ISO 27001 and Pentesting: What You Need to Know

May 8, 2024 HackerOne Pentest Delivery Team

Today, most organizations have some level of information security, but often it consists of point solutions deployed independently and operating in silos. ISO 27001 promotes a strategic, holistic approach resulting in a security process encompassing risk management, cyber resilience and operational excellence. It can be adopted across the entire organization or for a single group or department. Organizations can choose simply to comply with ISO 27001 policies, or they can opt to have an ISO 27001 certification audit, leveraging pentesting to demonstrate compliance and enhance their security posture effectively.

Why Do Organizations Need ISO 27001?

With the increase in high-profile cyberattacks, security is on everyone’s mind – or should be. Organizations of any size across a wide range of business sectors can benefit from achieving and demonstrating ISO 27001 compliance.  

Some of the benefits of adopting ISO 27001 include:

  • Increase Security and Risk Mitigation: By implementing the ISO 27001’s risk-based approach and management controls, the organization is better positioned to proactively discover and mitigate vulnerabilities, reducing the possibility of experiencing a security incident. And if an incident does occur, the organization will be better prepared to address it and minimize its impact.
  •  Meet Legal and Regulatory Requirements:  Achieving ISO 27001 certification demonstrates compliance with data protection and privacy regulations.
  • Build Trust: ISO 27001 certification demonstrates to customers, stakeholders, and potential clients that the organization is serious about information security and that it has implemented robust information security practices to protect its assets and information. Being and displaying ISO 27001 certification can give organizations a strong competitive edge.
  • Embrace Continuous Improvement:  In following ISO 27001, organizations regularly assess their security processes, making them better prepared to deal with changing business needs and emerging threats.

Maintain ISO/IEC 27001 Certification with HackerOne Pentesting

While, ISO 27001 doesn’t specifically require pentesting to achieve compliance, the standard strongly recommends it as a demonstrative security practice that produces concrete evidence to support an organization's robust security program. 

For example, penetration testing is outlined within the guidance details in Section A.12.6.1 -Management of technical vulnerabilities, Section 8.16 Monitoring Activities, and 8.25 Secure Development Lifecycle. It is also recommended as evidence to ensure suppliers maintain secure practices. While automated vulnerability scanning identifies known vulnerabilities in your systems, only human-directed pentesting can reveal hidden weaknesses and emerging threats that could be exploited if not addressed. Pentesting aligns well with the standard’s risk-based approach and should be an integral component of any ISMS. Comprehensive pentesting, is ideally performed by external third parties like HackerOne that have a vetted, global network of pentesters with extensive knowledge of security threats, testing methodologies, and compliance frameworks.

How frequently you perform a pentest depends on your organization’s size, risk profile, industry, or regulatory requirements. The general recommendation is at least once a year, preferably twice. Enterprise-level organizations with high-risk profiles and sensitive customer data can benefit from transitioning to scalable, repeatable, programmatic testing instead of relying solely on point-in-time, traditional pentesting.

To learn more about how to use pentesting to address ISO 27001 compliance, contact the experts at HackerOne today.

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