General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ISO 27001 standard (especially when combined with ISO 27701) have a lot of goals in common. Both aim at mitigating the risk of data breaches and strengthening data security.
ISO 27001 represents an international standard for security certification that outlines the best practice framework for managing processes, technology, and people.
To comply with ISO 27001 standard and/or GDPR, organizations must ensure the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of personal data in their possession.
However, there are a lot of differences between those two as well, and it is important to note that having the ISO 27001 certification is not equal to GDPR compliance.
GDPR covers both data privacy and data security, while ISO 27001 only deals with the issues around data security. Often, the confusion arises from Article 24 of the GDPR, which outlines that observance of approved certifications such as ISO 27001 can be regarded as an aspect of GDPR compliance.
What is GDPR?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU data protection law aimed at strengthening both data privacy and data security.
The GDPR gives EU citizens more rights relating to how their data can be used. It also mandates organizations to take new approaches to processing personal information and information security.
Large penalties come into play if it’s deemed that an organization violated GDPR requirements. The core components include:
- Widening the scope of data requiring protection
- Extended rights of data subjects (EU citizens in this case)
- Data breach notification. Read how and when you need to report a breach under the GDPR.
What is ISO 27001?
ISO 27001 (current version is ISO/IEC 27001:2013) is an international data security standard that outlines requirements for establishing, maintaining, and improving information security management systems (ISMSs).
ISO 27001 covers procedures and policies, including technical, physical, and legal controls that an organization can implement as part of its information security processes.
Adhering to ISO 27001 best practices enables an organization to foresee and tackle the security risks it faces. It can be a guideline for any organization looking to improve security procedures and methods.
Highly regulated industries or industries that process sensitive personal data, like banking or health industry, are not only advised to show ISO 27001 compliance but can also be required to attain the certificate in order to continue doing business with certain third parties or vendors.
ISO 27001 also plays a significant role in enabling organizations to gauge the scope and limitations of the security programs they have in place. The core requirements of this security standard include:
- Asset Management: Organizations should take appropriate measures to document and safeguard their physical assets.
- Operational Security: Basic operational procedures should be implemented to ensure data security.
- Access Control: ISO 27001 outlines that organizations should control access to critical data assets, including operating systems, information processing facilities, and networked services.
- Incident Management: Organizations should establish internal rules and procedures for reporting IT security weaknesses and events, managing the incidents, and fortifying these processes. Besides, security incidents should be reported instantly, and swift action should be taken.
GDPR vs. ISO 27001: Two sides of the same coin?
To distinguish between GDPR and ISO 27001, it’s best to understand the similarities between them and how the Regulation and the ISO framework are individually applied to ensure data security.
1. Scope and format
The primary difference between GDPR and ISO standards is in their scope as well as their format.
GDPR is a Regulation that focuses on protecting personal data, data confidentiality, and managing the risks to the rights of EU citizens and residents.
While ISO 27001 is a framework that offers guidance on how organizations can implement clear and actionable policies for reducing risks that generate security incidents.
Even though some requirements in the data security aspect overlap, GDPR is a much wider term that encompasses both data privacy and data security and prescribes how personal data should be protected and handled.
It’s equally important to note that GDPR and ISO 27001 are not interchangeable whatsoever.
However, according to some sources the ISO 27001 covers around 75-80% of the GDPR compliance, making it the ideal choice of a framework to support GDPR compliance.
2.Security of processing
GDPR requires the security of processing by applying appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a proper level of data protection.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t outline technical details relating to how organizations can maintain an adequate data security level and minimize external and internal threats.
ISO 27001 addresses this gap by providing actionable measures on how to reduce the risks. Therefore, it’s safe to argue that GDPR is descriptive, while ISO 27001 is prescriptive.
It’s easy to think that ISO 27001 compliance amounts to GDPR compliance, but that’s not the case.
Even so, complying with ISO 27001 provides you with a clear pathway for GDPR compliance in the security aspect.
This will go a long way in ensuring that their data security measures are concrete enough to safeguard sensitive data.
3. GDPR is not optional
It is very important to understand that getting your organization compliant with ISO 27001 is voluntary, while GDPR applies to all organizations within and outside the EU, which handle EU citizens’ and residents’ data.
So compliance with GDPR is not optional, you are very much obligated to comply or risk high penalties.
ISO 27701 extension to the ISO 27001
Since the GDPR has propelled the whole array of privacy regulations worldwide (such as CCPA or LGPD) the organizations are now obligated to comply with the growing list of privacy regulations.
This is where ISO 27701 comes into play. It serves as a privacy extension of ISO 27001 and ISO 27002, focused on reducing the risks to the privacy aspect and the rights of the individuals, and provides guidance for establishing, implementing, and maintaining, a privacy information management system (PIMS).
It is aimed at enhancing the organizations’ efforts to cover privacy management as well and demonstrate that appropriate were taken to comply with GDPR (and other data protection laws).
There are a lot of differences when it comes to ISO 27001 and GDPR, not only those that we mentioned.
However, we cannot deny that ISO certification can boost your GDPR compliance and serve as a great start when implementing technical and organizational measures prescribed by the GDPR.
GDPR is more than just security and with ISO 27701 privacy extension you can create a clear advantage when it comes to your privacy program.
Demonstrating ISO 27001 compliance can be seen as a huge advantage in business, providing reassurance to your customers, partners, regulators, and government bodies that your organization is taking a proactive approach when it comes to data security and data breach prevention.