Getting your ISO 27001 risk assessment right – our top tips


Identifying and responding to risks that threaten to compromise your information security should be an integral part of your responsibility as a business owner. The best way to do this? By making sure your ISO 27001 risk assessment process fits the bill! If you want to achieve and maintain information security that keeps your business running smoothly, then read on and discover exactly what you need to do. 

Getting your ISO 27001 risk management started

So, where to begin? Well, a good place to start is by understanding what we mean by ISO 27001 risk management. Although it can be a timely process that requires care and due diligence, the long-lasting effects make it worth putting in the hard yards at the outset. Risk management is about laying the foundation to protect your business, and it should consider the following areas: 

  • Identify and analyse – How will you recognise the strongest threats your business may face? Who is assigned to oversee the important aspects?
  • Risk v risk tolerance – Your risks are identified, but how well insulated is your business against any adverse impact? The type and size of your business will have a bearing on this. 
  • Determining your risk threshold – To what extent can your business absorb risk? Removing all hazards can be costly and time-consuming.
  • The methods you’ll use to assess risk – What processes will you implement to determine risk most effectively?

Gathering all the relevant information requires a stringent process that covers all bases. In this situation, the ISO 27001 risk assessment is your best friend. Let’s explore this in more detail…

The ISO 27001 risk assessment explained

Managing risk requires a thorough risk assessment that aligns with the variables associated with your business. Often, businesses may be pressed for resources and this can affect the overall evaluation of risk. However, if your initial findings only cover surface-level elements, you’re likely to miss the smaller detail required to sufficiently protect your business further down the line. 

Using an ISO 27001 risk assessment template can make your life much easier. It provides you with a definitive structure with which you can start to develop the basis of your Information Security Management System (ISMS). Using a template as a guiding principle can help you determine the right ISO 27001 controls you need to reduce the risks you have identified. 

Partnering with an accredited ISO 27001 certification body like Citation ISO Certification can help you streamline the process of carrying out your risk assessment. 

It’s not sufficient to carry out an ISO 27001 risk assessment once and think the work is done. Risk constantly changes and new threats evolve and emerge. What may have applied a few months ago may now require an entirely different approach. Adapt, review and analyse your risk assessment frequently to keep on top of your approach to risk management. 

Complete your ISO 27002 risk assessment correctly

As part of the ISO 27001 Standard’s mandate, you must record your risk assessment process in full. This is outlined in (Clause 6.1.2) of the Standard, so it’s essential to know the ISO 27001 requirements of the Clause before immersing yourself in the finer details of the methodology itself. Without a clear plan, it’s much more difficult to be successful. Clause 6.1.2 states that you should follow a five-step process for the ISO 27001 risk assessment: 

  • Outline how you intend to identify and address threats that pose risks to your business. 
  • What’s your methodology? This is where the details of your risk assessment for ISO 27001 should come in. 
  • Now you have your evaluations, what are the repercussions? And what measures will you implement based on the likelihood of the risk? 
  • Calculate your risk using a matrix to determine the level of risk against that of your levels of accepted risk. 
  • Your risk management plan should outline the ways you intend to treat any of your identified risks. Don’t worry, we’ll cover this in a little more detail later in the blog.

Highlight your information security assets

As we’ve touched on already, it’s simply not efficient to try and eradicate every single risk you identify. You may find it alarming to absorb certain areas of risk but believe us, it’s the best approach to take. In trying to extinguish every risk, you’ll spread your resources too thin and fail to address key areas sufficiently. It’s a counter-intuitive approach that simply fails to work in the long run. 

So, within your risk assessment, strip it back and think of the significant assets that are integral to your everyday business operation. Note the assets throughout your business to determine what areas you need to consider and address. Perhaps you could rank them in order of importance? You may already have a list drawn up, but it’s good practice to review all of your information assets and define the priority areas. 

An example of assets defined within an ISO 27001 risk assessment include: 

  • Customer Data – All personal, confidential details about your customers, including contact details, financial data and purchase history.
  • Intellectual Property Any patents, copyrights or trademarks associated with your business.  
  • IT Systems – Access to servers and network devices could be extremely damaging to your business. This area should always be prioritised as part of your risk assessment. 
  • Software – How much software across your business needs to be listed? Licensing information and software applications can be compromised.
  • Supply Chain – If data about your inventories, suppliers and logistics providers is exploited, this can threaten the integrity of your operations.

Develop a thorough risk treatment plan

Once you have quantified the priority risk areas, it’s time to action a plan that can help address those areas. Risk treatment plans form the basis of your response to the threats you’ve identified in your initial findings. We understand it can be difficult to determine the right measures to take. After all, risk is an uncertainty that is impossible to control a response to until it happens. Think about implementing the following measures: 

  • If a risk is causing chaos for your business, then get rid! Eliminate any activity that is associated with the risk. 
  • Highlight a control within the ISO 27001:2022 Standard that offers protection against the threat reoccurring. 
  • Implement the Cyber Essentials framework and protect your business from the vast majority of cyberattacks. 

Dealing with risk management as an SME

Big corporations can afford to plough a substantial amount of resources into dealing with risk. SMEs aren’t quite afforded that luxury, so smaller businesses must be frugal and think outside the box a little more. This should be the case when developing your risk assessment. The same framework used by big businesses simply won’t work as effectively for smaller organisations. Adopt the following principles as part of your ISO 27001 risk assessment: 

  • Select a framework that suits your business. Simplify and condense the framework in alignment with the five-step risk assessment process. 
  • Choose the right software for your risk assessment. It’s easy to overcomplicate this, but a standard spreadsheet will often suffice. 
  • Assigning roles correctly is crucial. Who can you entrust to deliver on the objectives set out? Communication is a huge part of certification, everyone should be on the same page across your business. 
  • Don’t be deterred by finding new risks after multiple risk assessments have been carried out. It’s about staying vigilant over a sustained period, and not trying to cram everything you need to address at the start. A measured approach will always reap better results over time.

Partner with us and start the process of certification today

In summary, risk assessments form the foundation for your risk management approach. It’s an ongoing process that requires management, knowledge, understanding and thorough scrutiny. After all, the main aim is to tighten the security of your business and insulate any areas from the risks identified. This is one of the countless benefits of  ISO 27001. Visit our dedicated page to find out more. 

So, why not let our ISO 27001 management system and certification experts help you to become certified? Our ISO 27001 auditors will assess your existing processes, and see if you satisfy the requirements of the Standard, helping you to make any necessary changes to achieve compliance. 

We’re here to safeguard your business by ensuring data security and protecting your business from risk by helping you adopt an ISMS that treats risk accordingly. 

So, why not request a quote to start your journey to certification? Get in touch today with our ISO 27001 experts at 0333 344 3646 or email [email protected].

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About the author

  • Name:

    Serena Cooper

  • Company:

    Citation ISO Certification

  • Bio:

    Serena has worked for Citation ISO Certification since 2022, writing creative and informative content on ISO certification and consultation to help businesses reach their potential.


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