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ISO/IEC 27001: How an ISMS protects the digital supply chain

by Editorial Office

In the context of globalized flows of goods, supply chains are increasingly transforming into dynamic, data-driven systems. And yet, the more networked and complex a supply chain is, the more susceptible it is to disruption and malfunctions: Digitization is often also considered a gateway for cyberattacks on the supply network. To prevent such occurrences, IT security should be firmly anchored in a company’s DNA and considered from the outset. An information security management system (ISMS) in accordance with ISO/IEC 27001 can become a genuine competitive advantage. In our latest article on the blog, we discuss which criteria are relevant for certification and what companies can do straight away to better protect themselves against cyberattacks.

Detecting digital vulnerabilities with an ISO/IEC 27001 ISMS

Modern supply chains are complex systems that connect a large number of companies, suppliers and other stakeholders in an interconnected IT architecture. The increased networking of all supply chain actors involved is usually accompanied by an increase in the number of interfaces – i.e., those communication nodes at which information such as contact data, waybills or customs documents is transmitted electronically. The crux of the matter is that digital connectivity makes every link in the supply chain vulnerable to cyberattacks. According to a recently conducted security study by IT solutions provider Ivanti, many organizations are poorly prepared for emergencies: According to the study, only about one in five respondents in Germany believes that their team has a high level of defense.

In view of the growing threat situation, an increasing number of companies are placing greater emphasis on information security when working with suppliers: an information security management system (ISMS) certified in accordance with ISO/IEC 27001 can be a real competitive advantage in this respect. The globally recognized ISO/IEC 27001 standard is suitable for companies of any industry and size and was developed by the International Organisation of Standardization in collaboration with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It takes a holistic and risk-based approach to the implementation, monitoring, maintenance and continuous improvement of an ISMS. With the certification, companies can objectively prove that they have clearly regulated and implemented responsibilities and processes with regard to IT security. Thanks to its high-level structure (HLS), ISO/IEC 27001 is also compatible with other standards such as ISO 14001 or ISO 9001. The latest version of the standards can be accessed via the ISO website.

ISO/IEC 27001: The requirements for obtaining certification

For an ISO/IEC 27001 ISMS, there are a number of criteria that must be considered during implementation in order to obtain certification. Some of the key requirements are:

  • The definition, development and implementation of an information security management system that takes all relevant information security risks and requirements into account
  • The creation of a policy that defines the security objectives
  • The identification and assessment of risks
  • The expansion of protective measures against cyberattacks
  • The determination of and compliance with security standards and legal requirements
  • The guarantee of data protection and integrity
  • In the event of a cyberattack, defining who is responsible in management and in the specialist departments is required
  • The training and sensitization of employees to act responsibly when dealing with information and data.
  • The implementation of the developed protective measures and subsequent regular audits and monitoring to ensure that the standard requirements are being met.
  • Continuous improvements based on the results of the audits and monitoring.

Companies can have their compliance or conformity with the standard checked and verified by an independent certification authority. The certification is valid for three years, yet annual surveillance audits take place. The PDCA method (Plan-Do-Check-Act) is intended to ensure continuous optimization: Therefore, an ISMS is not a one-time procedure, but much rather, it’s a permanent process.

Protecting the digital supply chain: ISMS as part of risk management

With an ISO/IEC 27001 certification, companies continue to strengthen their protection against cyberattacks while preventing the loss of sensitive data and information. As an integral part of supply chain risk management, the ISMS helps to ensure that even highly digitalized companies can manage their supply chain securely. It systematically identifies and assesses all potential risks related to the confidentiality and integrity of content and takes targeted measures to strengthen information security.

A comprehensive IT security strategy to protect the digital supply chain is not only essential for large companies, but should also become a priority for small and medium-sized enterprises. “All company sizes are affected by cyberattacks. Since especially in SMEs the security precautions are often insufficient, attackers have it particularly easy in these cases,” explains Johannes Mattes, IT security expert and co-founder of Byght GmbH. “The introduction of an ISMS creates a basic framework for continuously improving information security, addressing risks and constantly questioning the status quo.”

IT security – Here’s what companies can implement immediately

Cybercrime costs affected parties many billions of euros worldwide – the international movement of goods is no exception. The introduction of an ISMS including ISO/IEC 27001 certification is a process that is worthwhile for every company, but initially takes a lot of time and ties up resources. For a solid basic framework of information security, companies can therefore implement the first steps directly. Expert Johannes Mattes advises starting with these measures: activating multi-factor authentication, patching IT systems immediately, performing regular (offline) backups and, last but not least, raising employees’ security awareness. After all, properly educated employees are the most important line of defense against cyberattacks – acting as a human firewall.

Conclusion: Competitive advantages through an ISMS according to ISO/IEC 27001

For the modern supply chain with its infinite flow of data, transparency, traceability and software-based monitoring within the framework of an ISCM are essential to greatly minimize the risks of cyberattacks. Certification according to ISO/IEC 27001 is an important proof for companies that they have achieved an appropriate level of IT security and have taken the necessary measures to protect information and data in the best possible way. This not only provides security for their own processes, but also gives them a competitive edge by strengthening their reputation and increasing the trust of their stakeholders. A continuous PDCA cycle also helps them to better meet the dynamic and constantly changing challenges in the logistics and cyber environment.

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