How To Prepare for SOC 2 Compliance: SOC 2 Types and Requirements
Criteria for SOC 2 compliance might seem confusing, but companies are already reaping benefits from the process. Read this post for a breakdown of SOC 2 compliance.
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To be reliable in today’s data-driven world, SOC 2 compliance is essential for all cloud-based businesses and technology services that collect and store their clients’ information. This gold standard of information security certifications helps to ensure your current data privacy levels and security infrastructure to prevent any kind of data breach.
Data breaches are all too common nowadays among small to large scale companies across the globe in all sectors. According to PurpleSec, half of all data breaches will occur in the United States by 2023.
Experiencing such a breach causes customers to completely lose trust in the targeted company and those who have been through one tend to move their business elsewhere to protect their personal information in the future. SOC 2 compliance can protect from all this pain by improving customer trust in a company with secured data privacy policies.
Companies that adhere to the gold standard-level principles of SOC 2 compliance, can provide this audit as evidence of secure data privacy practices. We will break down the preparation process later in this article but let us first understand the basis of this certification.
SOC 2 Defined
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) officially developed SOC 2 certification to ensure customers’ data privacy by holding companies compliant to five trust principles. These principles are:
- Processing integrity
A SOC 2 compliance report of certification determines whether a company is concerned about customer privacy after a detailed audit. Thus, the SOC 2 certification acts as proof of data privacy for customers concerned about sharing their personal information with a company. Moreover, these audits help to minimize threats, reassure clients, strengthen brand reputation and give you a competitive edge in the market.
SOC 1, SOC 2 and SOC 3: Understand the Difference
Among all these compliance reports, SOC 1 is entirely different, as it governs with financial reporting. SOC 2 and SOC 3 are similar to some extent, but the audiences for these reports are different.
SOC 2 is a more detailed audit report created for those who possess some technical knowledge to understand all the terminologies used in the report.
SOC 3 reports, on the other hand, are geared towards a general audience with little or no technical expertise. Therefore, unlike SOC 2, this audit is fairly short, and it only gives an overview of data privacy and the company’s policies to concerned people.
Types of SOC 2
There are two types of compliance reports for this standard, and both differ slightly from each other:
- SOC 2 Type 1: The auditor ensures security compliance by verifying security practices with trust principles. This type of audit is conducted on security systems. SOC 2 Type 1 also checks for controls at a specific point in time.
- SOC 2 Type 2: It deals with the effectiveness of a company’s security operations to ensure the reliability of systems. SOC 2 Type 2 needs evidence of controls at least during the last 6 months.
SOC 2 Compliance Requirements
The SOC 2 compliance criteria varies from company to company. Each company is responsible for implementing the various controls necessary to meet the goals of each criterion.
The core principle of the SOC 2 is to ensure the level of security for data and assets offered by a service provider. Therefore, a company must implement secure practices to prevent malicious attacks or unauthorized access to the data. For more on how to improve your security processes, check out our article 10 Steps to Optimizing DevOps and Security.
The requirements for certification are categorized by each trust principle as described below:
The core principle of the SOC 2 is to ensure the security of data and assets offered by a service provider. Therefore, a company must implement secure practices to prevent malicious attacks or unauthorized access to the data.
Requirements for the Security Principle
These are just a few examples of the security criteria to illustrate what is included in the complete audit. There are a lot of requirements within each principle to consider, such as:
- Analyzing physical and cyber security infrastructure
- Protecting systems from unauthorized access
- Use of alerting procedures in case of a security emergency
Companies face both physical and cyber threats to their security systems. These threats must be recognized and patched to prevent unauthorized access to the company’s private data. Also, alerts should be configured to prevent security incidents if any suspicious activity is detected.
During a SOC 2 compliance audit, auditors check the availability of your systems to see if they are readily accessible or not. A system’s processing power is also monitored by monitoring the infrastructure, software, and data.
Requirements for the Availability Principle
These are just a couple of examples of the availability criteria to illustrate what is included in the complete audit. There are a lot of requirements within each principle to consider, such as:
- Analyzing current system usage
- Analyzing environmental threats to the system
If current usage surpasses the processing power, then availability will be affected, and not having a resilient architecture in place may lead systems to fail.
3. Processing Integrity
This principle ensures the authorized and timely distribution of data to the concerned parties. The data must be accurate and valid to fulfill processing integrity requirements.
Requirements for the Processing Integrity principle
These are just a couple of examples of the Processing Integrity criteria to illustrate what is included in the complete audit. There are a lot of requirements within each principle to consider, including:
- Record creation & maintenance for system inputs
- Well-defined processing activities
Compiling valid records is a critical requirement to comply with this principle. Also, it is important to define processing activities to meet all specifications.
Customers in all industries demand complete privacy and security of their data. This trust principle deals with the confidentiality of data to keep sensitive financial information, customer data, business plans, or intellectual property safe.
Requirements for the Confidentiality Principle
These are just a couple of examples of the confidentiality criteria to illustrate what is included in the complete audit. There are a lot of requirements within each principle to consider, including:
- Identification of confidential information
- Deletion of confidential information
Retain all confidential client information only as long as necessary. Destroy information according to an agreed retention period in order to prevent any privacy issues with customers.
AICPA outlines the Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP) to protect privacy, and market-leading companies ensure their policies comply with them. This SOC 2 principle covers the process of releasing and destroying data, as well as the methods used to collect, use, and retain personal information.
Requirements for the Privacy Principle
These are just a couple of examples of the privacy criteria to illustrate what is included in the complete audit. There are a lot of requirements within each principle to consider, including:
- Stating privacy policies clearly
- Data collection from trusted sources
How to Achieve SOC 2 Compliance
As well as adhering to these principles, there are a few things for companies to strictly follow for obtaining or maintaining their SOC 2 certification.
Once you fulfill all basic requirements associated with the trust principles, then it’s time to act upon your audit findings. Here are a few tips to achieve SOC 2 successfully:
- Implement GRC function: Leverage your security and engineering teams for GRC to cover your company from all aspects, including governance, risk management, and compliance.
- Constant monitoring: Always monitor all cloud operations to spot anything unusual that might be a threat to your company’s security.
- Use audit trials: Audit trials help you reach the root cause of a cyberattack by providing deep insights into key components to analyze the horizon of attack.
- Utilize forensics data: This data is very actionable and can be used to prevent data breaches with alerts. Also, it brings down Mean Time To Detect (MTTD) and Mean Time To Remediate (MTTR) that hold great significance in SOC 2 compliance reports.
SOC 2 Compliance, Audit & Report
The whole SOC 2 Certification revolves around these three processes:
The foremost step is to check if your company aligns with the trust principles of SOC 2. You will receive certification if your business meets all of the principles and has an auditor to confirm its data security posture.
As part of an audit, a detailed report is compiled that evaluates your company’s compliance with defined trust principles. The auditor is responsible for creating these reports forwarded to concerned people with technical knowledge to study these reports and conclude the findings.
Your company will qualify for SOC 2 certification if the report has no major issues, which means you are using best practices to secure your customers’ data.
Although criteria for SOC 2 compliance might seem a little confusing, companies are already reaping benefits from the process. The SOC 2 certification provides confirmation that their security infrastructure has been audited to guarantee the privacy of their customers.
Companies with SOC 2 compliance are deemed to be more credible than their competitors. These companies are also conscious about potential threats to their organization and they actively mitigate possible risks to strengthen their security posture. Therefore, SOC 2 compliance is an extension to develop trust and grow without any security barriers.
Published at DZone with permission of Juan Ignacio Giro. See the original article here.
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