Will you safely store and manage my data appropriately? That’s a question that many companies are asking their service providers to answer with a SOC 2 audit. In our cloud-based society, SOC 2 is one of the more common compliance standards requested of service organizations today. In most cases, service organizations are required to obtain a SOC 2 compliance to partner or provide services, while some organizations see a SOC 2 certification as a business advantage. Whatever the reason, completing a SOC 2 audit is an important step in demonstrating information security and cybersecurity risk management.
This resource is designed for those new to SOC 2 audits, those organizations who are preparing for an upcoming audit or seeking a refresher on how to stay successfully pass a SOC 2 audit.
SOC 2 is a security framework developed by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) with five areas called the Trust Services Criteria that demonstrates how a service organization protects customer information.
These five areas include:
A SOC 2 always contains the “common criteria” which includes organizational controls, access management, risk management, change management, communications, and system operations.
It is quite unusual for a company to attempt all five Trust Services Criteria at once. Normally, businesses will start their SOC journey with a SOC 2 Type 2 audit covering the common criteria. and Type 2 reports. (More on the differences between SOC 2 Type 1 and Type 2 below).
SOC 2 stands for Systems and Organization Controls 2.
Cloud service providers, SaaS providers, and organizations that store customer data in the cloud should complete a SOC 2 report.
The most common, and most compelling reason a company would be asked to demonstrate SOC 2 compliance is because their customer base has a need to ensure their vendors are securing and managing data effectively. This applies to more companies as they use cloud technology to store customer information.
Unlike regulatory frameworks like HIPAA and GDPR that are less defined and don’t have a formal audit authority to determine compliance, SOC 2 is independently verified by the AICPA and is considered to be an industry-acceptable security accreditation.
A SOC 2 audit may take several months depending on the amount of controls and scope of the report. While the SOC 2 process can seem lengthy, your efforts don’t have to be complicated. With proper evidence collection and systems in place, preparing for a SOC 2 audit can be streamlined to make the process repeatable (easier to prepare for other compliance frameworks in the future).
Some companies claim to speed up this process and complete a SOC 2 in a matter of weeks vs. months.
Not so fast.
There are a couple reasons completing a SOC 2 in two weeks can be damaging to your overall compliance and security program. Rushing compliance sacrifices quality, leading to unsatisfactory audit results and wasted time for those involved. Secondly, completing a SOC 2 audit requires a human element that simply cannot be automated in a short amount of time. From documentation and evidence collection to employee training, a SOC 2 takes much longer than a couple weeks.
To understand the importance of the SOC report and why you should take special care to achieve SOC compliance, let’s go back to the beginning.