What is ISO 31000?

ISO 31000 featured

Many enterprises are looking for ways to increase their security and to protect their interests. As the world of cybersecurity, legal risk and operational challenges become more and more complex, checklist compliance regulations just aren’t going to cut it. That’s why governments and private organizations are increasingly turning to risk management as a tool for security and compliance. That’s why ISO 31000, a standardization guide for risk management frameworks, is so important.


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) releases documents and recommendations for organizations to map their internal processes and products. Such documentation can cover a variety of standardization efforts for logistical operations, technology configurations and nearly any other business or manufacturing process.

ISO 31000 represents a series of documents relating to risk management practice. Within the 31000 family of documents, organizations will find the following standards:

Generally speaking, ISO requirements aren’t mandatory in any industry. However, these requirements do provide critical information on how specialists in the area of risk assessment and management understand the process and how large organizations can implement these best practices. 


What is Risk Management?

ISO 31000

Risk management is an essential factor in cybersecurity and compliance, and it is only becoming more so as threats and challenges evolve. 

Nominally, many security frameworks call for a checklist of requirements. That is, organizations should be able to implement a set series of technologies or practices, note that in a report or form, and provide that report to a governing body to demonstrate proper security. 

However, modern business systems are complex and nuanced and, in many cases, hyper-specialized on specific applications. Furthermore, the demands they are placed under are varied and equally difficult. Understandably, simply having a checklist of compliance requirements, while convenient and valuable, is only part of the solution. 

Many sectors, including government IT management and national infrastructure, are turning to risk management as a model for compliance. Guidelines like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Risk Management Framework (RMF) foreground risk assessment as a driving force for compliance. 

Quickly categorizing RMF, NIST divides the framework into seven stages:

  • Prepare
  • Categorize
  • Select
  • Implement
  • Assess
  • Authorize
  • Monitor

The organization is expected to think about their IT infrastructure and its relationship with potential vulnerabilities at each stage. Gaps between IT systems and security threats, business goals or compliance requirements are mapped onto the organizational structure to coordinate what it means for that organization to prioritize security and business equally. More importantly, these organizations can do so with a better-informed framework that promotes understanding that infrastructure and its gaps. 

Unfortunately, NIST doesn’t apply to all industries, even if risk-based approaches are helpful. That’s where a document like ISO 31000 comes into play. With ISO, enterprises outside regulated industries (and some within them) can leverage a framework that teaches them how to manage risk as a driving force for aligning security and business goals. 


How Does ISO 31000 Frame Risk Management?

ISO 31000 breaks down an approach to risk-based management to three key components:

  • Identifying Risks
  • Evaluating Probabilities of Negative Events Based on Those Risks
  • Determining Event Impact Severity

From these components, ISO 31000 defines eight principles:

  • Inclusivity: All organizational stakeholders must be involved in risk management. 
  • Dynamism: Risk management must change and adjust with changing business and industry conditions. 
  • Best Information: Risk management must be informed with the most accurate data available. 
  • Human Power: Risk assessments must include evaluations of human factors. 
  • Continuous Improvement: Risk management and assessment tools must continuously improve based on changing business conditions. 
  • Integration: Risk management should be integrated into all business operations. 
  • Comprehensive Structure: Risk management should address all known risks rather than piecemeal issues. 
  • Customized: Risk management must tailor itself to company needs.

Finally, these principles and components are applied across six critical areas in an organization: 

  • Leadership: Business and technical leaders must drive the adoption and continued application of the risk management framework. 
  • Integration: Operations come first, and risk management tools (while necessary at all places in the organization) must not impede operations. 
  • Design: Organizations must drive risk management design based on their specific needs. 
  • Implementation: Organizations must have clear policies and procedures around implementing the risk management framework, including objectives, deadlines and outcomes. 
  • Evaluation: Organizations must implement evaluation criteria and metrics to measure risk management efforts.
  • Improvement: The organization must continually improve their risk management systems based on organizational needs and industry demands. 


Leverage ISO 31000 for Risk-Based Security and Operations

Many enterprises look to ISO 31000 certification to help shore up their complex security needs. When compliance checklists don’t address the challenges of protecting the business, a document like ISO 31000 can provide the framework necessary to meet those challenges. 

Applying the framework, however, takes time, effort and support. Certification is a powerful tool to signal your commitment to risk and security, while also helping you create relationships with expert security firms who perform audits and provide insights into how to implement risk management solutions. 


Are You Preparing for ISO 31000 Certification

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