In 2021, SOC 2 took the crown for most popular audit for cybersecurity, IT, quality assurance, internal audit, finance, and other industries. SOC 2 is a voluntary compliance standard based on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Trust Service Principles that ensures the secure data management to protect the business as well as the privacy of the clients.
- Security: Security controls should protect against unauthorized access, disclosure of information, and damage that could otherwise compromise the quality and privacy of information.
- Availability: The information and systems that are critical to business objectives must be kept available and operational.
- Processing integrity: Business-critical systems must be free of unexplained or unintentional errors to perform completely, in a timely manner, with accuracy.
- Confidentiality: Security controls that protect confidential information from collection to disposal.
- Privacy: Similar to confidentiality, privacy protects personal information and ensures protection throughout its lifecycle from collection to disposal.
Where SOC 2 Type 1 assesses your organization’s security at a point in time, a SOC 2 Type 2 audit assesses your organization’s operational effectiveness as well as its security over a period of time.
The Benefits of SOC 2 for Cloud Native Businesses
These seem like really great principles to base any security framework on. But why is it so highly sought after? In this next section, we’ll explore the benefits of SOC 2 for cloud-native businesses.
Protects information in the cloud
At its core, the SOC 2 certification is designed for any service organization that collects, handles, and processes customer information - the shift to the cloud makes this issue significantly more complex. Many companies will even require you to have a SOC 2 certification before working with you.
To pass a SOC 2 audit and receive the certification is to be aware of the threats that live in your cyber asset universe and be proactive about minimizing risk and exposure to valuable data. Each of the five criteria discussed above have subcategories.
- Communication and information addresses how organizations manage the flow of internal and external communication.
- Control activities account for risk management and access to technology.
- Logical and physical access controls inculcate how organizations should implement access to critical digital and physical infrastructure, as well as the proactive measures to detect and prevent unauthorized access.
- System operations speak to how organizations should monitor their environments for unauthorized changes, anomalies, configuration changes, and other actions that may carry risks, as well as response plans for remediation.
- Change management deals with how organizations evaluate and determine intentional or needed changes to their environment in order to meet business objectives.
Each of these subcriteria acknowledge the importance of cloud security and create standards for the protection of valuable data.
Assurance that systems are operational and secure
An overarching goal of a SOC 2 audit is to provide assurance to relevant stakeholders that your systems are operational and secure.
While organizations have control over how they construct their security processes and configure their cloud environment, they must still meet a standard of transparency based on the Trust Principles and demonstrate how they maintain an operational, secure state.
Provides a competitive advantage
Making security a business objective is a great way to exemplify your organization’s commitment to a safe cloud environment. According to the 2021 Compliance Benchmark Report, 64% of organizations will conduct an audit or assessment to win a new customer and that 14% of organizations lost a business deal due to the lack of a compliance certification.
Demonstrates a commitment to privacy, trust, and corporate governance
The process of obtaining a SOC 2 certification is an achievement. It can take anywhere from six months to a year, and can be very involved; from board buy-in, to shortlisting auditors, and hard work from your team.
Being SOC 2 compliant demonstrates that your organization is vertically and laterally aligned on the importance of operational systems, confidentiality and privacy controls, and security as a whole.
When you embark on your SOC 2 journey, keep organization at the forefront of your mind. Now we’ll outline the steps to achieving compliance.
- Preliminary work: In the initial stages of achieving SOC 2 compliance, you’ll need to secure board buy-in and compile a list of auditors you’d like to work with.
- Choose an auditor: Choosing your SOC 2 assessor is a decision that comes with significant time and consideration. You want to choose a reputable CPA firm that understands the specific needs of an organization of your size and industry.
- Set your scope: Look at the Trust Services Principles and determine which of the five you intend to pursue. Many organizations choose to pursue Security or a combination of Security, Availability, and Confidentiality, but every organization is unique. Evaluate why you are pursuing a SOC 2 audit and anticipate why you might need compliance in the future. Be sure to consider any legal, contractual, or compliance requirements when setting your scope.
- Gap analysis: Assess your environment at its current state and compare it to SOC 2 requirements to identify where your gaps lie. In this stage, you can tweak policies, document monitoring and review policies, or determine action plans for remediation in deficient areas.
- Remediation and control implementation: Start fixing the deficiencies found in your gap analysis and communicate changes to relevant stakeholders such as executive management, board members, or even employees if they are impacted by your remediation efforts. This is also the time to implement any controls to meet the Trust Services Principles’ requirements.
- Information request lists: Your auditor will now send a list of every piece of documentation that you will be expected to deliver. It’s helpful to delegate the creation and gathering of these documents to different members of your team. If you feel that your auditor has requested irrelevant information, you have a chance to push back here and work with your auditor to create a list that encompasses all relevant information.
- Audit: In this stage, there’s a chance you will see your auditor in person during an on-site visit, although the vast majority of observations are remote video calls in the post-pandemic age. Shortly after the visit, you should receive an additional round of evidence requests (or, samples), a report, and your SOC 2 certification!
Everyone knows this process is a huge lift for your team - from conducting your gap analysis to remediation and gathering data for your auditor, it can require clear coordination, patience, and a lot of time. But just because it’s a painstaking process doesn’t mean that you can’t make it easier on yourself.
JupiterOne’s pre-built SOC 2 compliance framework and automatic evidence collection compiles all of your information into one centralized repository. One JupiterOne customer even achieved SOC 2 compliance in four months.
SOC 2 compliance is becoming the norm for cloud, everything-as-a-service companies, and that expectation isn’t going to waver any time soon. To start working towards SOC 2 compliance without the manual legwork, get started for free here or book a demo.