3 Ways to Prepare Your Cybersecurity Program for a SOC 2 Audit
4 minute read
SOC 2 compliance can be a powerful tool for all aspects of your business—it can speed up your sales cycle by earning customer trust, it can help your procurement team partner with quality third-party organizations and it can help your information security group demonstrate the quality of their policies. Still, a SOC 2 audit is a considerable time and resource commitment, meaning you should only commit when you’ve identified your objectives and prepared your control environment. Below are three ways you can prepare for a SOC 2 audit and get the most out of your certification.
1. Choose the appropriate SOC 2 report type
The two SOC 2 report types demand different levels of commitment and validate your program in different ways. Choosing the right report means understanding what prospective customers will be checking for and how much time you are willing to make for the audit process.
The SOC 2 Type 1 report assesses your organization’s control design to ensure that it covers the areas necessary to meet relevant trust principles, validating the adequacy of your design but not the effectiveness of the controls themselves. This report provides a snapshot of your control library at a specific point in time, meaning it requires a significantly smaller time commitment than the Type 2, but also that it ages relatively quickly. It’s a great tool for organizations whose customers want to validate the presence of certain controls and who are looking to improve the maturity of their design.
The SOC 2 Type 2 report assesses both your control design and the effectiveness of your controls over time. This report provides an evaluation of your control effectiveness over a 3-, 6- or 12-month period, meaning it requires a significant time commitment on the part of your information security team, but also that it has a longer shelf life than the Type 1. It’s a great tool for organizations whose customers examine controls with more scrutiny and who are looking to improve their existing controls.
As a rule, you don’t want to spend more time and money on a report than your customers expect or desire. If your potential customers are only checking for a Type 1 verification, then that report will create the best value for your organization. The Type 2 is also a great choice, but only if making that investment will help your organization improve its controls and win deals faster.
2. Choose the right auditor
The ability to choose your own SOC 2 auditor is another tool that empowers you to make the process work for you. An auditor’s effectiveness for a given organization is context-dependent and often comes down to goodness of fit: do they know your industry? How many organizations have they audited? How many of those organizations worked in your field?
Even if you find an auditor that’s a good fit it’s still important to communicate with them about your organization and its goals. Ideally, their audit shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” evaluation, but a customized inquiry designed to determine whether you’re meeting your own objectives and those of your customers.
3. Choose the right Trust Service Criteria
Trust Service Criteria (TSC) are the five areas that you can choose to be evaluated for during the SOC 2 audit process. Like choosing your report type, choosing your TSC is the process of determining what your customers are looking to have verified and, just as importantly, what they aren’t looking for.
- Security (non-optional): your data and systems are protected against unauthorized access
- Availability: your information and systems are readily available when your customers expect them
- Processing integrity: your system and data processing are valid, accurate, authorized and timely
- Confidentiality: any confidential information you process or store is protected and remains confidential
- Privacy: personal information is collected, used, stored and disposed of responsibly
The only non-optional criterion is security, meaning you should take the time to assess your objectives and determine whether each of the others is relevant to your business and your customers’ interests. There is no extra credit in SOC 2 certification: scoping your audit correctly means only selecting the criteria that are appropriate for you.
4. Prepare with the right tools
Especially when preparing for your first SOC 2 audit, external tools can make a big difference. One of the biggest challenges for teams completing their first audit is finding out what they don’t know: writing up a technical description of their control environment, hiring processes and business systems can be an intense process, and there are a variety of products and services that can ease that burden.
One popular tool is a prep organization, which provides consultation services, a control framework and reporting templates that both guide your preparatory efforts and give you a strong sense of how you’ll do before the audit begins. These companies can be a good choice for organizations who are willing to spend a little extra to receive guidance from consultants with SOC 2 experience.
For organizations that aren’t looking for consultation services but would like access to preparatory frameworks and report writing templates, a cybersecurity certification management software solution can be a smart and economical choice.
A cybersecurity platform like ProcessUnity for Cybersecurity Risk Management provides control frameworks, configurable reporting and other features that structure and support your SOC 2 preparation process. Using this solution, you can map your existing policies to SOC 2 requirements, reducing the potential for redundant controls and speeding up the time it takes to get ready for an audit.
Looking for a more detailed guide to the full SOC 2 certification process? Download our new white paper, “How to Achieve SOC 2 Certification with a Small Team,” to learn how you can scope your certification process, choose your report type and TSC, prepare for an audit and use your report to remediate risk throughout the organization.
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ProcessUnity is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for risk and compliance management. The company’s software as a service (SaaS) platform gives organizations the control to assess, measure, and mitigate risk and to ensure the optimal performance of key business processes. ProcessUnity’s flagship solution, ProcessUnity Vendor Risk Management, protects companies and their brands by reducing risks from third-party vendors and suppliers. ProcessUnity helps customers effectively and efficiently assess and monitor both new and existing vendors – from initial due diligence and onboarding through termination. Headquartered outside of Boston, Massachusetts, ProcessUnity is used by the world’s leading financial service firms and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit www.processunity.com.