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How can standards like ISO 27001 help businesses with GDPR compliance?

Data protection laws, such as the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), require businesses in the UK and the EU to handle personal data carefully. Breaking these rules can result in significant fines and harm to a company's reputation.

One effective strategy for achieving compliance involves leveraging internationally recognised standards such as ISO 27001. This article will explore how adherence to ISO 27001 can help strengthen an organisation’s efforts toward data protection law compliance. Where we refer to GDPR in this article, we refer to both the EU and UK General Data Protection Regulations.

How does ISO 27001 support the principles of the GDPR?

ISO 27001 is a globally recognised standard, outlining requirements for establishing, implementing, and improving an Information Security Management System (ISMS). By adopting an ISMS, businesses gain a structured approach to managing information and mitigating associated security risks. ISO 27001 requires organisations to apply various standards, policies, and controls to manage information security risks. The standard can benefit businesses ranging from small start-ups to global enterprises.

It is important to note that ISO 27001 and GDPR are distinct frameworks, and the standard does not specifically address GDPR compliance within its requirements. However, implementing ISO 27001 can help instil data protection principles and behaviours within an organisation and can facilitate efforts towards compliance. By applying ISO 27001, your organisation may find it easier to comply with various requirements under the General Data Protection Regulations.

How does ISO 27001 assist organisations in achieving GDPR compliance?

ISO 27001 is a comprehensive standard for information security, covering people, processes, and technology. It ensures confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, helping businesses protect against cyber threats and build customer trust. Implementing ISO 27001 helps organisations manage and reduce information security risks, keeping sensitive data secure.

  • It provides a framework for implementing robust information security controls, including data encryption, aligning with GDPR’s requirement for organisations to implement appropriate technical and organisational measures. It encompasses various aspects of information security, including security policies, incident management, and physical security measures.
  • ISO 27001 requires regular risk assessments and management to identify and mitigate risks to data, a key aspect of GDPR compliance. Rigorous risk assessments protect personal data by identifying, addressing or mitigating against potential risks.
  • ISO 27001 establishes processes that can help to prevent and respond to data breaches, a crucial GDPR requirement. Lowering the risk of data breaches, cyber attacks, and other security threats is a major advantage of the standard.
  • ISO 27001's culture of continuous improvement in information security management aligns with GDPR’s stress on regular compliance review. The standard helps businesses consistently evaluate and mitigate data risks, strengthening efforts towards sustained GDPR conformity.
  • Training staff on ISO 27001 can help raise awareness of information security and reduce the risk of data breaches, aligned with the GDPR requirements to inform staff about safeguarding personal data, which can mitigate GDPR risks.

It is difficult to ‘prove’ that your organisation complies with GDPR. However, following this standard can help demonstrate that you have taken active steps towards compliance.

What are the advantages of using ISO 27001 for compliance?

Compliance with ISO 27001 offers a range of advantages, including building a culture of trust and confidence among stakeholders and customers. Data subjects, including customers, are more inclined to place their trust in organisations that adhere to the stringent practices outlined by ISO 27001. From a commercial perspective, businesses that meet these standards can appear as more attractive partners for other companies, as the assurance of robust data security measures can offer a competitive edge in a marketplace where data privacy is a large risk.

Although ISO 27001 compliance does not equate to guaranteed GDPR compliance, it nevertheless contributes to helping a business in its efforts to achieve compliance, particularly by encouraging a proactive approach to data security. Whilst GDPR outlines data processing principles, it does not prescribe specific methods of data security. ISO 27001, in contrast, offers tangible guidelines for managing security risks and demonstrating ongoing efforts to mitigate them.

Implementing and maintaining an ISMS like ISO 27001 could significantly reduce your risk of a data security breach and any potential regulatory actions or fines from the Information Commissioner's Office. Through continuous monitoring and assessment, an ISMS will also enable you to identify and respond quicker to potential cyber security threats and implement further preventive measures. This will increase your organisation's resilience and avoid the potential legal consequences of a cyber attack.

Businesses that don’t use standards like ISO 27001 are likely to face more due diligence scrutiny from nervous customers on their data security measures, for instance when tendering for new projects and contracts which involve the processing of personal data.

How can a solicitor help you gain ISO 27001?

Solicitors knowledgeable in ISO 27001 can provide invaluable assistance to businesses by:

  • Offering guidance on the framework's benefits and applicability to specific business contexts.
  • Guiding businesses through the certification process.
  • Assisting in incorporating ISO 27001 standards into GDPR compliance strategies, ensuring comprehensive alignment between the two regimes.

In summary, ISO 27001 serves as a vital supporting tool to implement robust information security measures, which can help organisations to mitigate data risks and adhere to the UK and EU GDPR's data protection security principles and requirements.

If you would like to discuss ISO 27001 and how it can benefit your business in its GDPR compliance efforts, contact our data protection law team who are happy to help.

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