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ISO 27001 for educational establishments

Educational institutions hold vast amounts of data, making them prime targets for cyber attacks. This data ranges from test content and student financial information, to demographic and healthcare information. Considering how sensitive this data is, funders, prospective students, and governments increasingly demand that schools demonstrate their commitment to data security.

Schools can prove their commitment by adhering to ISO 27001, an internationally recognized data security standard. Through ISO 27001 compliance, institutions gain stronger protection against malicious and accidental data leaks. For educational institutions in the UK and EU, ISO 27001 also ensures GDPR compliance. 

How ISO 27001 protects school data

ISO 27001 safeguards data by supporting schools to build and maintain a robust Information Security Management System (ISMS). This system consists of policies and procedures that introduce layers of security into your people, processes, and technology. This means that your:

  • People are trained and aware, reducing risks related to human error and malicious actions like phishing
  • Processes are established for managing and protecting information securely
  • Technology is used effectively to defend against unauthorized access and data breaches

Simple steps towards ISO 27001 compliance

The idea of building an ISMS for your educational institution can seem intimidating. But this process can be as gradual and simple as taking the right step at the right time. To start, here are some best practices that relate to your people, processes, and technology. Implementing each step will contribute toward ISO 27001 compliance.

People: Create a security-minded culture

  • Regular security awareness training — Roll out continuous training programs. These should educate staff and students on common security issues like inbound and malicious attacks, how to share data securely, and what is considered sensitive data. 
  • Establish roles and responsibilities — Clearly define and communicate information security roles and responsibilities. Highlight the critical role that all employees play in identifying risk and maintaining data security.
  • Introduce non-intrusive tech - Providing people with user-friendly tools that give them a nudge in the right direction when sharing sensitive data is a sure fire way to avoid seemingly small but costly mistakes. Solutions built to integrate with existing email clients and CMS tools will streamline workflows for busy staff, and provide in-the-moment alerts to potential errors, such as sending sensitive data to the wrong person, or failing to use Bcc. 

Processes: Establish and refine your security practices

  • Perform a risk assessment — Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to map your current security system and pinpoint vulnerabilities, then identify what threats could potentially impact your data the most. In your assessment, consider the legal, regulatory, or contractual obligations you must adhere to. Performing a risk assessment is often the first step in the road to ISO compliance.
  • Develop policies and procedures — Create and maintain policies and procedures to plug security gaps and align with ISO 27001 standards. These documents should be living resources that are regularly reviewed and updated to adapt to new threats and changes.
  • Create an incident response plan — An effective response plan will help you swiftly and compliantly manage any data breaches should they occur.

Technology: Leverage tools for enhanced security

  • Implement access controls — Your technology should have controls ensuring only authorized individuals can access sensitive information.
  • Only use secure communication tools — Limit communication to secure communication platforms with features that guard against data breaches. Dealing with fewer platforms simplifies security by limiting variables. It also makes it easier to keep pace with change, as you only deal with tools that fall under your safety net. Ensuring your email client is fit for purpose, with the relevant tools and encryption protocols, is a great place to start.
  • Auditing and reporting tools - In the event of a data loss event, access to tools and data to identify, control, and manage the event will ensure your data protection leaders can take the required steps to meet your compliance responsibilities, controlling the event and mitigating unnecessary repercussions.

The path to ISO 27001 compliance

ISO 27001 compliance requires a holistic approach that addresses your people, processes, and technology. By taking proactive steps to improve security in each area, your educational institution will go a long way toward creating a secure, compliant environment.

At Zivver, we offer an integrated email security solution that helps mitigate security risks for the educational sector. For more information, learn how educational institutions like yours rely on Ziver to improve their Information Security Management System and become ISO 27001 compliant.

First published -
Last updated - 01/05/24
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