ISO 27701 Security compliance Designing security programs ISO 27701 Security compliance Designing security programs ISO 27001 GDPR

ISO vs. GDPR compliance requirements

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Information security standards are all headed toward the same goal: strong, scalable systems that protect IT assets and privacy. In the last 20 years, the number of standards – and the cost and effort of compliance – have increased. Figuring out how to reduce the burden of these overlapping security frameworks is a question on a lot of business leaders’ minds.

One solution is to leverage security framework overlap. A great example of how this approach can make compliance simpler and cheaper is GDPR and ISO compliance. The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 27001 and ISO 27701 certifications all set standards for the management of information security and protection of user data. 

Because their controls overlap significantly, organizations can save time and money by aligning their efforts to meet GDPR and ISO compliance requirements.

GDPR compliance requirements

  • The GDPR applies to companies doing business in the EU.
  • It regulates the management of personal data.
  • There is currently no GDPR certification available.

The GDPR is designed to protect the rights of European Union (EU) citizens by requiring organizations doing business in the EU to manage personal data more effectively, mitigate the risk of data breaches, and build better relationships with customers and clients. To demonstrate compliance with GDPR privacy standards, organizations need to provide users with privacy notices, deploy tools to help them exercise their data subject rights, and adopt controls that meet GDPR standards.

While GDPR certification may be possible in the future, there are currently no accredited private bodies that can certify GDPR compliance. Despite this, organizations are still responsible for meeting GDPR compliance requirements and can be hit with large penalties if they are found to be noncompliant.

ISO compliance requirements

  • ISO 27001 focuses on information security.
  • ISO 27701 is an ISO privacy certification.
  • ISO 27701 can be added onto ISO 27001 or a company can seek both certifications at the same time.
ISO 27001 focuses on information security, rather than data privacy, and sets standards for how organizations ensure data is accurate, available, and accessible only by approved users.

ISO 27701 — the newest member of the ISO 27001 family — is an ISO privacy certification that can be an extension of an existing ISO 27001 certification or, for organizations still working on ISO 27001, part of a unified certification effort.

To become ISO certified, organizations work with 114 ISO 27001 controls in 14 unique categories. It’s important to note that the ISO 27701 controls list — which overlaps with GDPR most closely — is an extension of ISO 27001 and should be treated as a unique data privacy compliance requirement that exists alongside the broader ISO 27001 information security series.

What do GDPR and ISO have in common?

  • GDPR and ISO controls have a lot of overlap.
  • Both seek to strengthen data security and mitigate data breaches.
  • Wording and categorization may be different.

Although GDPR is a regulatory law and ISO 27001 certifications are granted by a private entity, there’s a lot of overlap between the two frameworks. They both are intended to strengthen data security and mitigate data breaches. The controls of both ISO and GDPR seek to increase the integrity of data, making it confidential, more reliable, and more available. Notification of any data breaches is an important requirement of both ISO and GDPR, as well.

Convenient to organizations that want to utilize ISO and GDPR standards, both are built on a risk-based approach to data security.

The advantages of bundling GDPR and ISO compliance requirements

Pursuing GDPR compliance and ISO 27001/ISO 27701 certification at the same time drastically reduces time and cost. ISO 27001 sets a strong foundational security posture that makes it easy to then move on to ISO 27701 certification. And, because GDPR and ISO compliance requirements have so much overlap, it’s easy to adopt GDPR standards as the guiding framework for ISO 27701 certification.

Since ISO and GDPR cover similar concerns and topics, many controls can be applied to both GDPR and ISO 27701. They may be worded or categorized differently, however. Some of the areas where the ISO 27701 and GDPR standards overlap most strongly are listed here:

  • Vendor management
  • Breach notification
  • Data confidentiality, integrity, and availability
  • Data privacy

Whether you currently have just ISO 27001/27701 certification or GDPR compliance or neither, it makes sense to apply controls to both frameworks. 

At the end of your parallel compliance process, your company will have met both GDPR and ISO compliance requirements faster and for less cost than tackling them separately. And, your ISO 27701 certification can serve as a practical stand-in for GDPR certification — building trust with your customers and proving to your business partners that you aren’t at risk for hefty GDPR fines.

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