Implementing ISO 27001 Password Policy: Everything You Need to Know

Anwita

Anwita

Mar 01, 2024

ISO 27001 Password Policy

Identity theft is not a joke, Jim. Millions of people suffer every year!

Remember this dialogue from the popular TV show The Office?

As compliance experts, we believe these are golden words to live by. Identity theft in a business environment ranges from wide net phishing attempts to targeted spear phishing attempts. And this is just one spoke in the hub. Mandating a strong password policy sets the foundational guardrails for fortifying your security posture. As a business it is imperative to present a posture that is aligned with security compliance frameworks and latest best practices.

If your business is in the ISO 27001 compliance journey, implementing a robust policy that encompasses every requirement of ISO 27001 password policy is key to clear the audit with non-conformities. 

But what exactly are the ISO guidelines? Let’s understand the official guidelines, best practices, and how to implement them. 

ISO 27001 password requirements – what does ISO say?

ISO 27001 does not officially mandate a specific set of rules for managing passwords. Rather, it lists down rules, technical measures, and administrative guardrails on access control and management that the organization can implement throughout their infrastructure. These guardrails work together to help you adhere to ISO 27001 password requirements. 

Let’s break them down. 

9.1 Access controls

The key objective here is to limit access to sensitive data to right individuals, or “authorized personnel”. One way to restrict unauthorized access to sensitive files is by requiring users to authenticate their identity using something that’s confidential – such as a password. IT infrastructures are composed of multiple systems, files, and users – creating a complex ecosystem. To manage all passwords and user identity, you need rules governing the use cases, exceptions, and roles. You should ensure: 

  • 9.1.1 Access control policy – Establish, document, and review access control policy based on business specific requirements.
  • 9.1.2 Access to networks and network services: Limit user access to networks and services to only what is required for their role.

9.2 User access management

Access management is an integral part of ISO 27001 policies covered across six sections.  As the name suggests, the goal of the user access management control is to allow only authorized users and prevent unauthorized access. Many instances of data loss can be attributed to insider threats – be it accidental or intentional. As you scale, the number of users and systems grow and managing individual cases of assigning, revoking, denying, and updating becomes a crucial piece to manage user access and minimizing instances of unauthorized access. Your to-dos include: 

  • 9.2.1 User registration and deregistration – Create and maintain a formal process to register authorized users and deregister them once their access rights have expired.
  • 9.2.2 User access provisioning – Create a process to assign and revoke access privileges.
  • 9.2.3 Management of privileged access rights – Restrict and manage the use of privileged rights.
  • 9.2.4 Management of secret authentication information of users – Create and use a formal process to allocate confidential authentication information
  • 9.2.5 Review of user access rights – As an asset owner, you should review the access rights at regular intervals to manage and mitigate suspicious activities.
  • 9.2.6 Removal or adjustment of access rights – Whenever an employee leaves the organization or an external third party stakeholder completes their contract, revoke their access to all systems and files.

Sprinto streamlines critical system security, ensuring smooth access while maintaining compliance. It automates user mapping, adapts access policies based on roles, and alerts you to role changes and anomalies. With Sprinto, you gain visibility into user activity, enhancing security and compliance effortlessly.

9.3 User responsibilities

The accountability of protecting confidential credentials does not end at the IT manager or system administration. It is a shared responsibility amongst users and asset owners. To implement and enforce security accountability, personnel with access to sensitive data in an organization must be mandated to follow a heightened series of security clearance processes.  It is also their responsibility to  practice physical security measures at all times to limit/minimize those instances.

  • 9.3.1 Use of Secret Authentication Methods – Employees and external stakeholders who have access to authentication will be required to follow the policies and practices set by the organization.

Streamline your ISO 27001 journey

9.4 Application access controls

Systems and applications are the critical components that make your IT infrastructure. To ensure that your security guardrails function effectively, align your policy and ISO controls to the systems and users. In other words, only privileged users (people with job roles that require access to sensitive data for efficient functioning) should be allowed to use these facilities. Here’s how you can ensure that your business’ application access controls are implemented according to the global standards. 

  • 9.4.1 Information Access Restriction – Set up access control to systems and applications in keeping with the policy.
  • 9.4.2 Secure Login Procedures – Set up access control to system and application functions in keeping with the policy.
  • 9.4.3 Password Management System – Create and implement quality passwords using the password management system. Quality refers to its strength and likelihood of being hacked.
  • 9.4.4 Use of Privileged Utility Programs – Restrict and control utility programs that can be programmed to override system and application controls.
  • 9.4.5 Access Control to Program Source Code – Limit and restrict unnecessary access to program source codes

Best practices to implement ISO 27001 password policy 

Follow these best practices to meet the requirements of ISO 27001 password policy: 

  • Length: Shorter the password, easier it is to crack. The minimum acceptable length for a strong password is at least eight characters.
  • Complexity requirements: Creating a lengthy password is effective only as long as it is difficult to crack. Your name, city, pet name, and so on may have more than eight characters but are weak passwords that are easy to guess.
  • Characters: Continuing on the previous point, the key to a complex password is a mix of lower case, upper case, numbers, special characters, and symbols.
  • Review: No matter how complex and hard to crack a password may be, it is not impossible for malicious actors to figure it out using hacking tools. Update previous passwords every three or six months.
  • Default setting: Vendor provided solutions come with default passwords which are easy to guess. Whenever you purchase and deploy new software, change the default passwords.

Get ISO 27001 ready in weeks

Importance of ISO 27001 password policy

ISO 27001 Password Policies secures and strengthens passwords by offering guidelines and outlining the requirements related to policies, controls, and accountability. This helps you reduce the likelihood of malicious actors gaining unauthorized access to sensitive files. Here’s why password rules are important: 

Adherence to compliance

Adhering to ISO 27001 password policies of a sub clause in Annex A is mandatory if you handle sensitive data and want to be ISO certified. While undergoing audit checks, Password policies when implemented incorrectly, can become a cause for non compliance when highlighted in an audit. Given that all common security frameworks like HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2, and NIST have access control as a requirement, complying with this requirement makes you compliant for all.

Business continuity

One file or system in the wrong hands is a security risk that can wreak complete havoc and halt everything from moving smoothly. Security breaches, much like dominos, can affect multiple systems and disrupt workflows. Bringing things back to normal can take weeks, and even months. Not to mention the cost and human bandwidth components. In other words, it’s not a risk you want to take.

Build trust

In an increasingly privacy focused world, implementing data protection safeguards is one of the most effective branding strategies. Strong password policies help you build a strong security posture. A good security posture shows your seriousness in protecting customer privacy and gives you a competitive edge to unlock potential sales deals.

Hate writing policies from scratch? Use Sprinto’s pre-built, fully customizable library of ISO 27001 password policy templates that eliminates the risk of oversight and errors that come with manual policy writing. Publish, organize, share, and manage policies like a pro. Learn more

ISO 27001:2022 Annex A Control 5.17

The latest version of ISO 27001 (2022) released 11 new controls, which includes 5.17 – Authentication information. It says “Allocation and management of authentication information shall be controlled by a management process, including advising personnel on appropriate handling of authentication information”. 

This control requires businesses to protect the techniques that safeguard their sensitive data, such as user access credentials, authentication questions, passwords, and more from unauthorized access. Moreover, you should ensure that authorized users can access the information and when they want to or reset it if necessary. 

Stay on top of your password regulation efforts with Sprinto

Protecting critical systems is one of the mandatory requirements of ISO 27001. Manual access management is time-consuming, prone to errors, and a ticking bomb for non-compliance. 

Sprinto helps you ensure business as usual and boost productivity by balancing system security and easy accessibility. It is built to intelligently align the requirements of ISO password requirements with the specific control. The system alerts your IT administrators in case there is a breach of passwords to ensure quick resolution. 

Implement and manage access control based on level of risk, role, and the principle of least privilege. Continuously monitor systems for anomalous or non-compliant behavior such as break-in attempts into critical systems. Maintain and automatically document a real-time inventory on user accounts, detect poor configuration, access logs, and more. 

Create and configure critical systems and maintain workflows suitable to your business to ensure smooth access management. 

Still not sure? Speak to our experts to know how we can help you get sweeping coverage of Annex A controls. 

FAQS

What is the mandated ISO 27001 password length?

ISO 27001 does not specify a password length but to ensure password security, use a password that is at least eight characters long. 

What are the most common mistakes you can avoid when setting up your password? 

Avoid using common passwords, use a mix of numeric and alphabetic characters, avoid using simple passwords, and use multi-factor authentication.

Anwita

Anwita

Anwita is a cybersecurity enthusiast and veteran blogger all rolled into one. Her love for everything cybersecurity started her journey into the world compliance. With multiple certifications on cybersecurity under her belt, she aims to simplify complex security related topics for all audiences. She loves to read nonfiction, listen to progressive rock, and watches sitcoms on the weekends.

How useful was this post?

0/5 - (0 votes)

Found this interesting?
Share it with your friends

Get a wingman for
your next audit.

Schedule a personalized demo and scale business

Sprinto: Your growth superpower

Use Sprinto to centralize security compliance management – so nothing
gets in the way of your moving up and winning big.