The Essential Guide to Preparing for SOC 2 Compliance Requirements

The Essential Guide to Preparing for SOC 2 Compliance Requirements SOC reports allow organizations to perform a thorough business overview within a consistent framework[...]
By Daniella Balaban
image August 17, 2022 image 6 MIN READ

The Essential Guide to Preparing for SOC 2 Compliance Requirements

SOC reports allow organizations to perform a thorough business overview within a consistent framework. There are several versions of SOC reports, each relating to different sectors. This post focuses on the SOC 2 report, which is primarily concerned with security. 

The report includes an independent audit of an organization’s systems, processes, and controls relating to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy, offering an unbiased review of the organization’s information security practices and policies.

Private data is already an extremely sensitive and hot-button issue, and in a cyber landscape that faces increasing threats, clients want to be sure that their data will be kept secure. While many organizations request SOC reports as a condition for working with a specific client, many others recognize the benefits of undergoing a SOC audit and choose to pursue SOC compliance independently. 

SOC compliance can help instill trust and attract clients by proving reliability and demonstrating your organization’s commitment to security. Although the idea of an “audit” may seem intimidating and often makes organizations feel scrutinized, having an independent audit can offer some undeniably beneficial insights and lead to greater security development.

What are the SOC2 Compliance Requirements?

SOC 2 certification was developed by AICPA (the American Institute of CPAs) to protect the customer’s right to data privacy and ensure that organizations secure customer data by upholding five trust principles, which include:

SOC 2 compliance reports audit the organization and determine its commitment to customer safety based on the above principles. This allows the SOC 3 certification to serve as reliable proof to customers that their data will be kept secure and that they can entrust the organization with their information.

In addition to strengthening brand reputation and increasing customer trust, SOC audits also allow organizations to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities, reducing cyber risks that threaten the organization’s security.

Who are SOC 2 Audits designed for?

SOC 2 audits are designed for organizations that provide services and systems to client organizations (this includes organizations that offer cloud computing, Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and the like). In some cases, client companies will request an audit report, particularly if the organization requires confidential or sensitive information from the client.

Some clients will even require a SOC 2 audit as a prerequisite before partnering or receiving services from an organization. Organizations offering cloud services can benefit from SOC 2 compliance, as the report can significantly establish trust with clients and stakeholders.

What you can expect during a SOC 2 Audit? 

Only independent CPAs (Certified Public Accounts) or external accountancy organizations may perform SOC audits, and the standards set by the AICPA regulate auditors.

The audit process includes:

SOC 2 reports are comprehensive as they examine both your system’s operation and design, meaning that the report can take months, or even a year, for the auditor to compile. The auditor will examine and test your organization’s information systems. While a year may seem like a long time to invest in the process, it’s worth every moment, as once your organization has passed a SOC audit, there can be no doubt as to its level of security and compliance.

Checklist for Preparing for SOC 2

The ideal way to begin a SOC audit is by starting the process prepared.

Here are a few of the things you can do in advance to ensure you pass your audit with flying colors:

1. Choose the right type of SOC 2 report 

There are two sub-categories of the SOC 2 report, and choosing the one that best aligns with your client’s needs and the services your organization offers, can help ensure you get the maximum benefit out of the process.

The two types of reports are:

The right report will depend on your organization’s products and services or the client’s requirements requesting the audit.

2. Build a strong compliance team

Receiving SOC 2 certification is a process that can take some time, but by taking the proper steps, you can streamline the process. One of the most effective ways to ensure your certification process runs smoothly is by building a strong compliance team ahead of time. This includes identifying all the relevant roles and which members of your organization would fill them best.

These roles include:

 

3. Prepare documents and policies 

Most of the preparation for a SOC 2 audit is gathering the necessary documentation. This allows you to produce the documents requested by the auditor as soon as the audit begins. Auditors generally start by asking for a collection of documents and data known as “Common Population.” Then, throughout the audit, the auditor will examine the following documents:

 4. Choose your auditor

Once you choose the audit form, get a team together and make the other relevant preparations. It’s essential to select an auditor you trust who can understand the specific needs of your business and industry. Find an auditor with plenty of experience and a history of auditing in your industry. Even once you’ve chosen a firm, you can still select the specific employees and CPAs you will work with.

Make sure your auditor understands your organization’s compliance requirements and goals. Ideally, your auditor will customize the SOC 2 process to meet your organization and industry needs, allowing you to ensure that you provide your customers with the highest level of security. Your auditor will then assess your security processes and measures and approve the audit.

5. Prepare, assess and improve 

You’re now prepared to ensure your systems are ready for the audit. Some of the other things you can do before the audit include:

Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s important to implement regular security maintenance practices. Regular security awareness training is one of the most effective practices you can implement. Training can help get all your staff on board with your new, security-prioritizing agenda and empowers them with a personal stake in your organization’s security. Your employees can be your organization’s greatest vulnerability or your strongest protection against vulnerabilities and attacks. Employees can be trained to the point where they form a human firewall, gaining enough knowledge and awareness to recognize potential threats and take action necessary to keep your organization’s assets secure.

Preparation Streamlines the SOC 2 Certification Process

Although it may take up to a year, preparing your organization in advance can help it go through the SOC 2 audit process smoothly. Focusing your efforts on upgrading your organization’s security, particularly with ongoing maintenance such as cyber education for employees, helps ensure continuous compliance throughout the audit process and beyond. 

Empowering your employees with the knowledge to act with your organization’s security interests in mind not only tightens security but also widens your security net by creating more eyes on the lookout for vulnerabilities. To begin implementing engaging and educational employee programs today, check out CybeReady.

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