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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Internal Auditing ISMS

Dilemmas with ISO 27001 & BS 25999-2 internal auditors

'By 'Dejan on March 22, 2010
If this is the first time you have come across the notion of internal auditor, you are probably puzzled – Why would I need another control? Who is going to pay for it? Who should I employ to do it? It is such a waste of time…
Well, it doesn’t have to be so bad – besides complying with ISO 27001 & BS 25999-2 standards, internal audits could be quite useful for your other business affairs (whether related to information security & business continuity or not).
The point with internal audits is that they should discover problems that would otherwise stay hidden and would therefore harm the business. Let’s be realistic – it is human to make mistakes, so it‘s impossible to have a system with no mistakes; it is however possible to have a system which improves itself and learns from its mistakes. Internal audits are a crucial part of such a system.
There are a few ways to perform internal audit:
a) Employ a full time internal auditor – this is suitable only for larger organizations who would have enough work for such a person (some types of organizations – e.g. banks – are obliged by law to employ such functions)
b) Employ part time internal auditors – this is the most common situation – the organizations use their own employees to perform internal audits alongside their regular job functions. One important thing to pay attention to: in order to avoid conflict of interest (the auditors cannot audit their own work), there should be at least two internal auditors so that one could audit the regular job of the other.
c) Employ internal auditor from outside of the organization – although this is not a person employed in the organization, it is still considered internal audit because the audit is performed by the organization itself, according to its own rules. Usually this is done by a person who is knowledgeable in this field (independent consultant etc.).
However, from my experience as an auditor, the sad truth is that most of the organizations perform internal audits just to satisfy the certification body. The result of such internal audits are a few non-conformities which do not get deep into the real problems of information security management system (ISMS) or business continuity management system (BCMS). This is a waste of time – if the companies have invested time of their internal auditors to perform such jobs, they should gain some benefits out of it.
But how then to approach internal audits in the right way – here are some thoughts:
  1. The management should view the internal audit as one of the best tools to improve the system, not only as a means to get certified.
  2. The internal auditor should be qualified – this means he/she must have experience in information security, information technology and auditing techniques. It does not mean that the auditor must be an expert in those fields.
  3. The internal audit should be performed in a positive way – the aim should be to improve your system, not to blame the employees for their mistakes.
On the positive side, as a certification auditor I did see some organizations performing internal audits in a right way. Although their employees did feel a little uncomfortable about someone checking their activities, very soon they saw the benefits of such approach – problems became transparent, and were resolved rather soon.
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  1. Alen Gojceta Says:

    I believe that the 3rd point above is the most important one. Audits often become purpose of their own, especially when this is a full time employment role within an organization. “The positive way” that you stated could be interpreted as “work for the purpose of business, and not for the purpose of the standard itself”.



How to get ISO 27001 certification? - Risk Management Studio
Organizations may be certified compliant with ISO/IEC 27001 by a number of accredited certification bodies worldwide. Certification against any of the recognized national variants of ISO/IEC 27001 (e.g. the Japanese version) by an accredited certification body is functionally equivalent to certification against ISO/IEC 27001 itself. Certification audits are usually conducted by ISO/IEC 27001 Lead Auditors.

In some countries, the bodies which verify conformity of management systems to specified standards are called "certification bodies", in others "registration bodies", "assessment and registration bodies", "certification/ registration bodies", and sometimes "registrars".

ISO/IEC 27001 certification usually involves a three-stage audit process:

Stage 1 is a "table top" review of the existence and completeness of key documentation such as the organization's security policy, Statement of Applicability (SoA) and Risk Treatment Plan (RTP).

Stage 2 is a detailed, in-depth audit involving testing the existence and effectiveness of the information security controls stated in the SoA and RTP, as well as their supporting documentation.

Stage 3 is a follow-up reassessment audit to confirm that a previously-certified organization remains in compliance with the standard. Certification maintenance involves periodic reviews and reassessments to confirm that the ISMS continues to operate as specified and intended.

Risk Management Studio is software that guides you through the three-stage audit process for ISO/IEC 27001 certification and makes it a much smoother and faster process.


Hello Karma,

First of all, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the forum as probably our
first member from Bhutan.  Welcome!

Without more specific information from you, it is difficult to answer your
question except in a rather general way but I hope the following suggestions
help for now.

1.  ISO/IEC 27005 covers risk management, including risk assessment, in the
context of information security.  It isn't a checklist but a more generic
description of the process of building your own approach to assessing and
managing information security risks.

2.  ISO/IEC 27002 also mentions risk management and assessment, but is
mostly a menu of information security controls addressing a wide variety of
situations.  It is a worthwhile model or template against which to review a
specific set of controls, and can be turned into a checklist provided it is
interpreted sensibly at 'run time'.  I certainly use it in this manner, as a
reminder of the most important information security controls that I would
normally check for a client.  The structure and detail in '27002 is very
helpful to structure and inform an audit report, for example.

3.  There are various goodies in the free ISO27k Toolkit at:  In particular I'd
recommend a good look at:

4.  ISACA's COBIT is another way to structure a security audit, assessment
or review: see

If you need something more specific, please let us know.  There are just
under 2,000 people on this forum with a wealth of experience to tap into.

Kind regards,

Gary Hinson
UPS: abbreviation or oxymoron?  Creative awareness materials  ISO/IEC 27000 standards  Going green

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