SOC 2 is a framework for SaaS companies and companies that offer technology services that store customer data in the cloud. SOC 2 compliance audits can provide a competitive edge by giving your customers confidence that your organization takes the necessary steps to ensure the security of their sensitive data.
The SOC 2 compliance process takes several months, and it’s not a process to take lightly. Follow these steps to assess your readiness, prepare for an audit, and earn your SOC 2 certification.
Establish Your Goals
The first step in SOC 2 compliance is to define your goals – the reason your organization is pursuing a SOC 2 audit. The following questions can help you establish compliance goals.
Do your customers ask for audit reports? Many businesses ask for audit reports and other verification from their IT vendors to ensure that they can trust your business to adequately protect their sensitive data. A SOC 2 report can help you provide this assurance to potential customers. Additionally, if a prospective client asks you to fill out an IT questionnaire, a SOC 2 report can make the process easier by providing answers to many of the common questions asked.
Do your competitors have SOC 2 certification? If your competitors have completed SOC 2 audits, obtaining certification for your organization will help you remain competitive in the market. If your competitors don’t have SOC 2 certification, a SOC 2 audit can give your business a competitive edge.
Is your business looking to bolster its security measures? A SOC 2 audit is a valuable tool for assessing how well your organization is prepared to prevent and mitigate potential security risks and can reveal areas for improvement to help you enhance your organization’s security posture.
Have you completed a SOC 1 audit? If not, is a SOC 1 audit a logical first step for your business? If the services your organization provides impact your clients’ or customers’ internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR), then you’ll also need to comply with SOC 1. However, if your organization stores customer data in the cloud but that information doesn’t involve or impact financial reporting, you’ll want to pursue a SOC 2 audit.
What processes and systems will be subject to a SOC 2 audit? SOC 2 reports detail the system controls your organization has in place to process data and ensure its security and privacy, so not all systems and processes will be assessed in a SOC 2 audit.
Define the Scope of the Audit
After establishing your organization’s goals, the next step is to define the scope of the SOC 2 audit.
Determine the Trust Services Criteria that apply to your business. There are five Trust Services Criteria, including Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy. Not every TSC is relevant to every business. Before beginning the auditing process, you’ll first want to determine which Trust Services Criteria are applicable.
Identify the controls that are in place and map controls to the Trust Services Criteria. This process helps you determine what existing security and privacy controls exist that may help to satisfy the relevant TSC.
Consider adding other security frameworks to your SOC 2 compliance program. If your organization is subject to other regulations such as HIPAA, incorporating other frameworks (such as HITECH, HIPAA, NIST CSF, ISO 27001, and COBIT) into your SOC 2 compliance program can help ensure that your organization meets other applicable regulatory requirements.
Determine if you want a Type I or Type II report. A SOC 2 Type I report determines the effectiveness of your organization’s controls at a specific point in time. A SOC 2 Type II report assesses the effectiveness of your organization’s controls over a period of time (such as one year).
Conduct a Self-Assessment
Before engaging a third-party auditor, you’ll want to conduct a self-assessment to determine if your existing controls are adequate for meeting the relevant Trust Services Criteria or if improvements are needed before pursuing a SOC 2 audit.
Decide whether to conduct a self-assessment internally or hire a third-party firm. You can engage a third-party firm to conduct a readiness assessment before a formal audit or handle it internally with the help of a compliance management platform like Datica.
Evaluate your current controls against the relevant TSCs. How well do your existing controls meet the TSCs you’ve selected for your SOC 2 audit?
Prepare necessary documentation on policies and procedures. If you don’t have existing written policies and documentation on the processes relevant to your chosen TSCs, produce these materials before pursuing a formal audit.
Implement SOC 2 compliance best practices to fill in the gaps. If there are gaps in your security controls, implementing SOC 2 best practices such as web application monitoring, developing security policies, implementing access controls and change management procedures, and incorporating audit logs and alerting systems can help bring your organization into compliance.
Choose an Experienced CPA to Perform a Formal SOC 2 Audit
After conducting a readiness assessment and determining that your organization has the necessary controls in place to meet SOC 2 compliance standards, engage a qualified CPA to perform a formal SOC 2 audit. Here’s what to look for when choosing a CPA.
Industry experience. Choose a CPA with experience conducting SOC 2 audits for businesses in your industry. Auditors may have a set of controls that they typically look for when performing audits for organizations in specific industries, which can result in a faster audit process.
Time to completion. If your organization needs a completed SOC 2 report by a specific deadline, you’ll want to choose a CPA with the bandwidth and resources necessary to complete your SOC 2 report in a timely manner.
Communication. Choose a CPA with ample availability to ensure that you can get in touch with any questions throughout the auditing process.
Methodology. What are the auditor’s methods for assessing your organization’s security controls and preparing a report? Choose a CPA with methodology that aligns with the SSAE 18.
The SOC 2 Auditing Process & Recertification
After engaging with a qualified and accredited auditor, the SOC 2 auditing process can take several months.
Have your documentation and evidence ready. You’ll want to ensure that you have all the necessary materials and documentation needed for your auditor to conduct a comprehensive assessment.
Ensure the availability of relevant team members. Ensure that all relevant team members are available for providing documentation and answering questions.
Keep up with annual audits. Once you receive SOC 2 certification, you’ll need to perform annual audits to maintain your certification. Solutions like Datica can provide real-time compliance visibility, allowing you to continuously monitor and maintain compliance, which streamlines the annual re-certification process.