Your Complete SOC 2 Compliance Guide: Certification Requirements, Best Practices & Checklist

SOC 2 is a critical framework for cloud computing and technology companies today. As with other compliance mandates, it's not a simple proposition. It is a complex set of requirements that companies must review and carefully address. However, it does not have to be an overwhelming process. This post breaks down everything you need to know about SOC 2 from its definition and trust principles to its certification requirements and best practices.

What is SOC 2 Compliance?

SOC 2 defines the criteria for managing customer data, which the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) bases on five trust service principles, namely security, privacy, availability, confidentiality, and processing integrity.

AICPA designed SOC 2 specifically for service providers who store their customer data in the cloud. That means that it applies to nearly every cloud provider and SaaS company.

SOC 2 audit reports are unique to your organization, unlike other certifications with rigid requirements (such as PCI DSS). Therefore, in line with your specific business practices, you design your controls to comply with either one or more of AICPA's trust principles.

The internal reports you create provide you and your relevant stakeholders (regulators, suppliers, clients, business partners, etc.) with essential information about how you and your service providers manage data.

The two SOC 2 report types are:

  • Type I: It describes a vendor's cybersecurity systems and whether their design can meet relevant trust principles.
  • Type II: It details the operational effectiveness of the identified systems.

Many organizations consider SOC 2 Type 2 more useful than Type 1 because the auditor verifies that the controls put in place work in an appropriate manner and over a set period. Independent third-party auditors carry out the evaluation to assess an organization's ability to comply with the five trust principles.

Why Does it Matter?

Information security is a going concern for organizations, including those that outsource some of their business operations to third-party vendors (e.g. cloud-computing providers or SaaS). The reason is that mishandled data, especially by network and application security providers, can leave organizations vulnerable to attacks, such as malware installation, extortion, and data theft.

The SOC 2 audit procedure, therefore, ensures enterprises that their service providers can securely manage and protect their data and their clients' privacy. For security-conscious organizations, complying with the SOC 2 security framework is at best a minimal requirement when looking for a SaaS provider.

SOC 2 Audit Best Practices

Given the fast expansion in the cloud environment and the proliferation of cloud-based security threats, many businesses are having difficulties meeting the framework's requirements. Below are some tactical best practices that struggling organizations can follow to achieve and maintain compliance:

  • Create dedicated governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) function within your company instead of allocating only one or two employees to handle the enormous task of building your SOC 2 criteria. Leverage operations, engineering, and platform security to support all audits and solicit necessary information from stakeholders across all departments for a streamlined process.
  • Develop a predefined process of monitoring both the known and unknown system activities, user access levels, and system configurations. Have a baseline of the normal activities to quickly determine any abnormal activity using a continuous security monitoring process.
  • Set up anomaly alerts for each time an incident occurs to prove your ability to detect, react, and take corrective action in time.
  • Implement detailed audit trails to help you identify the root cause of incidents and determine the correct remediation plan.
  • Have forensic data and make it actionable to provide visibility into attacks' points of origin, travel paths, impact on your system, and their next move.

SOC 2 Certification Requirements

SOC 2 is not just a technical audit. It also requires companies to establish, follow, and maintain strict data security policies and procedures that encompass the security, processing, availability, processing, and confidentiality of customer data. It ensures that an organization's information security measures meet the unique parameters of today's cloud-environment requirements.

As businesses increasingly leverage the cloud environment to store data, a SOC 2 compliance checklist has become a necessity. Thus, you need to demonstrate proficiency across one or more of the following trust principles for attestation:

  • Security: Your system has protection against unauthorized logical and physical access
  • Availability: Your system is available for use and operation as agreed or committed
  • Confidentiality: Your system protects confidential information
  • Processing integrity: System processing is accurate, timely, authorized, and complete
  • Privacy: You collect, use, retain, disclose, and destroy personal information in conformity with the Generally Acceptable Privacy Principles (GAPP) criteria.

About the SOC 2 Certification

Your organization must complete an external audit process to certify to the framework. Only a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can perform a SOC 2 certification. When you pass your certification process, a formal attestation documents it.

The first stage of the process involves you conducting a gap analysis to identify the framework areas you are compliant with and where to make improvements. It is best to also define your security objectives.

Next, identify the security controls that are appropriate for your company and implement them. The final step is auditing. You could first conduct an internal audit before calling an independent auditor for your SOC 2 Type 2 audit readiness report.

How GreyCastle Security Can Help

A clean SOC 2 report helps service companies and organizations foster confidence and trust with clients when it comes to their service delivery controls and processes. The report adds value to businesses by demonstrating evidence to auditors, clients, and the marketplace that your organization has put cybersecurity controls in place and makes improvements continuously.

No matter your industry (higher education, technology, finance, healthcare, retail, utilities, etc.) GreyCastle Security has got your back. We have built a proven process to verify to auditors and clients that your organization has a robust cybersecurity system in place and a continuous process for implementing and managing it.

At GreyCastle Security, we understand your specific compliance requirements and work with you to satisfy the demand for proof within your controlled environment. We also know what you need to improve the quality of your business. Trust us and our revolutionary approach to help your SOC 2 audit readiness process.

Contact GreyCastle today to get your SOC 2 Compliance report. Looking for more information? Download our SOC 2 Type 2 Compliance checklist!