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ISO 27001 Compliance for SaaS Companies: Certification Requirements & Audit Readiness

Posted July 24, 2020

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies continue to gain popularity and a footing across the board, but security remains their top barrier to adoption. Therefore SaaS deployments must achieve competitive differentiation by demonstrating to their prospects and clients that they are fully committed to and capable of securing their data.

As a SaaS company, you must prove that your offering is architected and operated securely and reliably. To do this, you need to achieve an ISO 27001 certification. This post discusses ISO 27001 compliance for SaaS companies, why it is useful, the certification requirements and best practices, and audit readiness.

What is ISO 27001 Compliance?

ISO 27001 certification refers to the only internationally-recognized and accepted standard for governing informational assets. It creates an effective, sustainable, and reliable Information Security Management System (ISMS).

Using ISO 27001 enables organizations of any kind and size to manage the security of its assets, such as financial information, employee details, intellectual property, or information entrusted by third parties. ISO 27001 is not obligatory. Some organizations opt to implement the standard to benefit from its best practice, while others decide to get certified to assure their clients and prospects that they follow set recommendations.

Why Does It Matter?

As a SaaS working with companies in the health sector, the ISO certification helps you cover the parts of their HIPAA(Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliance requirements.

On the other hand, if you are working with financial services companies, they may sometimes send over security forms to fill out to ascertain the security of their data and information on your end. They may also ask to see your security set up. In such cases, you can prepare and send over a summarized version of your present ISO documents showing compliance.

ISO 27001 compliance makes the process of filling out security documents much more straightforward and assists you in securing more sales and contracts.

You see, financial and health companies do not just tick the box. They have rigorous legal requirements to keep their customer data secure. So given a choice between two companies, one with ISO 27001 certification for SaaS and the other without but has developed stringent internal security and audit systems, they go with the safer, globally accepted option.

More companies in industries such as financial services, health care, government, and heavy industry, mainly in Asia and Europe, and increasingly in the US, require ISO 27001 certification for SaaS. Without ISO 27001 compliance, you are increasingly less likely to make security-conscious prospects’ shortlist for further evaluation. Eventually, don’t be surprised to see increased attrition among your existing clients.

ISO 27001 Certification Best Practices

It is pertinent to treat ISO 27001 compliance as any other ongoing IT project. As such, there is no fast-track solution to implementing the standard. Some best practices include:

  • Ensuring management support, without which, the program would be doomed from the word go. Senior management commitment ensures that you have enough resources available to develop, maintain, implement, and manage the ISMS.
  • Defining the scope to determine what part of the organization it should cover, failure to which you could increase the program risk.
  • Defining and performing risk assessment, for instance, PEST and SWOT analysis to identify threats and vulnerabilities that may affect specific businesses. It would help if you also defined risk levels to get a comprehensive picture of potential dangers facing the security of your information.
  • The processing of risk treatment procedures to decrease the risks identified above to an acceptable level.
  • Applying the Statement of Applicability, which involves assessing Annex A’s list of 133 controls and determining mitigation procedures.
  • Documenting the risk treatment plan (action plan). Here, you take each of the identified applicable controls in the Statement of Applicability and outline how to implement them.
  • Implementing the appropriate controls from Annex A.
  • Implementing training and awareness programs for your employees to make them aware of the new policies and procedures you plan to achieve.
  • Monitoring the ISMS implementation. The ISO 27001 standard follows a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle. It’s at this stage that top management must regularly review the ISMS before its application. You then document and maintain the results of the periodic audits and reviews and any recommendations actioned.

ISO 27001 Certification Requirements

The ISO 27001 certification standard recognizes that every SaaS organization has its unique requirements when developing an ISMS. Therefore, there is no universally mandatory information security control for compliance because not all will be appropriate. Instead, organizations should perform activities that inform their decisions on which controls to implement.

Below are the essential SaaS requirements when implementing ISO 27001 certification for SaaS:

  • Scoping your ISMS to define what information needs protection
  • Conducting a risk assessment and then defining a treatment methodology to identify threats and how to mitigate them
  • Identifying the business objectives
  • Obtaining support from top management
  • Define risk acceptance levels and treatment plans
  • Setting up policies and procedures to mitigate risks
  • Carefully monitoring the ISMS
  • Implementing training and awareness plans
  • Conducting an internal audit
  • Preparing for an external audit

After implementing these steps, SaaS companies should regularly conduct management reviews and internal audits to identify instances of non-conformities to improve the ISMS continually.

About ISO 27001 Certification Readiness

If you want to start the ISO 27001 certification process, GreyCastle Security can help. Our readiness service provides a 100% success rate and provides clients with assurance in the security of their organizations. Use our ISO 27001 certification for SaaS guides to prepare your business for compliance. Also, get the certification requirements, essential information, and best practices to prepare for your audit.

The Bottom Line

As the single globally accepted information security standard, the ISO 27001 certification demonstrates your ability to put the full spectrum of data security best practices in place. Furthermore, it proves that you have a managed, verifiable, and mature approach to information security, which encompasses risk, compliance, and governance.

Contact GreyCastle Security to help you prepare for your ISO 27001 certification today!

Understanding ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is the only international standard for the governance of information assets, creating an effective and sustainable Information Security Management System (ISMS).

Is your organization looking to become ISO 27001 certified?

This white paper identifies the need-to-knows as you start your roadmap to compliance.


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