibilities and establishing internal processes to safeguard the organisation’s information.

Internal Audit: Internal audits are crucial in the ISO 27001 certification journey. As organisations strive to meet ISO 27001 certification, they will undergo at least two audits - an internal and external audit. 

The internal audit is designed to simulate what will happen during the external audit and aims to identify any areas that may still require improvement. It serves as a valuable test to gauge the organisation’s audit readiness.

Naq’s ISO 27001 customers get free internal audits conducted by our team of ISO 27001 experts, ensuring they have the necessary guidance to not only meet compliance but, should any issues arise, our experienced compliance experts can provide advice on how to resolve them. Learn more.

Certification Audit: Once the organisation is confident that its ISMS is fully implemented and effective, it can undergo a formal certification audit conducted by a third party or an accredited certification body. The audit verifies that the organisation’s ISMS complies with the requirements of ISO 27001. 

Re-Certification and Surveillance: Once the organisation passes the certification audit, it is awarded ISO 27001 certification. Regular surveillance audits are then conducted to ensure ongoing compliance with the standard.

Continuous Improvement: ISO 27001 requires a commitment to continuous improvement. The organisation should continually monitor and review its ISMS to adapt to changes in the security landscape and maintain the highest level of information security.

How long does it take to achieve ISO 27001 compliance?

The duration of the ISO 27001 certification process can vary depending on the size and complexity of the organisation. Smaller organisations that opt for consultant assistance can achieve compliance in approximately 4 months, while self-certification may take longer. Larger organisations with more intricate structures can achieve compliance in 6 to 12 months.

At Naq, we simplify ISO27001 compliance by combining the efficiency of an automated platform with the expertise of our ISO 27001 compliance experts. 

This approach enables organisations to achieve compliance in as little as 3 months, significantly reducing the time, cost and effort required to meet certification. Our integrated approach ensures a smoother, quicker, and simpler path to ISO 27001 certification for businesses of all sizes.

How can my organisation get started with the ISO 27001 process?

Depending on the size of your organisation, internal expertise and the resources available, you can opt to get your organisation certified through one of two ways:


If your organisation has sufficient internal expertise and resources, you may self-implement the requirements to meet the ISO 27001 standard. Here’s how you can get started:

Understand the requirements: Gain a comprehensive understanding of the ISO 27001 standard and its requirements. Ideally, the individual responsible for your organisation’s ISO27001 implementation should undergo ISO27001 training to understand the clauses, controls, and processes involved.

Identify the scope: Determine the scope of your Information Security Management System (ISMS) – the areas, assets, and processes that need protection.

Conduct a gap analysis: Perform a thorough assessment of your current information security practices to identify gaps and areas for improvement.

Create policies and procedures: Develop your organisation's information security policies, procedures, and guidelines in line with ISO 27001 requirements.

Implement security controls: Integrate the necessary controls to safeguard your information assets and ensure compliance.

Training and awareness: Educate your employees on information security practices and their roles in maintaining a secure environment.

Internal audit preparation: Prepare for the internal audit to evaluate the effectiveness of your ISMS. To maintain objectivity, your internal audit should be carried out by someone who is not involved in the certification process.

External Audit: You won’t be able to certify your organisation yourself. You must contact a third party or certifying body to verify that your organisation meets the ISO27001 standard.

Third-Party Assistance

Achieving ISO 27001 certification can be a complex process. However, seeking guidance from an experienced third party like Naq can often be a more efficient and cost-effective solution. Here’s how Naq can help:

Efficient Automation: Naq’s platform automates the generation of your ISMS and guides you through the implementation process, saving you over 160 hours of manual ISO 27001 work and halving your time to compliance.

Expert Guidance: Naq’s ISO 27001 experts will support you throughout the implementation, management and monitoring of your ISO 27001 requirements, ensuring that your organisation achieves and maintains continuous compliance.

Internal Audit Support: Naq will conduct your internal audit, ensuring your organisation is audit-ready and well-prepared for the external certification audit.

Continuous Compliance: Naq’s platform and experts ensure that your organisation stays continuously compliant and audit-ready, even as security challenges evolve.

Whether you opt for self-implementation or seek assistance from Naq, achieving ISO 27001 compliance is a significant step towards protecting your valuable information and maintaining a secure business environment.

If you are curious about implementing ISO 27001 or preparing for your certification and need guidance, we’re happy to help. Click here to get in touch with one of our compliance experts.