How to Pass an ISO® 27001 Audit — A Comprehensive Guide
If your company deals with information security, it’s worth looking into the ISO® 27001 audit. Not only does passing improve your credibility with other businesses...
Jul 14, 2023
If your company deals with information security, it’s worth looking into the ISO® 27001 audit. Not only does passing improve your credibility with other businesses, but it also helps raise the quality of your information security management system (ISMS).
However, to pass the ISO® 27001 audit, you’ll need to meet several requirements. Since this topic is so complex, services like ISMS Connect provide comprehensive guides on the ISO® 27001 standard, along with expert consultation to help businesses better prepare for certification.
In this article, we’ll be covering the basics of ISO® 27001, how to prepare for an audit, and what your organization needs to do to pass.
Let’s get started.
What is an ISO® 27001 Audit?
An ISO® 27001 audit is where a professional assesses your ISMS to see whether it meets ISO® 27001 guidelines. If you pass an initial audit, you achieve the ISO® 27001 certification.
Maintaining this certification requires annual surveillance audits to ensure you continue maintaining ISO® 27001 compliance. You’ll also need to renew your certification every three years by passing another ISO® 27001 audit.
Companies are advised to conduct internal audits outside the certification to test their readiness for the official audit. It’s also a great way to regularly review the effectiveness of your ISMS in case certain areas need improving.
Why is an ISO® 27001 Audit Important?
Prerequisite to ISO® 27001 Certification
ISO® 27001 audits are a necessary step towards achieving certification. Passing the audit will prove your ISMS complies with the ISO® 27001 standard and help you get certified.
While information security management systems don’t need to have this certification, it’s an internationally-recognized standard that is respected by many businesses. If you’re certified, your company will appear more credible and trustworthy to clients or partners.
Ensure a Well-Maintained ISMS & Easily Identify Vulnerabilities
Performing regular ISO® 27001 audits allows you to consistently improve your information security procedures and better mitigate vulnerabilities. During audits, you’re able to identify weak areas in your ISMS before a major incident occurs.
You can then take proactive measures and come up with ways to strengthen these weaknesses to decrease the risk of security breaches (just make sure to notify the relevant parties when changing security procedures). It’s also beneficial to design risk treatment plans for whenever you encounter certain issues to speed up the recovery process.
Improved Risk Management and Ensures Regulatory Compliance
ISO® 27001 audits help you consistently meet compliance regulations. If you’re reviewing your ISMS regularly, you’ll be able to notice when certain requirements aren’t being met early on. This prevents you from decreasing the quality of your security and reduces the likelihood of security incidents occurring.
Types of ISO® 27001 Audits
An internal audit is where you assess your ISMS against ISO® 27001 requirements. You can assign this task to a team of in-house employees or hire an auditor from outside the company.
Internal audits are supposed to discover gaps and vulnerabilities in your security system to help you prepare for an external audit. After discovering those gaps, you can work on fixing them before taking the certification.
External audits also involve someone evaluating your ISMS to check for ISO® 27001 compliance. However, external audits, once passed, lead to official certification (or renewal if you’ve already achieved the certification). According to ISO® 27001 regulations, you should conduct internal audits before performing an external one.
Who Conducts an ISO® 27001 Audit?
ISO® 27001 audits are performed by professional auditors. They must know the ISO® 27001 standard and the auditing process. Official auditors are required to pass the ISO® 27001 Lead Auditor course or an equivalent qualification, have at least 200 hours of auditing experience, and 2 years of work experience (with min. 1 year in information security).
How to Pass an ISO® 27001 Audit
Invest in an ISMS Consultancy Company to Kickstart Your Audit Program
If you’re unsure about the auditing process and wish to seek professional guidance, invest in services like ISMS Connect to get unlimited access to expert ISO® 27001 consultants via Slack or video meetings. We also provide in-depth guides and documents on ISO® 27001 implementation to help you prepare for the official audit.
Contact your consultant whenever you need advice about satisfying ISO® 27001 requirements or if you have questions about the certification, including:
They also help you undergo preparation for the audit, which includes implementing requirements, writing up compliant policies, performing risk assessments, and much more.
Things to Look Out for in an ISO® 27001 Audit Consultant
When deciding which consultant to hire for your ISO® 27001 audit, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you should understand that their role is not limited to advice — a lot of their responsibilities revolve around directly helping you build your ISMS and performing assessments.
Second, you should pay attention to their pricing model to see whether there are any guarantees your project will reach completion. If you’re unsure about their services, contact them for more information. If we’re looking at ISMS Connect, for example, there’s a message form or email you can use to send in your query.
It’s also important to view details about their expertise or experience to determine how qualified they are in terms of ISO® 27001 compliance and information security.
Here’s a quick overview of an ISO® 27001 consultant’s responsibilities:
Define ISMS scope
Design, create, and implement ISMS
Draft information security procedures, policies, and SoA (Statement of Applicability)
Participate in staff security awareness training
Perform gap analyses and internal audits (aka readiness assessments)
Undergo risk assessments and design treatment plans
Implement vendor risk management
Develop an ISO® 27001 Working Team & Secure Buy-In From Leadership
Form a team of employees to be in charge of ISO® 27001 compliance activities. You’ll also need to secure approval from higher-ups before moving forward with the audit preparation. Research the ISO® 27001 standard in detail and explain to leadership how achieving the certification could benefit the company to get their support.
When developing your ISO® 27001 team, make sure to assign roles and responsibilities to the right people. For example, employees overseeing more technical aspects of the ISMS should have expertise in those areas. Just make sure you’re not missing any key roles or tasks during team assignments.
You should also consider who will be affected by changes to your information security so you can inform them of your plans in advance. Passing the ISO® 27001 audit takes a lot of work and support from various departments — that’s why it’s essential to have good communication lines and transparency across your company.
Set Policies and Assign Responsibilities
Part of satisfying ISO® 27001 requirements involves training your staff on information security and risk management. Your team should understand how to respond to security threats and which controls to implement in different scenarios. Setting up policies can help inform employees on what they can and cannot do with your ISMS.
The goal is to ensure they use the right procedures when dealing with vulnerabilities, which should keep your sensitive data and assets well-protected. Remember to explain why these policies are in place, so your staff knows how to properly implement them (you can teach them during security awareness training programs).
Design and Build out Your ISMS (This Includes Determining Their Scope)
A big part of meeting ISO® 27001 standards is to design and deploy an ISMS that satisfies their requirements. Determine the scope of your ISMS before building it — consider:
What assets or data you need the system to protect
What software and hardware to use
Which employees should oversee the system
Who can access the ISMS
The ISO® 27001 standard also has regulations for how to implement and continuously improve your ISMS, as well as how to mitigate identified risks in the system.
Perform a Gap Analysis and a Risk Assessment
Once you’ve built and deployed your ISMS, it’s time to conduct a gap analysis to help you determine what you need to change to reach compliance. A gap analysis involves reviewing your ISMS against ISO® 27001 requirements to see which areas you’re falling short in.
After your gap analysis, you should conduct a risk assessment to pinpoint vulnerabilities in your ISMS that threaten your data assets. Come up with ways to resolve these weaknesses and gaps in your information security system, and consider what resources you’ll need to achieve this. This can help you set a budget for your audit preparation and plan ahead of time.
Implement a Formal Risk Management Program
Once you’ve conducted a risk assessment, you should design risk treatment plans to address any vulnerabilities or threats you discovered. These plans should detail how to evaluate a threat’s severity and how to resolve or manage them. The ISO® 27001 framework has a list of security controls available for selection, which you can then implement in your treatment plan.
Comply with New Regulations
Security threats and regulations are always evolving, so make sure to stay up-to-date with the latest information security protocols. Make sure your staff also remains informed via security awareness programs.
Review Performance and Track Progress
Continuously monitor and evaluate your ISMS’ performance to ensure it’s functioning as intended. With internal audits, you can regularly check how close you are to reaching the ISO® 27001 standard and measure your progress. You should document all your audits and improvements so everyone, including top management, can track the changes made to your ISMS.
Determine a schedule for performing internal audits or assessments, so you know how frequently to conduct them. You should also decide on the auditors — are you going to have an in-house team overtake auditing duties or hire an expert from outside the company?
How do I Find the Right Partner for the ISO® 27001 Audit?
Once you’ve completed all the preparations for the ISO® 27001 audit, you should start searching for an accredited certification body to conduct the official audit for you.
Finding the right auditor is difficult since there are many certification bodies to choose from, so here’s a list of tips to help you discover the perfect auditor for your business:
Locate accredited certification bodies or ask your consultant for recommendations
Assess their skills, professional experience, and industry expertise
Check for auditor qualifications (official auditors must pass a ‘Lead Auditor’ course)
Try to find client testimonials and references as proof of their quality work
Evaluate their audit methodology
Consider the cost of hiring them and compatibility with your company
Request a meeting to go over logistics
Understand How Much It Costs to Hire a Partner
ISO® 27001 audits vary in cost depending on a few factors, such as the size of your company and how complex your ISMS is. The certification process involves two main stages: a stage 1 audit and a stage 2 audit.
During stage 1, the auditor will assess your documentation to check that your ISMS has been built in compliance with the ISO® 27001 standard.
During stage 2, the auditor will perform a more in-depth review of your ISMS activities and development, your procedures and policies, and how your ISMS functions in practice. Your employees will also be questioned to verify you’ve been following ISO® 27001 regulations.
Depending on the number of employees you have, both audits combined cost $10,000 to $50,000, while surveillance audits are priced anywhere between $3,000 to $20,000.
To pass an ISO® 27001 audit, you’ll need plenty of preparation and guidance from experts on the standard. Services like ISMS Connect simplify this confusing process by giving you unlimited access to professional ISO® 27001 consultants, along with comprehensive guides and prefilled document templates.
Access our consulting services today to start preparing for your audit.
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