ISO 27001 vs NIST Cybersecurity Framework

ISO 27001 and NIST both involve establishing information security controls, but the scope for each varies on how they approach information security.



ISO 27001 and NIST Cyber Security Framework (CSF) both involve establishing information security controls to protect information assets, but the scope and approach for each varies.

ISO 27001 is a standard that focuses on keeping customer and stakeholder information confidential, maintaining integrity by preventing unauthorized modification, and ensuring information is available to authorized people and systems. This standard outlines the requirements for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) and gives organizations guidance on establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an ISMS.

On the other hand, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a voluntary cyber security framework for organizations overseeing critical infrastructure. Its goals are the same as ISO 27001, emphasizing identifying, evaluating and managing the acceptable risks to information systems.

ISO 27001 Overview and Structure

The ISO 27001 standard has ten clauses; the first three go over the references, terms, and other essential information covered in the regulation; and the other seven clauses guide companies in establishing and maintaining their Information Security Management System (ISMS).

  • 4. Organisation's Context: This section focuses on the environment that it's working in, the systems involved, and its goals. The areas covered include the overall scope covered under the ISMS, the relevant stakeholders, and the assets that should fall under the information security management system.
  • 5. Leadership and Commitment: An effective information security management system requires support from the top down. When upper management is actively involved throughout the process, it's more likely that the project will succeed. The business strategy should inform the information security measures that are part of the ISMS and provide the resources needed to support these initiatives.
  • 6. Planning: Businesses should have a way to identify cyber security risks, treat the most concerning threats and discover opportunities for improvement. Ensuring you have a risk management process is the most essential part of this section. Furher, there is a requirements for organizations to prepare for ongoing cybersecurity assessment as new threats arise.
  • 7. Support: To implement a successful cybersecurity program requires enough resources to get up and running and ensure support ongoing. Organizations need the right combination of infrastructure, budget, people and communications to achieve success in this area.
  • 8. Operation: This clause covers what organizations need to do to act on the plans that they have to protect and secure data.
  • 9. Performance Evaluation: After a plan is established, companies should track the plan is effective and where necessary make changes depending on current or emerging risks.
  • 10. Improvement: Like all quality standards, effective information security management is an ongoing process. Organizations should plan to re-evaluate their ISMS on a regular basis to refine their plans in line with the latest risks.

NIST Cyber Security Framework (CSF) Overview and Structure

Any company that has a heavy reliance on technology can benefit from implementing the NIST Cyber Security Framework (CSF) guidelines. The NIST CSF uses five overarching functions to allow companies to customize their cybersecurity measures to best meet their goals and the unique challenges that they face.

  • Identify: The key question here is what cyber security risks exist in the organization? The context of the company is important, similar to clause 4 in ISO 27001, as well as the present infrastructure and capabilities. Assessments of existing cyber security measures and risks fall under this section.
  • Protect: A company needs to design the safeguards that protect against the most concerning risks and minimize the consequences that could happen if a threat becomes a reality. The protective measures that organizations put in place can include data security systems, cybersecurity training among all employees, routine maintenance procedures, access control and user account control.
  • Detect: Early threat detection can significantly differ in the amount of damage that threats may cause. This section focused on ensuring companies discover incidents earlier, determine whether the system has been breached, proactively monitor all of the infrastructure and surface anomalies that could be the result of a cybersecurity problem.
  • Respond: How does the company respond to a cybersecurity attack after it happens, and do they have procedures in place that cover these eventualities? Everything should be planned out ahead of time so there's no question about who needs to be contacted during an emergency or an incident. The chain of command and lines of communication also get established under this function. Post-incident analysis can provide excellent information on what happened and how to prevent it from reoccurring.
  • Recover: This section focuses on what needs to happen to get the organization back to normal following a cybersecurity incident? Business continuity planning should cover how to restore the systems and data impacted by an attack. It also dictates how long it takes to recover and what needs to happen moving forward.

Choosing between ISO 27001 and NIST CSF

Companies may see a lot of overlap between the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the ISO 27001 standard. The right choice for an organization depends on the level of risk inherent in their information systems, the resources they have available and whether they have an existing cybersecurity plan in place. Significant overlap between the two standards provides companies with extensive guidance and similar protections, no matter which they choose. As such, in many cases, organization choose to adopt both NIST CSF and ISO 27001.


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