SOC 2 Compliance Checklist: 4 Easy Steps to Help You Prepare

Can we trust you with our data?

 

Cybersecurity is a significant concern directly tied to data privacy and security. Customers only want to work with companies that can ensure and prove they’re safe and genuine.

 

But how exactly do you guarantee you protect customer data?

 

By demonstrating you comply with key industry standards and regulations. SOC 2 compliance is one such framework that establishes that an organization processing data at scale or storing it in the cloud has the controls necessary to protect customer information.

 

So, how can a business become SOC 2 compliant? 

 

Let’s find out. 

 

What is SOC 2?

 

SOC 2, short for Systems and Organizations Controls 2, is a reporting standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) that specifies criteria for organizations to manage and protect customer data. It is based on five “Trust Services Principles,” which form the “Trust Service Criteria.”

 

  • Security
  • Availability
  • Processing Integrity
  • Confidentiality 
  • Privacy

 

How is it different from SOC 1?

 

Both SOC 1 and SOC 2 report CPA firms issue to determine system-level controls at a service organization and fall within the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) 18. Some companies must comply with SOC 1, SOC 2, or both. So how are they different?

 

SOC 1 focuses on the internal controls consistent with an organization’s financial data. SOC 2 specifies controls related to its operation and compliance as outlined in the AICPA’s Trust Services Criteria (TSC).

 

Additionally, if a company falls under a specific category, it may require SOC 1 compliance as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). On the other hand, SOC 2 compliance is voluntary. Technology companies must follow one or more of the common criteria (five TCS principles above) based on their unique business practices. No compliance framework like HIPAA or PCI-DSS regulates it.

 

Types of SOC 2 reports

 

A SOC 2 report helps service organizations demonstrate to key stakeholders such as customers, auditors, and investors that they have the required information security controls to secure their services and associated data. The two types of SOC 2 reports are:

 

  • Type I: Audits and reports on the organization’s systems and whether its design conforms to relevant trust principles
  • Type II: Determines whether these systems are operationally effective

 

Who conducts SOC 2 audits and prepares compliance reports?

 

Licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firms specializing in information security audits conduct SOC 2 audits to determine whether a company complies with the TSC. Some third-party companies can also perform the audit and have it signed off by a CPA firm.

 

Trust only licensed and verified auditors with relevant industry experience for SOC 2 compliance. While not required, it’s ideal if they’re Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

 

Contrary to the usual designation, SOC 2 is not a certification!

 

Why is SOC 2 compliance important?

 

Privacy is a big responsibility. Many frameworks and laws aim to protect customer data and give customers the right to know where and how their data is used. 

 

How can a customer trust you if you don’t have the necessary security controls? This is where SOC 2 steps in. 

 

The SOC 2 report not only helps you establish yourself as a trusted provider but is also a good self-test to monitor your company’s security controls. Two business types highly benefit from SOC 2: software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies and big enterprises.

 

Importance of SOC 2 compliance for SaaS companies

 

SaaS companies naturally need to ensure infrastructure security as they deal with a huge volume of data daily. Hackers can easily infiltrate their systems and breach data if they don’t assess and mitigate the looming security risks.

 

SOC 2 compliance helps SaaS companies identify gaps in their cybersecurity controls. When a company prepares for an SOC 2 audit, it knows it’ll only pass if it meets AICPA standards. This automatically gives the business leverage and the ability to monitor and maintain data security.

 

Importance of SOC 2 compliance for enterprises

Enterprise companies are at the highest risk of data leaks and breaches. And for them, complying with SOC 2 is not a waiver. The larger your infrastructure, systems, and processes, the more you need security.

 

Again, SOC 2 helps enterprises ensure they meet the required security standards and build and maintain trust with their customers.

 

SOC 2 compliance checklist

 

SOC 2 can be one of the most stressful compliance audits, especially the first time. Each step is different and requires specific checks you may not be aware of.

 

Scattered information is useless if you don’t structure it and put it into practice. A handy checklist outlining the what, why, when, and how of SOC 2 can make all the difference in building trust with your customers and stakeholders around data storage, security, and compliance. 

 

Here’s a four-step compliance checklist to get you started.

 

1. Prepare for SOC 2 compliance

 

The first step in preparing for SOC 2 compliance is establishing a strategic workflow. Create a clear roadmap of what tools and resources you’ll need throughout the process. Focus on the following three key steps.

 

Lay down your SOC 2 audit’s scope and objectives

 

Find out which SOC 2 report applies to your company. This depends on what your customers or clients expect from you regarding data protection. You may also need to share this report with various stakeholders, such as investors, so keep their requests in mind when deciding on a report.

 

Select your Trust Services Criteria

 

Next, create a skeleton for your report that outlines the Trust Service Criteria you must meet. Demonstrating compliance with the first TSC (security) is mandatory, but other criteria may or may not apply to you. Once you identify the applicable criteria, create an outline with the required TSC and controls.

 

Plan the resources you need

 

You may need external assistance when preparing for compliance, primarily if you’re being audited for the first time. Depending on your existing SOC 2 controls, you may need to spend on additional resources such as:

 

  • Workforce in the form of data engineers, consultants, and internal auditors
  • Compliance software and security tools
  • External or third-party auditors
  • Other compliance-related administrative tasks

 

2. Build toward your SOC 2 report 

 

Before jumping straight into the final report, conduct a readiness assessment to identify gaps in your report and see if you’re audit-ready. You can easily build toward your SOC 2 report in the following ways.

 

Determine missing controls and protocols

 

Each TSC has specific controls and protocols you may not have set up. Be sure to identify and implement any missing controls before beginning the report.

 

Use an automation tool to generate a mock report.

 

Compliance tools come in handy to help you with all your compliance needs. You can use one to create a mock report based on your existing data. A mock report shows what your final report would look like, flags criteria that weren’t met, and even provides recommendations to fix specific overlooked or incorrect data areas.

 

Defining the SOC 2 reporting period

 

Consider the SOC 2 reporting period as you work toward your report. This varies by report type. The SOC 2 Type I report can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete, while the SOC 2 Type II report can take six months to a year. Knowing this ahead of time can help you prepare.

 

Risk assessment and management

 

The AICPA requires SOC 2 auditors to review an organization’s risk assessment and management process to identify and mitigate risks. There’s no specific recommended process, so you can develop a plan based on your existing controls and protocols.

 

To pass an audit, AICPA’s TSC uses the COSO framework. It’s one of the most popular frameworks for enterprise risk management. However, as long as you have the appropriate risk assessment and mitigation process, you don’t need to worry about following this or any other framework. 

 

You know best your business risks and how to quantify, reduce, eliminate, and mitigate them. Just ensure you’re prepared, as this can play a big part in gaining compliance.

 

Building a solid compliance team

 

Your compliance team should include everyone involved in the reporting and auditing process, administrators, engineers, consultants, etc. Each team member should understand their role in the process and how best to work toward it. Together, you can achieve more than just SOC 2 compliance.

 

Gathering additional documentation

 

Add some finishing touches and see if you’re missing anything. Gather any additional documentation required and thoroughly review the AICPA guidelines for submitting your report.

 

3. Work and submit your audit report

 

Here’s the step you wait a long time and prepare for. All your efforts go into this report, so you need to make sureensure it’s concise and clear.

 

Select and hire a CPA

 

The next step is selecting or hiring an auditor to review your report. The auditor should be a CPA-certified firm and affiliated with the AICPA.

 

Complete readiness assessment

 

Work with your auditor on a readiness assessment. This will help ensure you meet

the minimum standards for a full audit.

 

Fix any gaps

 

If you see gaps in your readiness score, like the necessary controls not yet placed, fix them before starting the final audit.

 

Complete your audit

 

Provide your auditor with the compliance documentation and other resources to complete your step of the audit. As discussed earlier, the audit can take some time, depending on your report type.

 

4. Receive, market, and maintain your compliance

 

If you pass the audit, you receive your compliance report for documentation and verification. Once completed, you get your full compliance report proving you’re a safe provider. The next step, of course, is marketing and maintaining your compliance.

 

All your hard work goes to waste if you don’t put the right controls in place to oversee your compliance. Data breaches and vulnerabilities are common. Make sure you protect your infrastructure and systems from potential threat actors.

 

Finally, present your data security and privacy efforts to potential stakeholders. Being SOC 2 compliant automatically gives you a reputation as a safe, secure, and responsible business. This improves your brand image, which translates into more customers, clients, revenue, and trust.

 

SOC 2 audit in Dubai

 

The SOC 2 audit process doesn’t differ from region to region. Regardless of where you’re in the world, as long as you fall under the AICPA SOC 2 criteria, you must follow the same process outlined above.

 

SOC 2 audit cost in Dubai

 

SOC 2 audit’s cost depends on your company’s size and complexity. Type 1 audit can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $60,000. It’s cheaper than a Type 2 audit ranging from $30,000 to $100,000.

 

How can CyberArrow help?

 

SOC 2 compliance can be complex and tedious. You can benefit a great deal with the proper support and guidance.

 

Get in touch with a local consultant or service provider like CyberArrow to quickly prepare for SOC 2 compliance. 

 

CyberArrow automates your cybersecurity needs and helps you set the proper controls and protocols to achieve SOC 2 compliance.

 

Book a free consultation to get started.

Amar Basic
Amar Basic

Co-founder

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