A few days ago I received the following question from one of our clients: “What is the difference between ISMS Risk Assessment and BCM Risk Assessment?” And, although the answer to this question might seem easy, in actuality it is not.
Here’s the rest of his question: “… Because on your blog I found that if I’ve done ISMS it should be fine for BCM. On the other hand, ISO 22301 recommends to use ISO 31000 standard.”
Why ISO 27001 risk management framework is a good solution
It is true that ISO 22301 refers to ISO 31000 regarding risk assessment, but ISO 31000 is written very generally since it covers all kinds of risks (not only business continuity, but information security, financial, market, credit, and other risks).
On the other hand, risk assessment framework is described much better in ISO 27001, and even more precisely in ISO 27005; the focus of information security risk assessment is on preserving confidentiality, integrity and availability. And availability is the key link between information security and business continuity – when performing ISMS risk assessment, all the business continuity risks will be taken into account.
And the good thing is, risk assessment as it is described in ISO 27001 and ISO 27005 is perfectly aligned with ISO 31000.
Possible differences in approach
But this is where it might get complicated – my client had another question because he wanted everything to be cleared out: “I think that another difference between those two Risk Assessment approaches is – with ISMS we deal with assets (both primary and supportive); however, with BCM we deal with critical activities and processes.”
And he was basically right – business continuity risk assessment does not have to be so detailed; it can be made high-level for activities and processes. But, although this approach is fine from the point of view of the standard itself, in my view the problem is in the implementation – how would you mitigate the risks if you don’t know exactly where the problems are?
This is where I think ISO 27001 risk assessment framework is better – it forces you to pinpoint where the weaknesses are, which assets should be protected better, etc. If you kept the risk assessment on the process level you probably wouldn’t get all this valuable information.
Risk mitigation compatibility
It is worth mentioning here – ISO 27001 risk treatment options are completely aligned with risk mitigation requirements in ISO 22301 and ISO 31000. Basically, business continuity mitigation comes down to 4 options described in ISO 27001: (1) applying appropriate controls, (2) accepting risks, (3) avoiding risks, and (4) transferring risks. There are no options listed in ISO 22301, while in ISO 31000 they are named a bit differently and organized a bit differently, but they are essentially the same: changing the likelihood and the consequence, retaining the risk, avoiding the risk, and sharing the risk.
Further, ISO 22301 requires you to “plan actions to address these risks and opportunities,” while ISO 27001 asks for developing the Risk Treatment Plan – again, very similar requirement with a slightly different name.
And to finish with this: there is another good thing about ISO 27001 – in Annex A it gives you a catalogue of possible safeguards to choose from; this is something that neither ISO 22301 nor ISO 31000 has.
Hope I managed to persuade him. What do you think?
Click here to see a Risk Assessment and Treatment Methodology template.