What is SOC2 compliance?

Implementing Comprehensive Security Procedures To Protect Customer Data

What is SOC2 compliance?

SOC 2 compliance is a voluntary set of standards that are developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) that organizations can use to protect customer data.
SOC 2 compliance is based on five trust principles - Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) developed the SOC 2 reporting standard in 2009 in collaboration with the Trust Services Principles and Criteria (TSP&C) Committee.

The TSP&C Committee is a group of experts from various industries who developed the Trust Services Principles and Criteria, which are now, the basis of the SOC 2 reporting standard. The SOC 2 reporting standard was first launched in 2010, and it has been updated several times since then. The last updated version of the SOC 2 reporting standard was released in October 2022.

SOC 2 compliance is becoming increasingly important in proportion to the number of businesses migrating to the cloud for storing sensitive customer data in it. The SOC 2 reporting standard creates a framework for organizations to demonstrate that they are protecting customer data in a secure and compliant manner.

Why is SOC2 compliance important?

SOC2 compliance indicates that a company has implemented and followed the recommended security best practices to protect customer data.
When a company is SOC 2 compliant, it has been audited by an independent auditor and found to be in compliance with the SOC 2 trust principles of Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy.

The business-centric benefits that SOC2 provides are as follows:

  • Reduced the cost of doing business: SOC 2 compliance can help businesses avoid the costs associated with data breaches and other security incidents. It can also benefit by reducing their insurance premiums.
  • Meet compliance obligations: Many industries have regulations that are required to protect customer data. SOC 2 compliance is one of them to help businesses meet these compliance obligations.
  • Attract and retain top talent: Employees are more likely to work for companies that take data security seriously. SOC 2 compliance demonstrates to employees that the business is committed to the organization’s data privacy and security.
  • Improved security: SOC 2 compliance requires businesses to implement and maintain some security controls, such as role-based access control, network isolation, and data encryption.

Requirement criteria for SOC2 compliance

There is no specific rule of thumb for getting SOC2 compliant. However, organizations can choose to comply with one or more of the five trust principles to fulfill the requirement criteria. Let us take a look at five trust principles one by one;

  • Security: Organizations must implement and maintain security controls to protect their systems and data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction. These controls can include role-based access control, network isolation, data encryption, and intrusion detection and prevention systems.
  • Availability: Organizations must implement and maintain controls to protect against system downtime and data loss. These controls can include redundant systems, backup and recovery procedures, and disaster recovery plans.
  • Processing Integrity: Organizations must implement and maintain controls to prevent unauthorized changes to data and to ensure that data is processed on time. These controls can include input validation, data integrity checks, and audit trails.
  • Confidentiality: Organizations must implement and maintain quality controls to protect data in storage, transit, and processing. These controls may include data encryption, access control, and data loss prevention.
  • Privacy: Organizations must collect, use, and retain personal information fairly and responsibly. These controls should include privacy policies, data retention policies, and data disposal procedures.

Who can perform the SOC2 audit?

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) permits only accredited Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firms to conduct SOC 2 audits. The audit must also be performed by a certified public accountant who has the appropriate training and experience and is not affiliated with the company that is being audited.

CPA firms themself must undergo a rigorous peer review process to be accredited by the AICPA. This process ensures that the firm has the necessary experience and expertise to be able to perform SOC 2 audits.

In addition, CPA firms need to maintain their accreditation by continuing to meet the AICPA's requirements. This includes continuous participation in education programs and undergoing regular peer reviews.

What are the benefits of having a SOC2 audit performed by an accredited CPA firm?

It is better rather than important to have a SOC2 audit performed by an accredited CPA firm. Although this can be a cumbersome process sometimes, it can provide some fruitful benefits to your organization such as;
  • Assurance: An audit by an accredited CPA firm provides assurance that the company's controls are designed and operating effectively.
  • Credibility: An audit by an accredited CPA firm lends credibility to the company's security posture.
  • Compliance: A SOC 2 audit can help companies comply with industry regulations.

How SOC2 audit is performed?

As mentioned above, A SOC2 audit is performed by an independent auditor who is not affiliated with the company that is being audited. Auditors own the right to review the company’s controls and processes to assess whether they meet the requirements of the SOC 2 trust principles.

The SOC2 audit is typically processed in the following manner;

  • Planning: The auditor will meet with the company's management to understand the company's business model and the controls that are put in place to protect customer data. Based on this information, an auditor will develop an audit plan that outlines the steps that will be taken during the audit.
  • Testing: The auditor will test the company's controls to assess whether they are designed and operating effectively. The auditor will test the controls through a variety of methods, such as interviews, observation, and walkthroughs.
  • Reporting: The auditor will prepare a report that summarizes the findings of the audit. The report will include an opinion on whether the company's controls meet the requirements of the SOC 2 trust principles.

If the auditor finds any deficiencies in the company's controls, the company will need to remediate the deficiencies before the auditor issues a SOC 2 report.

Remember that, The SOC 2 audit process can be complex and time-consuming. However, it is an important step that companies should take to improve their security posture and demonstrate their commitment to protecting customer data.

How can organizations prepare for a SOC2 audit?

We have created a simple and easy-to-understand list that organizations can follow to prepare for their upcoming SOC2 compliance audit.
  1. Identify the relevant trust principles.
  2. Develop a SOC 2 project plan.
  3. Implement and document controls.
  4. Assess the effectiveness of controls.
  5. Remediate any deficiencies.
  6. Select an independent auditor.
  7. Provide the auditor with all necessary information and support.

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