5 ways ISO 27001 can help SMEs in their cybersecurity strategy

Cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics discussed among small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While larger corporations have dedicated cybersecurity teams, SMEs often face financial and time constraints that hinder effective protection. 

Neglecting cybersecurity can have severe consequences for SMEs, including financial losses, reputational damage, and even legal liabilities. To safeguard their businesses, SMEs must prioritise cybersecurity. 

A robust cybersecurity plan is crucial, and the ISO 27001 standard provides a comprehensive framework for risk management. Achieving ISO 27001 certification demonstrates a company's commitment to data protection and security, fostering trust and credibility with stakeholders. 

Why should SMEs develop a cybersecurity strategy?

Developing a strategy to protect against cyberattacks can seem too expensive for start-ups. Business owners need to spend a lot of time and attention on day-to-day operations, leaving little time to focus on cybersecurity strategies.

The good news is that a sound cybersecurity strategy is worth it. It helps mitigate the risk of cyber threats in the long term and prevent damage. ISO 27001 certification is the first step in the right direction. Getting ISO 27001 certified shows customers, business partners, government agencies, and investors that your company is committed to data protection and information security.

The following tips will help you work towards the ISO 27001 certification and make it an essential part of your cybersecurity strategy.


Fighting cybersecurity threats in SMEs

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an attractive target for cybercriminals. They often have fewer resources for IT security than large enterprises and are therefore more vulnerable to attacks.

The most important and significant cybersecurity threats for SMEs are:

  • Phishing is a method cybercriminals use to try to trick users into revealing sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details. Phishing emails or messages often look deceptively real and spoofed to appear as if they were sent from well-known companies or organisations.
  • Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a company's data and blocks access to that data. The attackers then demand a ransom to decrypt the data.
  • Software vulnerabilities are a common target for cyberattacks. Cybercriminals exploit these vulnerabilities to access computer systems, steal data or cause damage.
  • Identity theft: Cybercriminals can steal personal information to commit fraud or other criminal activities.
  • Cloud security is an essential issue for SMEs that use cloud services. Cloud providers offer some security, but SMEs must also take steps to secure their cloud environment themselves.
  • Social engineering is a method cybercriminals use to trick users into doing something they should not do. For example, they may spread false information or impersonate someone else.

Cyberattacks can have devastating consequences for SMEs. They can lead to financial losses, reputational damage, and even business data loss.

That is why cybersecurity is essential for SMEs to protect their businesses from various threats. Here are some of the key benefits of cybersecurity for SMEs:

  • Data protection: Cybersecurity helps to protect sensitive business and customer data from theft and damage. This data could include personal information, financial data, or intellectual property.
  • Financial loss prevention: Cyberattacks can lead to significant financial losses for SMEs, including the cost of data recovery, legal fees, and fines.
  • Reputation management: A data breach or cyberattack can damage an SME's reputation and erode customer trust, leading to potential business loss.
  • Compliance requirements: In many industries, specific cybersecurity regulations and compliance standards must be met by SMEs. Non-compliance with these requirements can lead to penalties and legal consequences.
  • Business continuity: Cyberattacks can disrupt business operations and lead to downtime and revenue loss. Cybersecurity measures can help ensure business continuity and minimise the impact of attacks.

Data is the most important asset of a company. In a cyberattack, sensitive data such as customer data, financial data, or trade secrets can be stolen. The consequences are often significant financial losses and reputational damage. In addition, many industries are subject to IT security regulations. In the event of a violation of these regulations, fines may be imposed.

But don't worry: By implementing the proper cybersecurity measures and employee training, SMEs can reduce their risk of becoming victims of cyberattacks and mitigate the potential impact of security incidents.

So it's time to strengthen compliance, prevent operational disruptions and damage, and develop a successful cybersecurity strategy.


Checklist: 5 Ways ISO 27001 can help you in your cybersecurity strategy

Begin by setting up an effective information security management system (ISMS). Your ISMS is a framework for your company’s overall cybersecurity strategy, containing the policies, procedures and systems you plan to use to protect your data.

Once your ISMS is established, you can implement company-wide steps to improving your security processes.

1. Perform a gap analysis

A gap analysis will allow you to understand what needs to be done to get the certification. Look at how you currently protect information and check how it matches with the requirements of the ISO 27001

  • Assemble your team with a project manager.
  • Outline the project goals, vision, and desired timeline.
  • Define the business stakeholders that should be involved.
  • Define team roles and responsibilities.
  • Assess your company against the relevant controls.
  • Outline an implementation plan to close the gaps.

2. Establish a Reliable Asset Management

Typically, asset management is used for two things: to identify risks, threats, and vulnerabilities, and perform a risk assessment if needed. It helps you understand what assets your company possesses, who is responsible for them, and also how they should be handled.

  • Create a list of all business tangible and intangible assets.
  • Outline how they can be protected, maintained, and monitored.

3. Check your risk management strategy

Risk management helps analyse, evaluate, and prioritise potential threats to your company’s data. By preparing for these threats early, you can react faster and reduce the effects of a potential breach.

  • Define the rules for identifying risks and the acceptable level of risk.
  • Define the risks impact on your business.
  • Define the likelihood of potential risks occurring.

4. Have your documentation in place for your processes and policies

Documenting the processes is critical. You need proper documentation in place to ensure that your employees have a detailed point of reference for your policies. This makes it easier for them to refer to established procedures and guidelines and for future employees to adapt security policies faster.

  • Draft your scope of application.
  • Create your information security policy by outlining potential achievements.
  • Generate documents detailing your company’s position on specific issues, such as mobile device management.
  • Prepare documents for various topics including passwords, software and hardware you use and add all the actions you take.
  • Start implementing the controls and mandatory procedures.

5. Run internal and external audits

Internal and external audits identify potential vulnerabilities within and outside the organisation. Reporting these vulnerabilities promptly allows for proactive planning before cybercriminals can exploit them.

Regularly run audits on existing systems and ensure employees maintain security protocols while reporting potential flaws or incidents.

  • Investigate what and how many incidents have occurred.
  • Examine if all internal audits have been run.
  • Investigate measures resulting from internal audits.
  • Determine, review, and maintain the necessary requirements to achieve your ISMS objectives.
  • Develop a process to monitor, measure, analyse and evaluate your ISMS.

Checking these areas can take some time. However, it is integral to working toward the ISO 20071 certification. Once you achieve it, you can avoid many risks connected to cyberattacks.


Key benefits of ISO 27001 certification 

ISO 27001 is one of the best tools to ensure cybersecurity. The certification is an international standard for information security management systems (ISMS). It describes the requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and continually improving an ISMS designed to protect information confidentiality, integrity and availability. Implementing ISO 27001 ensures that an organisation has the best possible security practices and standards in place.

It offers several benefits for organisations, including:

1. General improvement of information security in your organisation:

ISO 27001 includes guidelines that can help assess your organisation's current information security state and identify improvement areas. You can also track your progress over time.

2. Risk mitigation:

One of the most significant benefits of an ISO 27001 certification is that you can reduce risks by identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities in your system before they cause problems.

3. Increased customer trust:

An ISO 27001 certification gives customers peace of mind when working with your company, because they know that you take cybersecurity seriously and are committed to protecting their data.


ISO 27001 - an important building block for cybersecurity in SMEs

Cybersecurity is essential for businesses of all sizes and industries. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are often particularly vulnerable, as they have fewer resources for IT security than large enterprises.

ISO 27001 is an international information security management systems (ISMS) standard. Implementing an ISMS according to ISO 27001 can help SMEs to minimise their cybersecurity risks and improve their information security.

Do not hesitate to implement the measures to strengthen your cybersecurity and secure your business against risks in the long term.



About the author

DataGuard Information Security Experts DataGuard Information Security Experts
DataGuard Information Security Experts

Tips and best practices on successfully getting certifications like ISO 27001 or TISAX®, the importance of robust security programmes, efficient risk mitigation... you name it! Our certified (Chief) Information Security Officers and InfoSec Consultants from Germany, the UK, and Austria use their year-long experience to set you up for long-term success. How? By giving you the tools and knowledge to protect your company, its information assets and people from common risks such as cyber-attacks. What makes our specialists qualified? These are some of the certifications of our privacy experts: Certified Information Privacy Professional Europe (IAPP), ITIL® 4 Foundation Certificate for IT Service Management, ISO 27001 Lead Implementer/Lead Auditor/Master, Certificate in Information Security Management Principles (CISMP), Certified TickIT+ Lead Auditor, Certified ISO 9001 Lead Auditor, Cyber Essentials

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