SOC 2 Compliance and 4 Key Steps to Achieving it.

SOC 2 Compliance and 4 Key Steps to Achieving it.

Organiastions, most especially those that outsource key business operations to third-party vendors/providers, are concerned about information security e.g., SaaS and  cloud-computing providers. Mishandled data, particularly by application and network security providers can expose businesses to attacks like data theft, bribery, and malware installation.

SOC 2 is an auditing procedure that ensures service providers securely manage and protect Clients’ data,  interests and privacy. It was Developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), 

Protection, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy are the five (5) “trust service principles” that SOC 2 uses to identify standards for handling customer data.

Privacy

  • Access Control
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Encryption

Security

  • Network/Application firewalls
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Intrusion

Availability

  • Performance
  • Disaster recovery
  • Security incident handling

Confidentiality

  • Encryption 
  • Access controls
  • Network /Application firewalls

Processing Integrity

  • Quality assurance
  • Processing monitoring

Many organizations find SOC 2 compliance very stressful. however there are four steps that lead to SOC 2 enforcement on a continuous basis, these are Identify Your Scope, Gap Analysis & Control Mapping, External Reporting, Technology to Support Continuous Compliance.

Step -1: Identify Your Scope

Scoping is the first step toward SOC 2 compliance. AICPA identified five core Trust Services Criteria to be considered for the SOC 2 audit. 

These criteria are based on the organizational systems and processes,  (not every SOC 2 audit must take into account all five categories). After which you determine which systems, policies, and procedures are in place to support the relevant principles.. Additional scoping considerations include your in-scope system(s) (i.e., applications or services, people, locations or entities, technology) and the overall project timeline from start to finish (from initiation to having the SOC 2 report readily available).

Step -2: Gap Analysis & Control Mapping

Conduct a Gap analysis by performing a readiness assessment of the control environment to identify gaps between the Trust Services Criteria and the internal control environment. 

This will determine whether your current controls meet the expectations of the SOC 2 auditor.

Before the audit, conduct a gap analysis or readiness assessment to help close out any lingering gaps in your compliance, allowing for a more efficient audit process.

After you’ve gathered your controls, map your control environment to the Trust Services Criteria and begin collecting relevant documentation, such as policies and procedures. 

Deliberately mapping the controls demonstrates a complete and well-designed control structure. The mapping also includes foundation management requirements so that they can attest to having controls in place to meet the SOC 2 criteria.

Step -3: External Reporting

It is critical to find a good partner for the SOC 2 audit. Only a CPA firm can perform your SOC 2 audit, but not every CPA firm is a good fit for the audit. Find a CPA who is familiar with the needs of your industry and organization. Establish a relationship with the external auditors who will conduct their own independent testing and provide an opinion on whether or not they agree with management’s assertion, allowing your organization to achieve SOC 2 certification.

Step -4: Technology to Support Continuous Compliance

SOC compliance is often regarded as an annual exercise by many organizations, but cloud-based control environments can change rapidly. Implementing a GRC solution for compliance management enables you to manage the framework, assign and track control gaps, collect evidence for attestation, and provide management with reports. There should be no surprises during the next attestation period and audit if the SOC 2 controls are reviewed throughout the year. Because the controls were monitored on an ongoing basis, subsequent SOC 2 compliance should be simple. The emphasis shifts to the collection of documented evidence on an ongoing basis.

NOTE: You can reduce the stress that comes from treating SOC 2 controls attestation and auditing as a point-in-time exercise as your SOC 2 compliance program matures and streamlines its activities. 

Finally, proper preparation is critical for obtaining a positive opinion on the SOC 2 report, and your compliance environment is critical to your success.