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Does ISO 27001 mean that information is 100% secure?

You have probably heard that important web services like Reddit, HootSuite, Quora, Foursquare etc. have recently suffered a quite lengthy outage – what you also probably know is that this outage was caused by Amazon Web Services (AWS), their cloud computing service provider. What you probably didn’t know is that AWS is ISO 27001 certified.

But isn’t ISO 27001 a guarantee against such service outages? Didn’t a certification company check the AWS? What’s the point of ISO 27001 if such things can happen?

The answers are: No, Yes, and Lower risk.

Let me explain…

ISO 27001 certification does not guarantee that the Internet service provider is going to have uptime of 100%, or that none of the confidential information is going to leak outside the company, or that there would be no mistakes in data processing. ISO 27001 certification guarantees that the company complies with the standard and with its own security rules; it is guarantees that the company has taken all the relevant security risks into account and that it has undertaken a comprehensive approach to resolve major risks. ISO 27001 does not guarantee that none of the incidents is going to happen, because something like that is not possible in this world.

A certification body (in this case Ernst & Young CertifyPoint) probably did check whether Amazon Web Services complied to the standard and to their own security policies & procedures, including their procedures for incident response and business continuity plans; they should have also checked the AWS risk assessment and whether all the relevant risks were taken into account. However the certification body does not have a crystal ball to predict all the incidents that could occur, neither is that their job – their job is to check whether the company has done its homework – developed a security system.

So the final and the most important question is – what’s the point of ISO 27001 then?

The point is in lowering the risk of doing business. If your company is implementing ISO 27001, that means you will have to consider very carefully what could endanger the confidentiality, integrity and availability of your information; knowing those risks, you need to implement various security measures in order to decrease risks to an acceptable level. If you are doing business with a company that is ISO 27001 certified, you will know that this company has done all that.

Does it mean that ISO 27001 will eliminate all the potential problems? Obviously it won’t. But it will decrease the chances of something like that happening, and if it does happen, the reaction of the company will be much quicker and more efficient, and the damage to the business will be lower.

You can also check out our video tutorial How to Write the ISO 27001 Risk Assessment Methodology.

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