Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001 – strengthen your position in the supply chain

Cyber attacks are a constant threat, and supply chains are a prime target. Given the importance of cybersecurity in today’s business landscape, there is a growing demand for strong cybersecurity from businesses within the supply chain. A demand that Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001 can meet.

Cyber Essentials Plus is a UK government-backed cybersecurity certification. ISO 27001 is a globally recognised standard for building a robust Information Security Management System (ISMS). Together, they provide comprehensive cybersecurity coverage, giving you an advantage over competitors and a strong position in the supply chain. 

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at both Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001. You’ll come away with a clear understanding of what they are and how they can benefit your business.

Here’s what we’ll cover:
 
  • What is Cyber Essentials Plus?
  • What are the benefits of Cyber Essentials Plus?
  • What are the challenges of implementing Cyber Essentials Plus?
  • What is ISO 27001?
  • What are the benefits of ISO 27001?
  • What are the challenges of implementing ISO 27001?
  • Do you need both Cyber Essentials and ISO 27001?
  • Get started with Cyber Essentials and ISO 27001

Cyber Essentials Plus: your foundational defence

What is Cyber Essentials Plus?

Cyber Essentials is a UK government-backed cybersecurity certification. It’s the perfect starting point for any business looking to improve security.

This certification has two approaches: Cyber Essentials (basic) and Cyber Essentials Plus. Cyber Essentials Plus builds on the basic certification and involves completing an online assessment, followed by a technical audit of the systems in scope for Cyber Essentials:

  • Self-assessment: You’ll complete a questionnaire to assess your current cybersecurity controls.
  • Technical audit: An accredited assessor will remotely test your firewalls, internet gateways, and a sample of devices to identify vulnerabilities.
  • Remediation: Any vulnerabilities identified must be addressed before certification is granted.

Does your business need Cyber Essentials Plus certification?

Cyber Essentials Plus is a good starting point for businesses of all sizes that want to demonstrate a commitment to cybersecurity. It’s particularly relevant for those in the supply chain or considering ISO 27001 in the future, as it establishes a foundational level of security.

We have assisted and guided many businesses throughout Scotland with the requirements needed to achieve the Cyber Essentials Plus certification. We continue to support these businesses beyond certification to ensure they maintain the required security standards.

What are the benefits of Cyber Essentials Plus?

Strengthens cybersecurity defences

By implementing the required controls and undergoing penetration testing, Cyber Essentials Plus ensures your business has essential safeguards in place to protect against common cyber threats, such as malware, phishing attacks, and password breaches.

Independent validation

The external assessment by an accredited body provides an unbiased verification of your cybersecurity measures, giving you and your customers peace of mind.

Demonstrated commitment

Cyber Essentials Plus certification showcases that your business prioritises cybersecurity. This can be crucial in building trust and confidence with clients, partners, and potential investors.

Increased resilience

A robust cybersecurity posture reduces the risk of business disruption, financial losses, and reputational damage caused by cyber attacks.

Meets government requirements

Cyber Essentials Plus certification is mandatory for some government contracts in the UK. It can also help meet industry-specific regulations that emphasise cybersecurity.

Improved supply chain standing

Strong cybersecurity is essential for supply chain participation in today’s interconnected business world. Cyber Essentials Plus certification demonstrates your commitment to data security and makes you a more reliable partner.

Cost-effective

Compared to more complex frameworks like ISO 27001, Cyber Essentials Plus offers a relatively inexpensive way to enhance your cybersecurity posture. It’s a good starting point for businesses of all sizes.

Easier ISO 27001 transition

If your business is considering pursuing ISO 27001 certification in the future, Cyber Essentials Plus addresses many of the core security controls, laying a solid foundation.

What are the challenges of implementing Cyber Essentials Plus?

Initial investment

While generally considered cost-effective, there are initial costs associated with Cyber Essentials Plus. These include the certification body’s assessment fees, software or hardware upgrades required to meet the controls, and potential consultant support.

Resource allocation

Implementing Cyber Essentials Plus requires your IT team to dedicate time and resources to completing the self-assessment questionnaire, liaising with the assessor during the technical audit, and addressing any identified vulnerabilities.

Patch management

Cyber Essentials Plus requires that all software on devices within your business is up-to-date with the latest security patches. This can be challenging, especially for businesses with many devices or outdated software.

Legacy IT systems

Some older IT systems might not be compatible with the security controls mandated by Cyber Essentials Plus. Upgrading or replacing these systems can be costly and disruptive.

Managing third-party risk

While Cyber Essentials Plus focuses on your company’s security, data breaches can also occur through vulnerabilities in your partners’ systems. Encouraging strong cybersecurity practices throughout your supply chain can add complexity.

ISO 27001: building your cybersecurity arsenal

What is ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 is:

  • a globally recognised standard
  • a comprehensive risk-based approach
  • a process that builds a robust Information Security Management System (ISMS)
  • the next step after implementing other technical standards like Cyber Essentials Plus

Officially known as the ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security Management standard, ISO 27001 is an international standard that specifies the requirements for an ISMS (Information Security Management System – a framework of policies, processes and procedures that helps an organisation manage its information security risks).

Does your business need ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 is designed to be adaptable and beneficial for many businesses. Overall, if your business prioritises information security and wants to demonstrate a robust approach to data protection, then you can benefit from implementing ISO 27001

Here’s a breakdown of the types of businesses that typically use ISO 27001:

Companies that handle sensitive data

This includes organisations like financial institutions (banks, insurance companies), healthcare providers, and any company that stores or processes customer data.

Businesses that face regulatory requirements

In some cases, legal requirements or industry regulations will mandate ISO 27001 certification, especially for businesses in critical infrastructure and energy sectors.

Supply chain participants

Businesses that operate within a supply chain often require ISO 27001 certification to demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity and secure data exchange with partners.

Data-centric businesses

The framework’s focus on information security benefits businesses that rely heavily on data, such as software development companies, cloud service providers, data analytics firms, and MSPs (Managed Service Providers) like us.

Our ISO 27001 story

As an MSP based in Aberdeen and working with many clients in the energy sector, it was important to us that we achieved ISO 27001 certification, which we did successfully in 2017 – the first MSP in the region to achieve this.

Since then, ISO 27001 has not only helped protect our clients' data and provided excellent reassurance for them, but it has also delivered a competitive advantage time and time again.

What are the benefits of ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 offers a range of benefits for businesses that go beyond just cybersecurity. Here are some of the key advantages:

Enhanced security posture

Implementing ISO 27001 establishes a systematic approach to information security, identifying and mitigating risks, ultimately reducing the likelihood of data breaches and cyber attacks.

Improved trust and credibility

Achieving ISO 27001 certification demonstrates to clients, partners, and investors that your business takes data security seriously. This can lead to increased trust and confidence in your ability to handle sensitive information, leading to an improved ability to win contracts and tenders.

Competitive advantage

In today’s data-driven world, strong cybersecurity is a differentiator. ISO 27001 certification can give your business a competitive edge, especially when bidding for contracts or tenders that require robust information security practices.

Compliance with regulations

Certain industries or legal requirements might mandate adherence to information security standards. ISO 27001 helps ensure compliance with relevant regulations and avoids potential fines or penalties.

Streamlined processes and structure

The framework encourages clear documentation of information security policies and procedures. This leads to more efficient operations and improved decision-making around information security.

Reduced costs

While implementing ISO 27001 requires an initial investment, the long-term benefits can outweigh the costs. Proactive risk management can prevent costly data breaches and minimise downtime due to cyber attacks.

Overall, ISO 27001 goes beyond just ticking a compliance box. It can foster a culture of information security within your company, leading to a more secure and resilient business environment.

What are the challenges of implementing ISO 27001?

A steep learning curve

The level of challenge your business will face when implementing ISO 27001 will depend on the current state of your business. If you’re already following technical standards like Cyber Essentials or IASME Cyber Assurance and are familiar with ISO frameworks, such as 9001 (Quality), you’ll be well placed to take the step to 27001. Taking ISO 27001 will be a big leap and a steep learning curve for small businesses without that familiarity.

Documentation and implementation complexity

The standard involves creating and maintaining a comprehensive Information Security Management System (ISMS) with policies, procedures, and controls. For businesses unfamiliar with the framework, this can seem daunting.

Managing third-party relationships

Businesses need to ensure that their vendors and partners also have adequate cybersecurity measures in place, which can add complexity to supply chain management.

Integration with existing systems

The framework must be integrated with existing business processes and IT systems, which can require adjustments and potential disruptions.

Management buy-in and resources

Before starting the process, it’s critical that senior management buys in. If not, the drive to achieve ISO 27001 risks going off the rails. Successfully implementing ISO 27001 requires leadership commitment and allocation of resources (time, staff, budget). Convincing management of the long-term value can be a challenge.

Maintaining continuous improvement

ISO 27001 is not a one-time fix. The standard requires ongoing monitoring, improvement, and adaptation to evolving threats and vulnerabilities.

Though it may be daunting and there are some challenges, companies should aspire to protect themselves and their customers. With careful planning, resource allocation, and proper guidance, any business can successfully implement ISO 27001 and reap the security and competitive advantages it offers.

Do you need both Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001?

While your business doesn’t necessarily need both Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001, they can be complementary depending on your specific needs. But while they work well together, there are also differences. ISO 27001 is a framework, unlike Cyber Essentials Plus, which is prescriptive.

Combined, Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001 provide your business with a holistic approach to cybersecurity in your business.

Cyber Essentials Plus provides a solid foundation to build on, offering basic cyber hygiene and defence against common threats that are easy to implement. It’s an excellent cybersecurity starting point. ISO 27001 builds upon that foundation to identify specific risks and implement a broader information security strategy.

Get started with Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001

Implementation support for your business

As an ISO 27001-certified MSP that regularly helps clients achieve Cyber Essentials Plus certification, we know what it takes to achieve and maintain these valuable standards. 

We can work smoothly and effectively with your chosen QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety, Environment) advisors and auditors to achieve your business’s goal. We’ll help you identify the appropriate security controls to implement in your business and assist in implementing and monitoring these controls.

Get in touch to get started on the journey to strengthening your position in the supply chain with Cyber Essentials Plus and ISO 27001.

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