Where to Start with SOC 2 Compliance

by Trava, Cyber Risk Management

Do you know what it actually takes to get your business SOC 2 certified?

Are you ready to take control of your compliance journey and drive your organization towards excellence? Discover where you stand with our Compliance Maturity Assessment, designed to provide you with a personalized roadmap to compliance success.

This blog was updated in November 2023.

You've probably heard of SOC 2 compliance and its significance for businesses, but do you truly understand its role in safeguarding your company's integrity and data security? Your customers are increasingly vigilant about their data's security, making SOC 2 certification a badge of trust. Yet, achieving this certification is far from a walk in the park.

However, because businesses vary in their mode and scope of operations, there's no cookie-cutter strategy that will seamlessly guide you through the process. While a generic checklist might seem like the logical starting point, it falls short in addressing unique and diverse demands.

This is where SOC audits come in. They emerge as a custom-tailored solution designed to assess your organization's specific security and compliance needs. This approach ensures that your security measures align precisely with your industry, customer expectations, and the nuances of your business.

In the following sections, we'll delve into the essential steps and considerations for SOC 2 compliance, highlighting the importance of a personalized approach to fortify your organization's data protection practices and instill trust in stakeholders.

Defining the Scope and Objectives of SOC 2

So, what is compliance in simple words? SOC 2 compliance assures customers and stakeholders that businesses are diligently safeguarding their sensitive data. However, the path to this assurance entails a deeper understanding of the audit's inner workings.

SOC 2 audits focus on five fundamental categories at the core of any organization's security measures. They include:

  • Infrastructure: This category scrutinizes the physical and virtual elements of your IT framework. It assesses the infrastructure's security, reliability, and resilience.
  • Data: Data is the lifeblood of any operation. SOC 2 examines how data is stored, processed, and protected within your organization to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and availability are upheld.
  • People: The human factor is pivotal in security. After all, over 70% of cybersecurity attacks are due to human error. SOC 2, therefore, evaluates how well your staff is trained and how effectively they adhere to security protocols.
  • Software: The software you use plays a significant role in data security. SOC 2 assesses the applications and systems that handle your data, checking for vulnerabilities and adherence to best practices.
  • Risk management policies: SOC auditors examine your policies and procedures to mitigate and respond to security risks.

Understanding your organization's unique blend of these elements is crucial, as it influences your audit experience. The audit scope is customized to your specific business operations, ensuring that it reflects your security measures and challenges.

Type I Vs. Type II Audits

Choosing between Type I and Type II audits is another critical decision. Type I audits provide a snapshot of your security compliance daily, providing a relatively less comprehensive evaluation. On the other hand, Type II audits span an extended duration, offering a more in-depth analysis. They scrutinize data over a specific timeframe, evaluating the efficacy of your ongoing security controls in real time.

Type II certification is the gold standard as it gives a more thorough and credible assessment—a quality that aligns with customer expectations. It is, therefore, advisable to opt for a Type II audit to exhibit a sustained commitment to robust security practices.

Listen to an expert talk about the different types.

Understanding Trust Services Criteria

Trust Services Criteria (TSC) act as the yardstick for evaluating compliance meaning in business. Defined by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants), these criteria are the foundation of the audit process, determining whether your business attains SOC 2 certification.

The five TSC aspects include:

  • Security: Protecting information and systems from threats and mishandling is the core pillar of SOC 2 compliance. It ensures that sensitive data remains safeguarded.
  • Availability: This criterion ensures that information and systems are consistently available for operation, meeting service agreements. It assures clients that your services are reliable and accessible.
  • Processing integrity: SOC 2 ensures your systems operate efficiently and effectively while aligning with your organizational objectives. It guarantees that data processing remains reliable and accurate.
  • Privacy: In a world concerned with data privacy, this principle ensures that personal information is collected, used, and disposed of properly and securely. It reassures clients that their privacy is respected.
  • Confidentiality: For non-personal data, the standard ensures it is collected, handled, and disposed of appropriately. It adds an extra layer of assurance regarding sensitive information.

Although security is the sole criterion that's mandatory for compliance, SOC 2 certification allows flexibility. You can focus on security alone or expand the audit to include more criteria to meet your industry and business needs. However, opting for all five criteria may lead to a more extensive and pricier audit process.

Selecting the criteria that align most closely with your security practices ensures your customers see that you are certified in the areas that matter most to them, strengthening trust.


Readiness and Gap Assessments

Before you ever try to go all-in for the audit, there are other assessments available to help make sure you aren’t wasting your time and money to fail an audit. Start with an initial readiness assessment to determine how close you are to compliance, and where exactly you are falling short. These assessments are relatively inexpensive and provide you with the data you’ll need to close security gaps.

A gap analysis comes next. Once you know where you are lacking, a gap analysis will tell you how large each gap is and how to close that gap. Things like employee security training and updating softwares will be among the suggested actions to take. Once you’ve worked to close the gaps, another readiness assessment should be done to make sure every relevant gap has been filled.

Both readiness and gap analyses can (and should) be outsourced to organizations that specialize in them to better ensure the data you are getting is thorough and accurate.

The Bottom Line

SOC 2 compliance is far from a one-size-fits-all solution. It's a process that must be tailored to meet the distinct security requirements of each business. This calls for a personalized approach to guarantee alignment with the precise standards necessary.

Trava stands ready to guide and support your business through its SOC 2 compliance journey, ensuring security and trust for your customers.

Remember, compliance isn't just a certificate—it's a commitment to safeguarding data and building trust in your business.

For more assistance on your SOC 2 journey, contact Trava today!


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