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ISO 27001 and NIS2: Understanding their Connection

One question that we have encountered frequently recently is whether you should implement both the NIS2 and ISO 27001 together, how do they support eachother or even in general understanding the difference between the two.

In this post, we are going to delve deeper into these two information security frameworks and shed light on why they are often mentioned together. Our goal is to provide clarity and guide you towards making a decision that aligns with your organization's needs and aspirations.

Quick overview of the frameworks

While both ISO 27001 and NIS2 share a common goal of enhancing cyber security, they possess distinctive features making them unique in their own right. While they meet in some areas, they are very different regarding their scope, applicability, and overall approach towards cyber security.

What is ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 is a globally recognized standard for information security management. It is voluntary, meaning organizations choose to comply based on their specific needs, such as meeting customer requirements or improving their security posture in general.

Compliance with ISO 27001 demonstrates that your organization has implemented a robust information security management system (ISMS) which protects the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your information assets and collects all of the relevant information security aspects in one centralized place.

What is the NIS2?

The NIS2 Directive is an updated version of the Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive, which was first introduced by the European Union in 2016. The updated NIS2 Directive increases security for networks and information systems across the EU, including additional industries to scope and security requirements to its contents. The directive's primary goal is improving EU-wide cyber resilience level.

This directive helps organizations enhance their cyber security practices, despite necessitating significant effort in identifying gaps and implementing the required measures. Compliance depends on your organization's nature and its operating sector. Even if the NIS2 is only mandatory for selected industries and organizations, aligning with its principles represents good cyber security practice for any organization.

Why talk about ISO 27001 when aiming for NIS2?

You may wonder: why do people approach those two topics together? The answer for that is rather simple: Both ISO 27001 and NIS2 serve the shared goal of setting standards for cyber security measures and overall network information security. People often talk about them together because they address two sides of the same coin.  

That is where the ISO 27001 comes in, offering detailed approaches, methodologies, and steps to fulfill the NIS2's broad requirements.

However, while the ISO 27001 is a volunteer standard to implement for any kind of organization that handles personal data, the NIS2 is a directive, which is mandatory for specific organizations.

How is the ISO 27001 connected to NIS2?

By interpreting the guidelines set by the NIS2, you will easily be able to see and appreciate their purpose - a comprehensive overview of necessary security measures. However, the "how" often appears elusive. That is where the ISO 27001 comes in, offering detailed approaches, methodologies, and steps to fulfill the NIS2's broad requirements. Let's dive into some real-life examples:

Case Example: Business Continuity and Backups

NIS2 requires your organization to have documented and implemented measures for business continuity and backups. However, there are no detailed instructions on what to actually implement in the measures.

This is the place where the ISO 27001 steps in to specify what that "something" should be. It makes practical suggestions on how to ensure your organization can recover quickly and effectively from any disruptive incidents, how to do backups well and how to maintain essential functions during crises, strengthening your business resilience overall.

Take a look at the visual guide below to comprehend the connection between the NIS2's demand for business continuity and backups, and how the ISO 27001 aids in achieving this demand:  

As you can see in the visual above, NIS2, as already mentioned, requires you to do something for business continuity and backups. This is, where we can have a look at the ISO 27001. The ISO 27001 standard handles these requirements within five different controls: 5.29, 5.30, 8.6, 8.13 and 8.14. These different controls contribute to managing and mitigating risks related to business continuity and backups.

Some tools can help you even further to implementing the controls for example by splitting them into smaller, easily digestable tasks. Same tasks will then be used to communicate your compliance related to any similar requirements on different standards, directives or frameworks. In the screenshot below, you can see an example of a tool, which is using tasks for collecting evidence of the compliance with the requirements.

In essence, the ISO 27001 not only provides robust guidance on NIS2 topics, but also fosters a resilient operational framework that anticipates, prepares for, and readily responds to disruptions. As such, it is a beneficial tool to supplement the NIS2 framework or to simply seek for a "red string" to follow, when not already having strong processes for topics required by NIS2.

The Challenge of Implementation

Implementing frameworks like the ISO 27001 and NIS2 is not an easy or quick task. It demands time, financial investment, and a strong commitment, especially from the top management. The complexity varies from business to business depending on the scale, scope, existing procedures and risks.

Starting with an initial assessment of your current coverage of your implementations of the controls (e.g. with tools like Cyberday: coverage of the tasks) and collecting relevant security information in a centralized place: your ISMS. This includes for example the identification and assessment of the information asset, detrimental events and the estimated risks.

Implementing ISO 27001 & NIS2 together: Why would you benefit from it?

Ultimately, you may find that compliance with both ISO 27001 and the NIS2 Directive is beneficial, especially if you operate in the EU and handle sensitive information. At this point, it is important to point out once more than the ISO 27001 standard is covering already most of the NIS2 directive, there will a few additional specific NIS2 requirements that need to be taken into consideration (e.g. for incident reporting).

Implementing both can provide a comprehensive approach to information security, covering both the technical and organizational aspects, and demonstrating your commitment to protecting your information assets to both your customers and regulators.

Conclusion: Balancing Commitment and Benefits

Strong information security and compliance posture requires hard work, but it also comes with various benefits ranging from business continuity, and reputational protection to legal and regulatory compliance. Protecting your organization against information security threats not only secures your business operations but also secures your position in the competitive marketplace.

So, in summarizing why these frameworks are frequently discussed in combination, and to determine whether it is beneficial for you to implement them both, I would recommend evaluating your needs in terms of your organization's size, the nature of your industry, and any specific regulatory obligations you may have.

If you are operating within the EU, NIS2 compliance might be mandatory according to your industry and size. Alternatively, the ISO 27001, as an internationally recognized framework, may be an excellent addition to your security posture, regardless of your geography. Still, ISO 27001 is not typically a legal requirement but often viewed as a mark of data security excellence.

However, if you are bound to comply with NIS2, the ISO 27001 remains a great way of using the best practices and getting the "how" to the questions of how to implement the broadly given NIS2 requirements for your organization.

All in all, if your business handles sensitive data and also offers digital services, you may even consider implementing both frameworks. The combination of ISO 27001 and NIS2 can provide a comprehensive approach, ensuring data security while facilitating secure digital service provision.

Where You Can Learn More About the Frameworks

In case you would like to learn more about either ones of the frameworks, please feel welcome to read our other blog posts or even check how you could implement the controls of either of the frameworks with the help of an agile tool by opening an free Cyberday trial account.


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