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How to Select the Right ISMS Software for Your Organization

Posted by on December 17, 2018

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Take a look at any list of the world's biggest data breaches and you'll notice two disturbing trends. First, breaches tend to be getting bigger and bigger, compromising the personal information of millions of people. This may be driven by the digitization and collection of personal information into massive databases. Second, the biggest companies in the world, that should have the strongest security protocols are still being affected—companies like Yahoo, Facebook, eBay, and Uber.

As a response to these data breaches, lawmakers are introducing new regulations that govern how collected data must be stored and shared to protect privacy and ensure security. Regulations such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the healthcare industry, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) for financial transactions, and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU have been instituted to ensure that businesses are adequately protecting data collected from employees, partners, and customers.

If your organization is serious about protecting user data, it's probably time for you to invest in a comprehensive Information Security Management System (ISMS)—but how do you know which software solution is right for you? In this short guide, we'll offer our tips and insight into choosing ISMS software that fits your organization.

RELATED: Discover Unified Risk, Compliance, and Incident Management with Cherwell's Information Security Management Solution

What Is an Information Security Management System (ISMS)?

Information security management is important for every company that collects sensitive or identifying data from its users, and especially those companies that are subject to compliance requirements for data security. An ISMS consists of two components that work together: Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) and Incident Response.

GRC forms the backbone of the ISMS. While it's frequently discussed as a singular thing, GRC can be best understood as a combination of three types of policies. The organization must identify the key risks that could threaten its data security and determine how best to mitigate those risks. In addition, the organization should determine what policies and regulations it is legally required to comply with and how best to meet those requirements. Finally, the governance aspect comes into play when the organization instills policies and regulations to both mitigate the recognized risks and comply with industry controls.

Incident Response is the aspect of ISMS that allows organizations to monitor and respond to security events in a timely fashion. An ISMS is limited in usefulness if it defines all of the policies necessary for security and compliance, but lacks a mechanism for reacting to a potential data breach. The Incident Response process describes how security events will be monitored, addressed, escalated, and managed through the NIST-defined process.

RELATED: What Is an Information Security Management System (ISMS) & How Should It Be Implemented? 

Understanding Your Industry's Compliance Requirements

Before investing in an ISMS, the IT organization should review the needs of the business to determine what features and benefits are needed from the ISMS to support compliance. This process should begin with a determination of compliance requirements for the organization. Businesses across a number of industries may be subject to various data security guidelines depending on the nature of data that they collect from users.

If your organization collects personally identifiable medical data, for example, you will likely have to comply with the HIPAA guidelines for medical data privacy and security. If your organization offers a credit product or another type of payment card, or if you accept payments by credit card, you may have to comply with PCI DDS. Perhaps none of these apply to you, but your organization is motivated to offer the best service and gain a competitive advantage through voluntary compliance with the ISO/IEC family of standards for information security management systems.

Whatever the case, a complete assessment of your compliance requirements is a necessary step towards determining what ISMS features and benefits are most important for your organization.

Review Your GDPR Compliance Status and Needs

With data breaches becoming increasingly common around the world and across industries, the European Union recently introduced a measure known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, to help protect data security and privacy for all individuals living inside the European Union. The GDPR came into full force in May 2018, so at this point, any organization globally that collects any personal data from EU citizens, including something as simple as an IP address, is subject to GDPR and should have already assessed their compliance and taken actions to close gaps. What many organizations are finding is that compliance and readiness are not necessarily the same thing. While they may be compliant, there are steps to take to ensure preparedness.

An organization that is fully compliant and prepared for the GDPR should have the systems and processes in place to respond at scale to citizen requests for information, as the GDPR allows any person to request a copy of the personal information that a company has collected from him or her. Organizations that believe themselves fully compliant with the GDPR should have tested procedures in place for fulfilling a high volume of requests in a short time period, as well as the capability to quickly respond to any security events or incidents.

Some organizations believe that they may be compliant with GDPR, but in fact, their systems are untested. Organizations that have not adopted a unified ISMS platform may still be relying on a patchwork of spreadsheets and tables to facilitate compliance. Limited automation features means that any user data requests must be filled manually, and a large volume of requests would be extremely labor intensive for the organization to satisfy.

Organizations that are non-compliant with the GDPR must adopt a full-scale compliance solution that encompasses compliance controls and actions, scalable user data requests with automation features and a formalized, tested approach for handling security events. 

RELATED: You’ve Achieved GDPR Compliance—Now What? 

Need a New ISMS? Look for These Key ISMS Features

If you're in the market for an ISMS solution, it's important that you choose a robust solution that supports IT security governance, risk assessment, and compliance with the appropriate regulations for your industry. An effective ISMS should also include integrated dashboards that combine information and enhance your perspective on security management within the organization. To help you find an ISMS software that's right for you, look for these key features in each potential solution.

Choose an ISMS That Supports Standard and Regulatory Compliance

While some organizations take it upon themselves to voluntarily adopt the ISO/IEC 27001 ISMS standard as a means of better protecting customer data, most organizations are implementing ISMS to achieve compliance with industry-specific compliance guidelines and regulations. For these organizations, the most important feature of any prospective software solution for ISMS is how it supports compliance with the rules and regulations that apply to that organization's specific industry.

The leading ISMS software solutions available today have taken a modular approach to ensuring that their product can satisfy information security requirements across industries. Organizations should be able to upload regulatory and legislative documents directly into the ISMS, mapping each article of the written law to the corresponding policy or procedure that ensures compliance. This approach to compliance creates a built-in compliance checklist within the system that is easy to review or audit for completeness and can be adopted for any regulations, including FedRAMP, PCI, HIPAA, GDPR, or ISO 27001. 

Some available ISMS software options even offer a simple dashboard system where executive managers can view their compliance actions and status at a glance, offering real-time insight into how the ISMS is functioning.

Choose an ISMS That Helps Expedite the Audit Process

If your IT organization is seeking compliance with ISO 27001:2013, internal audits will become a regular activity for you. Preparing for annual audits is a costly process that can drain valuable resources from your organization. If your organization must comply with additional regulations such as HIPAA or PCI, you may be subject to external audits from regulatory bodies that will want to see whether your organization and systems are compliant with the appropriate guidelines.

Choosing an ISMS with integrated tools that facilitate the audit process is a major benefit for organizations that will be subject to audits. Some ISMS software solutions allow IT organizations to upload regulatory documents directly into the system and map the requirements to the corresponding security controls, ensuring that all of the articles of the regulation are satisfied. This functionality allows IT organizations to significantly expedite the audit process and establish long-term confidence in compliance with applicable guidelines.

Choose an ISMS That Facilitates Oversight and Control of Security Incidents

One of the key value-adding elements of an effective ISMS is an intuitive dashboarding system that offers executive managers more control and oversight of active security incidents in the ISMS. An integrated system for managing information security should include insight and real-time analytics into the number of active security events that the organization is dealing with, making it easy for high-level managers to get an overview of how the organization is doing at managing security.

From a security analyst's perspective, an effective ISMS should offer tools and dashboards that give a useful overview of what security events or network events have been reported recently for analysts to analyze and what security incidents the analyst currently has ownership over. Pulling together information from across the ISMS into unified dashboards gives IT analysts unprecedented control over the management and investigation of security incidents.

Choose an ISMS with Built-in Risk Assessment Functionalities

Effective risk assessment is an integral aspect of any ISMS solution. In order to establish the appropriate security controls for a particular configuration item, an IT organization needs to understand and quantify the risk associated with different types of data breaches and potential vulnerabilities. Without a quantified understanding of risk, an organization cannot effectively budget its information security resources and workload towards the most important issues.

Enterprise ISMS solutions should always include some form of quantified risk management. Choose a software solution that lets you calculate risk scores or assign them using pre-existing and consistent criteria. You should be able to create and assign security classifications to configuration items or supporting services that are referenced in the system, giving you better oversight of the highest-vulnerability vectors for a data breach. 

Remember, the goal of an ISMS is to implement policies and procedures that protect data. It is impossible to know whether the data is adequately protected unless an IT organization can quantify the risk and demonstrate that the policies designed to mitigate that risk are sufficiently robust. 

Choose an ISMS with Adequate GDPR Support

Companies that collect personal information from residents in the European Union must choose an ISMS solution that offers visibility into GDPR management, especially when it comes to managing data requests from data subjects.

Under the GDPR directives, any individual can request that a company erases the personal data that it holds on them, an expression of what legislators call "the right to be forgotten." In addition, individuals in Europe have the right to access any information about them that is held by a company, even their employer. Organizations have just 30 days to answer data requests that are made until GDPR law. 

Now, imagine your organization faces a data breach that affects a few users in the United Kingdom and ends up on the news. All of a sudden, you receive thousands of user data requests—some asking whether your organization possesses data on a given person, and some requesting that your organization delete its data about a given person. Can your current system handle a high volume of requests that such circumstances would generate? Can you afford to pay the hundreds of thousands of euros in fines that are established for organizations noncompliant with the GDPR?

Choosing an ISMS with strong GDPR management capabilities, including managing data requests, can protect your organization from liability under the GDPR.

Cherwell's Competitive Advantage in ISMS

Cherwell's enterprise solution for Information Security Management provides extensive security management capabilities and adds over 50 new business objects to the Cherwell Service Platform. Organizations who adopt Cherwell ISMS benefit from robust security management capabilities, including risk assessment, a comprehensive approach to compliance management and incident request management capabilities. 

With Cherwell, organizations can upload existing specifications and guidelines for information security, such as the HIPAA or ISO 27001 standard, and easily map the requirements onto their existing security policies. Organizations can also customize their ISMS by designing their own specifications for Information Security that may even exceed the standards required by ISO. Organizations can track the corrective and preventive actions taken when an aspect of the security system does not conform to the chosen specifications.

In addition to providing high-level oversight of GRC, organizations can use Cherwell ISMS to manage and track security events across their entire lifecycle, expediting remediation and improving security outcomes across the organization.

Get started today by requesting a product demo and see what Cherwell can do for your organization.

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