In today's interconnected world, information security has become a critical concern for organisations of all sizes in all industries. Safeguarding valuable information assets and ensuring their confidentiality, integrity, and availability is paramount to establishing and maintaining trust with stakeholders while mitigating cyber threats' risks. Australian organisations recognise the importance of aligning themselves with the ISM to achieve these goals.
The ISM, developed by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), is a standardised cyber security framework tailored explicitly for Australian organisations. It is a dynamic and evolving resource that empowers organisations to implement robust risk management practices, fortify their systems against potential threats, and stay informed about the ever-changing threat landscape.
You can find the latest version of the ISM here: https://www.cyber.gov.au/resources-business-and-government/essential-cyber-security/ism
What does the ISM Cover?
Leveraging a structured approach to managing IT infrastructure and security, the ISM covers a variety of topics, including:
- Cybersecurity roles
- Incident management
- Procurement and outsourcing
- Security documentation
- Physical security
- Personal security
- Communication infrastructure
- Communication systems
- Enterprise mobility
- Evaluated products
- ICT equipment
- System hardening
- System management
- System monitoring
- Software development
- Database systems
- Data transfer
- Security Terminology
Who should be using the ISM?
The ISM has been developed by cyber professionals and is updated quarterly to address the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape. Both organisations and security experts from all industries and domains should leverage the guidelines outlined in the ISM to protect their assets, data, and people. Particularly any entity operating digital systems and entrusted with managing sensitive data, intellectual property, customer information, or proprietary resources. Such entities could include government agencies, financial institutions, healthcare organisations, educational institutions, and businesses across the technology, manufacturing, and e-commerce sectors. By embracing the ISM, these entities can establish a robust and standardised approach to information security, mitigate risks, comply with regulatory requirements, and demonstrate their commitment to security management and awareness.
How to implement the ISM and ensure compliance
While implementing and adhering to the ISM is not mandatory, it is widely acknowledged as a sound practice that instills security assurance within organisations. Furthermore, achieving ISM compliance and successfully passing an independent Information Security Registered Assessors Program, also known as an IRAP assessment, can be highly advantageous for certain companies. By undergoing this evaluation conducted by a certified third party, organisations validate their adherence to the ISM and offer an additional layer of assurance to their partnering entities. This demonstrates a commitment to robust security practices and provides stakeholders with enhanced confidence in the organisation's ability to safeguard sensitive information.
Implementing the ISM within an organisation requires careful planning and execution to leverage it effectively to protect information assets. The process of implementing and ensuring compliance involves several key steps.
- Dedicate a team: Whether you assemble an internal team of skilled security specialists or outsource the task to a trusted third party, it is crucial to form a team familiar with the ISM, Australian security best practices, and the specific technology infrastructure employed within the organisation. This team should also understand the organisation's objectives, enabling it to align its efforts with its strategic goals and security requirements.
- Assess your current security posture: With this dedicated team in place, the next step is to thoroughly assess the organisation's existing information security configuration and practices. By conducting this assessment, organisations will better understand their current security posture and identify areas that require a security uplift. This assessment will also serve as a valuable learning experience, providing the organisation with insight into the visibility and control it wields over its IT infrastructure.
- Create a roadmap: Building upon the assessment findings, the next crucial step involves converting the identified gaps in ISM compliance into practical and tangible actions. Such tasks may encompass drafting comprehensive policies on IT security management, implementing systematic device patching protocols, and fine-tuning configuration settings. Such a roadmap prepares an organisation and its staff to bridge the compliance gaps identified in the current state assessment.
- Implementation: Based on the roadmap, the organisation will now have actionable tasks to enact. Various challenges may arise in this phase, so it is crucial to ensure widespread awareness and understanding around the organisation about the movement and the tasks underhand. This requires effective communication and training programs to educate employees about their roles, responsibilities, and the importance of information security.
- Review: Once you have aligned your organisation to the ISM, it is crucial to conduct regular checks to maintain compliance. The need for regular inspections is to:
- Maintain compliance with the changing ISM: As our world and technology change, so does the ISM. Organisations should maintain adherence to the best of their abilities based on the latest ISM release.
- Prevent configuration drift: With the ever-changing nature of technology, it is not uncommon for deviations from the original design. Regular reviews are a critical mechanism for managing configuration drift, ensuring that unintended and insecure deviations are promptly rectified.
- Identify emerging risks and vulnerabilities: Regular reviews play a pivotal role in proactively identifying and assessing emerging risks and vulnerabilities. Organisations can stay one step ahead by conducting a study and gaining valuable insights into potential threats and areas of weakness.
- Address changes in the organisational landscape: As the corporate landscape evolves, it is crucial to ensure that the security policies and procedures remain aligned with the organisation's current IT infrastructure. Regular reviews enable organisations to identify shifts, such as technological advancements, regulatory changes, or operational transformations, that may necessitate updates to such organisational documents. Maintaining up-to-date and accurate documentation dramatically facilitates the process of ensuring ISM compliance.
The ISM is a comprehensive guide for organisations to protect their information assets in today's technology-driven world. It is a vital resource for organisations across industries and domains, as it provides guidelines developed by cyber professionals and is regularly updated to address current cyber threats. Implementing and adhering to the ISM is not compulsory but is considered good practice for Australian organisations aiming to enhance their cyber security posture.
Ultimately, the ISM allows organisations to establish a systematic and structured approach to information security. By following the guidelines outlined in the ISM, organisations can better protect their assets, data, and people and mitigate the risks associated with cyber threats. In an ever-evolving threat landscape, leveraging the ISM provides organisations with the necessary tools and knowledge to navigate the complexities of information security and maintain a resilient and secure environment.