IT Governance with an Information Security Management System (ISMS)

IT Governance with an Information Security Management System (ISMS)

Setting up a strong information governance framework with well-defined roles and responsibilities is an essential task for any organization with a data management system.

A carefully considered framework includes a set of policies and processes that make it possible for employees to use your business information more efficiently and effectively.

The infrastructure of IT governance varies based on your industry and your company’s needs, but once this system is in place, it’s referred to as an Information Security Management System (ISMS). Due to the importance of setting up this system, according to the IT Governance Institute, IT governance has to come from the top down, with executives leading the charge to put in place the right ISMS.

While a functioning ISMS has the ability to improve collaboration, data-sharing and decision-making, today we will review how to use an ISMS to establish more effective risk management. Let’s break down what an ISMS is, how it benefits your business and what steps are required to implement one.

Why Develop an ISMS

To begin with, an ISMS usually consists of a set of policies, procedures, technical and physical controls to protect your business information with one, centrally managed framework. This framework includes not only technical controls like using secure password managers but also controls to treat additional, more common risks related to people, resources, assets and processes.

The point of an ISMS is to proactively limit the impact of a data security breach. By mapping likely threats and establishing protocols for mitigating risk, you establish a shared knowledge of expectations to protect the confidentiality, availability and the integrity of your business information.

Furthermore, once your ISMS is created and implemented, the framework serves to protect your personal and confidential information from being:

  • Damaged
  • Leaked
  • Destroyed
  • Exposed to harmful elements or actors

Organizations that design and implement their own ISMS will find ways to reduce the likelihood of a data breach, options to limit their liability when a data breach does occur and other ways to mitigate the impact of any data security issues in the process.

With this framework in place, your company is better suited to defend itself from both technology-based attacks as well as other, more common threats — like poorly educated staff or ineffective procedures.

As a result of having a clear vision of what legitimate risks face your business, you’ll be able to reduce costs by cutting unnecessary security programs and help create a culture of adapting to risk and change. 

Where to Begin

When you’re starting to build your own ISMS, it’s important to remember that a plan with organizational support is bound to perform best.  Keep in mind that you need more than just buy-in from your CEO and IT department — you need to educate your team and organization as a whole about the necessity of viewing security as a culture

When you’re ready to create your framework, conduct a risk assessment across your organization that evaluates both internal and external threats. Start with a set of criteria for evaluating these risks and measure the likelihood and potential impact.

Sometimes referred to as a “Plan, Do, Check, Act” process, the international standard detailing the requirements for implementing an ISMS offers best practice guidelines and is an excellent guide to help get you started.

Management and Maintenance

The strength of an ISMS is based on how thoroughly you perform your initial security risk assessment. The more work you put into the development of your ISMS, the better foresight you’ll acquire to assess the full-range of risks your organization and data may face, which gives you more opportunity to prepare accordingly.

While an ISMS bring many advantages to your business, it’s not something you’ll be able to create then ignore. Naturally, as preventative security systems become stronger, threats evolve as well. In order to ensure the lasting success of your ISMS, you’ll need to perform routine threat analysis and update your controls.

A properly functioning ISMS requires optimization and updates to best protect your IT infrastructure, team and resources.

To facilitate your planning and implementation of an ISMS, you’ll also want to be prepared for when disaster strikes. Download our disaster recovery checklist to diagnose potential scenarios for your existing structure or to audit your developing framework today.