Many of you will know that (ISC)² is hosting a major event this month – in downtown Tampa, Florida – and I’m sure that you’ve also heard the phrases ISO and SC27. But what does this all mean?
ISO is the International Standards Organisation, set up in 1947, which oversees the creation, publication and maintenance of standards covering everything from acid-free paper to quality management systems, smart cities to information, and cybersecurity. ISO has committees of experts – drawn from around the world – who volunteer their time and share their knowledge to create and maintain standards. Each committee has a particular subject area or topic it specialises in and JTC1/SC27 (or SC27) is the committee that specialises in information security. Standards help set the bar for organisations by defining good practice and setting targets to be met.
Many cybersecurity professionals have used, or at least are familiar with, ISO standards produced by SC27 (for example, ISO/IEC 27001) and (ISC)²’s CBKs reference standards as part of the knowledge required by a security professional. But we don’t just passively write about ISO standards in our textbooks. (ISC)² is a ‘category A liaison organisation,’ which carries significant influence and allows us to propose new standards, provide comments, draft text for inclusion in standards and suggest changes to existing standards. (ISC)² staff regularly attend ISO meetings and we invite our members to the same meetings; as a result, we actively share knowledge and expertise to ensure these standards reflect good practices. Our contributions help form the basis of these standards; build processes and frameworks using real world experience; and assist with the writing of text to help individuals implement the standards. So our contributions – in person or in written submissions – help form the foundations on which information security can be built. Our work with ISO shows our commitment to a safe and secure cyber world.
The creation and maintenance of new standards follows a set pattern, in which face-to-face meetings are held twice a year. These meetings – such as the one (ISC)² is hosting– bring together experts from around the globe who collaborate, share insights and experience, codify good practices and draft the text that will become part of a new standard, or modify and enhance an existing one. In the time between the face-to-face meetings, experts are invited to comment on the outputs of the meeting and prepare for the next meeting. ISO experts are drawn from industry, academia and from other standards organisations (such as NIST or BSI). ISO experts can also be appointed as ‘editors’ for an international standard. This role is fundamental to the standards process and editors are ultimately responsible for project managing, writing, collaborating and delivering the international standard. Being an editor is a voluntary role and requires tact, diplomacy and the ability to synthesise agreement from varying opinions. An editor also has to be able to write using the, sometimes arcane, language of international standards.
So, what are the meetings like? They can be great fun, insightful, difficult and procedural in turn or at the same time. They are a great forum to learn, share and network as these meetings draw around 400 experts together for a week.
It’s worth remembering that much of the discussions this month will eventually find their way into information security practice, how we deploy information security in our own offices, our members’ work and (ISC)² educational materials. — Dr. Adrian Davis, CISSP, Managing Director, EMEA, (ISC)²