Understanding ISO 27001 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Their Benefits

April 27, 2023

What is ISO 27001 certification?

Becoming ISO 27001 certified is an effective way to assure your customers that your systems meet the highest standard of security. ISO 27001 is an internationally recognized framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an Information Security Management System (ISMS). ISO 27001 is the only auditable international standard that defines the requirements of an ISMS. 

Understanding how best to prepare for your ISO 27001 audit, as well as how to best assess and manage your organization’s risks is crucial for a successful audit. 

It may also be helpful to read our blog detailing ISO 27001 vs SOC 2 in order to understand the differences between the two standards.

ISO 27001 key performance indicators (KPIs)

ISO 27001 KPIs are critical metrics used to evaluate the effectiveness of an Information Security Management System (ISMS). These KPIs help in assessing whether the ISMS is functioning as intended and meeting its set objectives. KPIs should be recorded in order to demonstrate the performance of the ISMS and its continuous improvement.

Put yourself in the shoes of your organization. When it comes to information security, how can you tell if everything is on track to achieve its goals? An ISMS’ performance can be evaluated using these key performance indicators (KPIs). 

ISO 27001 KPIs enable organizations to monitor their ISMS and implement or update relevant controls to ensure they are functioning effectively and meeting their intended purposes and objectives. However, it’s crucial to select KPIs that align with your specific business objectives and information security goals, ensuring they provide meaningful insights into your ISMS’s performance.

iso 27001 kpis

What are the benefits of key performance indicators?

  • As a measure of an organization’s success and growth, key performance indicators (KPIs) are used. Keeping track of KPIs helps you determine if your efforts are yielding the results you expect. This principle also applies to information security KPIs.
  • KPIs can assist in communicating the importance of information security management to employees and customers, as well as if your organization is on track to achieve its ISO 27001 objectives. It demonstrates just how serious information security is to your organization.
  • Organizations can prove that necessary actions have been addressed since the last performance evaluation of your information security. Additionally, the KPIs can be used to justify executive decisions with factual evidence. 
  • Furthermore, companies need strong justifications for upgrading existing technology, software, practices, etc. In order to make appropriate decisions, decision-makers need solid and consistent data on their impact on stakeholders and the business at large. The ISO 27001 KPIs support the need for making changes or taking corrective actions. Therefore, by taking advantage of ISO 27001 KPIs, you will be able to make more informed business decisions.

In order to achieve results, organizations need proper navigational instruments (like KPIs)  that can show them if they are on the right course and allow them to adjust as necessary.

Features of ISO 27001 key performance indicators

KPI selection can be made using a variety of criteria, but there are some common criteria used:

Business relevant: the indicator should be in line with the business objectives or legal requirements, which makes it easier for people to understand why it should be measured and evaluated. ISO 27001 has some requirements that may be attended to with the use of indicators related to effectiveness and compliance, but an organization should consider efficiency indicators. 

Process integrated:  when looking at activities to collect the necessary data for a KPI, it should require the least amount of work possible, and the data should be in the same documents already used by the procedure in the previous performance evaluation.

Assertive: the indicator should be capable of identifying relevant problems or risks (e.g., process steps, organizational areas, resources, etc.) that require greater attention. 

Regular review and adjustment: it’s important to regularly review and, if necessary, adjust your KPIs to ensure they remain aligned with evolving business objectives and external changes in the security landscape.

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Examples of key performance indicators to reach your ISO 27001 objectives

Organizations can use KPIs in practically every aspect of their operations, but doing so would require massive financial investment in tools that can track progress, or excessive manhours to log the information manually.

We, therefore, recommend that you choose your KPIs carefully, selecting them only if they provide valuable insight into your information security practices. Some KPIs that you might consider using are:

Number of critical vulnerabilities addressed within 30 days of identification

Vulnerabilities are flaws in a computer system that weaken the overall security of the device/system. To exploit a vulnerability, an attacker must have at least one applicable tool or technique that can connect to a system weakness. After vulnerabilities have been identified, it is important to measure how many of them have been addressed within 30 days. This KPI will assist in preventing attacks by identifying all vulnerabilities as quickly as possible.

Number of risk management procedures to reduce the exposure of the organization

Risks, threats, and hazards must be continuously analyzed, monitored and mitigated in order to prevent security catastrophes. Therefore, this KPI is useful in helping organizations reach this goal. 

Number of business initiatives that are supported by the ISMS

Your ISMS is a centrally managed system for monitoring, reviewing, and improving your information security practices, so you want it to cover as much of your business operations as possible.

Ideally, you should track how much of your organization is covered by the ISMS, as a percentage, because your ISMS will get larger or smaller as your organization expands and shrinks.

Number of information security incidents

This is the biggest factor that determines whether your ISMS is a success and, by extension, whether your organization is equipped to deal with information security threats.

You should already be tracking this information, because although not all security incidents need to be reported to your supervisory authority, you are required to document them.

How long it takes to detect security incidents

The biggest financial and reputational damages associated with security incidents come after the breach has occurred. The quicker you detect a breach, the less extreme the damage and the sooner you can close the vulnerability.

Percentage of information security initiatives containing cost/benefit estimates: 

This example is an ISO 27001 KPI that shows the organization’s maturity on risk treatment. The higher the value, the more the risk treatment decisions are based on facts. You can use the risk assessment and risk treatment plan, compared to all security initiatives implemented, to obtain this data.

Number of controls assessment performed

Monitoring of controls is crucial in maintaining compliance with ISO 27001. This is an example of an indicator that gives you a clear view of how many security measures are being reviewed. The higher the value, the more controls are being assessed in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, and opportunities for improvement (assuming the tests are performed according to ISO 27001’s ISMS standards). You can use the risk treatment plan, compared to training plans, incident logs, audit reports, and management review minutes, to obtain this information.


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Using continuous monitoring and automated compliance solutions 

As mentioned, organizations should have the right navigational instruments, such as KPIs, that allow them to determine whether they are on the right course and make adjustments as needed. In order to avoid turning a bad situation into a worse one, it is also essential that these instruments be carefully selected and calibrated.

While the ISO 27001 certification process may seem daunting, specialized compliance technology simplifies it significantly, dedicated compliance technology greatly simplifies the whole process, automating the implementation of ISO 27001 and reducing bureaucracy.

Consider how Scytale’s automation platform automates evidence collection and streamlines workflow. Additionally, take a look at how our customers got fully prepared fast and effortlessly for their audit using our automation platform.

By eliminating human error and enhancing your ability to monitor your systems, automation also simply means better information security all around.

Remember, achieving ISO 27001 certification is not the end goal but a milestone in an ongoing journey of maintaining and improving your information security management system.