ISO 27001 is an internal security standard that helps businesses implement information security management systems (ISMS) to protect sensitive information. The ISO 27001 framework provides organizations with concrete guidance for companies of all sizes and industries on how to protect their data from loss or unauthorized access.

Why is ISO 27001 important?

Unfortunately, cyber attacks are not going anywhere, and as technology evolves, so do the cyber threats. ISO 27001 can help organizations stay vigilant and proactively identify and address vulnerabilities in their systems, as well as enhance their cybersecurity framework..

By following ISO 27001 standards, your organization will address information security on a holistic level - analyzing the people, policies and technology that handle the sensitive data that you need to keep secure. Implementing ISO 27001 standards demonstrates to customers and peers that your organization upholds the highest standard of risk management process and cyber-resilience.

In this article, you’ll learn how to implement the ISO 27001 standard, how to get the ISO 27001 certification and how to fulfill audit requirements.

What are the Requirements for Certification?

ISO 27001 certification can help organizations to establish, implement, maintain, and promptly improve their information security management systems. In turn, these requirements develop a systematic approach to managing the company’s sensitive information, finding risk measures, and maintaining the data’s safety, confidentiality, and integrity.

How to Comply With ?

The requirements list includes seven clauses that your organization must comply with based on the scope of your ISMS. 

Clause 4: Context of the Organization

This clause requires you to define the internal and external factors that impact the ISMS of your organization. It determines the stakeholders of your organizations and identifies their needs and expectations. Once you’ve identified the factors that can affect your organization’s ISMS and the needs of your stakeholders, you can determine the ISMS’s scope - its limits and applicabilities. After establishing the scope, you can implement, maintain and continue to improve your organization’s ISMS to align with ISO 27001 certification requirements.

In essence, this clause verifies that your ISMS reflects your organization's strategic goals and legal, regulatory, and contractual obligations.

Clause 5: Leadership 

The leaders of your organization are responsible for ensuring that the ISMS is integrated into business operations, and they must provide key resources to support its continual improvement. Two concrete actions your leaders must take include the establishment of an information security policy and the assignment of organizational roles, responsibilities and authorities with regards to information security. This includes assigning a person or group the authority to ensure that the ISMS conforms to necessary requirements and report on its performance.

To facilitate ISO 27001 compliance, your organization must have a leadership team that promotes a culture that values information security, implements transparent policies, and ensures that roles are well-defined and communicated throughout the organization.

Clause 6: Planning 

This clause centers on planning and what your organization needs to do in order to stay ahead of security risks, meet its security objectives, handle changes efficiently, and maintain compliance with key standards and regulations. Unlike other compliance standards, ISO 27001 does not list out universal requirements that companies must implement in order to achieve certification. Instead, they require organizations to tailor security measures and policies to their unique needs.

Effective planning will empower your organization to anticipate risks before they arise and set clear, measurable information security goals that reflect your organization’s business goals on a strategic level. This clause also addresses resource allocation, how to go about implementing chances in the ISMS, and planning for continuous improvement.

Clause 7: Support

In order to successfully fulfill the  ISO 27001 compliance requirements, everyone in your organization needs to be on board, and you need to have the proper support mechanisms in place for establishing, maintaining, and improving your organization’s ISMS. 

Your organization needs to provide resources, ensure that your personnel are competent in ISMS management through training and evaluation, and raise awareness about your information security policy. Regular communication, both internal and external, is an important part of letting your personnel and clients know what, when, and how information is to be shared. Lastly, your organization must support your ISMS with documentation, identification, updates, and controls. 

Clause 8: Operation

This clause focuses on managing processes to meet security goals. Your organization needs to plan and control these processes, ensuring any changes are managed properly to avoid negative impacts. Regular information security risk assessment is required, especially during significant changes, to identify and evaluate threats. It is crucial to implement a risk treatment plan that includes selected controls to address these risks, and the plan’s effectiveness should be regularly checked and reviewed. This clause ensures that your organization's security measures are always effective and up-to-date.

Clause 9: Performance Evaluation

This clause outlines how your organization can keep your ISMS effective and up-to-date. Your organization needs to decide what to monitor and measure, how often to do it, and ensure the results are accurate. Regular internal audits can check if the ISMS meets both the organization’s needs and ISO 27001 standards. Your organization will need to fulfill internal audit requirements, choose skilled auditors, and report findings to management. In addition, the leadership team should periodically review the ISMS, looking at factors like past actions, changes in the business environment, performance feedback, and security goals. These reviews should lead to decisions on improvements, necessary changes, and resource requirements. 

Clause 10: Improvement

This clause is all about improving your ISMS. When issues (nonconformities) arise, your organization must act swiftly to control, correct, and address the causes so that it doesn’t happen again. This involves implementing actions, reviewing their effectiveness, and making necessary ISMS changes, all while documenting the process.

Beyond just addressing problems, Clause 10 is about updating and enhancing your ISMS framework. Your organization should regularly review and analyze your ISMS to identify opportunities for improvement and implement necessary changes to remain ISO 27001 compliant. This continuous improvement approach keeps the ISMS effective, accurate, and up-to-date, ensuring robust protection against evolving information security threats.

What about clauses 0-3?

The introductory clauses of ISO 27001 security standards set the stage for managing information security risks. Clause 0 explains the standard's purpose and benefits. Clause 1 defines its wide applicability to organizations of all sizes and industries. Clause 2 references key documents like ISO 27001, and Clause 3 clarifies essential terms to ensure everyone is on the same page. These clauses don’t contain requirements like clauses 4-10, but they provide context and define key terms. 

What is ISO 27001 Annex A?

Annex A outlines the recommended security controls that your organization can include in the implementation of your ISMS. 

Annex A is like the ISO 27001 requirements checklist and can be divided into four categories of controls required for ISO 27001 compliance:

  • People/User Controls
  • Organizational Controls
  • Technology Controls
  • Physical Controls

Though Annex A offers recommendations for implementation, it does not contain strict requirements. However, part of meeting the ISO 27001 certification requirements involves using Annex A to complete a Statement of Applicability document. 

How Many Controls are in ISO 27001 ?

In the Statement of Applicability, your organization will have to go through each of the 93 controls in Annex A and indicate which ones you plan to implement. 

How to Become ISO 27001 Certified?

The ISO 27001 Certification Process: Key Steps

Step One: Form an ISO 27001 Team

Assemble a team from your organization to oversee the certification process and keep things progressing. This team will define the scope of your ISMS, set up documentation processes, secure support from the senior leadership team, and communicate with the auditor.

Step Two: Define the Scope of your ISMS

Before developing your organization’s ISMS, identify the specific information you need to protect. For some, the ISMS scope might encompass the entire organization, while for others, it might cover only a particular department or system. Discuss what should be included in the scope statement of your ISO 27001 certificate. Consider what services, products, or platforms your customers expect to be part of your certification.

Step Three: Conduct a Risk Assessment and Implement Controls

Perform a risk assessment to pinpoint potential threats to your organization’s data security, evaluate the likelihood of each risk, and assess the severity of its consequences. Once you have a completed risk assessment, document your risk mitigation strategies for each identified risk and incorporate them into your ISMS.

Step Four: Document and Gather Evidence

Thorough documentation is essential for certification. Start early and consider using automation tools to lessen the workload. Conduct an internal audit as the dress rehearsal for the official audit. During this phase, educate your staff about information security, your ISMS, and the ISO 27001 certification process. Involving the entire team reduces the risk of missing gaps in your ISMS.

Step Five: Undergo a Stage 1 Audit

After approximately four months, invite an external auditor to review your ISMS. The auditor, from an accredited certification body, will conduct the first stage of the official audit process.

Step Six: Address Stage 1 Audit Recommendations

Implement any improvements suggested by the auditor during the Stage 1 audit. If any information security controls are missing, put them in place and document them.

Step Seven: Complete a Stage 2 Audit

In this step, the auditor will analyze the functionality of your information security measures to ensure you are following your documented processes. Successfully passing this audit will earn you ISO 27001 certification, which is valid for three years.

Step Eight: Maintain ISO 27001 Compliance

After receiving your certification, you will still need to plan for regular internal audits. ISO 27001 requires an annual surveillance audit to ensure ongoing compliance. At the end of the third year, a recertification audit is necessary to maintain your certification for another three years.

The path to ISO 27001 certification can vary slightly for each organization. Some may hire a consultant or choose pentesting over vulnerability scanning. However, this overview provides a general idea of how to prepare for certification and why the certification process can take up to 12 months.

How long does it take to get ISO 27001 certified?

The timeline for ISO 27001 certification depends on your company’s size and the complexity of your data. For a small to medium-sized business, you can expect to be audit-ready in about four months and complete the audit process in six months. Larger organizations might need a year or more.

During those four months of preparation, you’ll be defining the scope of your ISMS, conducting risk assessments and gap analyses, designing and implementing controls, training your staff, and getting all your documentation in order.

The certification audit is split into two stages over six months. In Stage 1, the auditor reviews your ISMS documentation to ensure your policies and procedures are properly designed and might suggest ways to improve security. In Stage 2, the auditor looks at your business processes and controls to ensure they meet ISO 27001’s ISMS and Annex A requirements.

How much does ISO 27001 certification cost?

The cost of getting your organization ISO 27001 certified can vary as much as the timeline. It all depends on the size of your company and the scope of your ISMS.

The most expensive part of working toward ISO 27001 compliance is that you’ll have to take employees off other projects or hire new ones. You’ll also need to pay for security training materials and the audit itself.

In total, most companies can expect to pay up to an average of $40,000 for pre-certification preparation, $10,000 for the certification audit itself, and $15,000 per year for maintenance and surveillance audits once you have obtained certification.

How can you speed up the process while optimizing cost?

Implementing Vanta can drastically reduce the time and cost of becoming compliant for organizations partnering with BD Emerson. Vanta's automated compliance platform streamlines the process of establishing and maintaining an information security management system (ISMS) by continuously monitoring security controls and identifying gaps in real time. This allows organizations to efficiently address vulnerabilities, manage risk, and ensure compliance with standards. By leveraging Vanta, BD Emerson's clients can minimize the resources typically required for manual compliance tasks, accelerate the certification timeline, and significantly reduce associated costs. This strategic approach not only enhances information security but also demonstrates a commitment to excellence and trust to customers and partners.


ISO 27001 is essential for setting up Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) to protect your organization’s data. As cyber threats continue to evolve, this standard can help your organization stay ahead by identifying and fixing vulnerabilities. Obtaining ISO 27001 certification demonstrates to your customers and peers that you are committed to maintaining the highest standard of information security.

To get certified, you'll need to form a team, define your ISMS scope, do risk assessments, implement controls, and document everything. Then, an external auditor will review your setup in two stages and suggest any improvements. Once certified, you'll need to do yearly audits and recertify every three years.

Typically, ISO 27001 certification takes 6 to 12 months and costs around $40,000 for preparation, $10,000 for the audit, and $15,000 per year for maintenance. This process not only secures your data but also builds trust with your clients and partners.

BD Emerson offers tailored guidance to organizations preparing for ISO 27001 audits. In partnership with Vanta, a compliance automation tool, we can help you navigate the ISO 27001 certification process successfully and craft a strategic plan that propels your organization towards enhanced information security and business excellence.

Read more about our consulting services

What are the ISO 27001 Certification Requirements?

About the author



Managing Director


Drew spearheads BD Emerson's Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Security (GRC+Sec) division, where he channels his expertise into guiding clients through the labyrinth of Information Security, Risk Management, Regulatory Compliance, Data Governance, and Privacy. His stewardship is key in developing tailored programs that not only address the unique challenges faced by businesses but also foster a culture of security and compliance.


Is ISO/IEC 27001 the same as ISO 27001?

Yes. The official abbreviation for the International Standard on requirements for information security management is ISO 27001. The standard was published jointly by ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The number indicates that it was published under the responsibility of Subcommittee 27 (on Information Security, Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection) of ISO’s and IEC’s Joint Technical Committee on Information Technology (ISO/IEC JTC 1).

What businesses should consider ISO 27001 certification?

ISO 27001 certification is essential for companies handling sensitive information, like banks, healthcare providers, IT service providers, and e-commerce businesses. It's also important for businesses that need to meet legal requirements like GDPR or HIPAA. If your business wants to boost its information security, protect customer data, and build trust with clients, ISO 27001 is a great choice. Plus, if you're looking to stand out in the market or need to meet high-security standards for contracts, this certification can give you a competitive edge.

How will ISO 27001 benefit my organization?

Obtaining ISO 27001 can benefit your organization in a number of ways: 

  • Enhanced Security: Protects sensitive information from breaches and cyber threats.
  • Compliance: Helps meet legal, contractual and regulatory requirements.
  • Customer Trust: Builds confidence among clients and partners by demonstrating a commitment to information security.
  • Competitive Advantage: Distinguishes your organization in the market and can be a deciding factor in winning contracts.
  • Operational Efficiency: Streamlines information security processes and improves overall management.

What are the three principles of Information security in ISO 27001?

The three principles of information security in ISO 27001, known as the CIA triad, are:

  • Confidentiality: Ensures only authorized individuals can access information (e.g., preventing unauthorized access to client login details).
  • Integrity: Ensures data is reliably stored and not altered or deleted accidentally (e.g., preventing accidental deletion of data).
  • Availability: Ensures information is accessible when needed (e.g., preventing downtime due to server issues).

All articles