The SOC 2 Compliance Checklist For 2022
Compliance and Security
Getting ready for the SOC 2 audit? If you’re new to the process, you probably have a long list of questions on what the next steps are and what to expect overall. Being SOC 2 compliant gives you a considerable competitive advantage and added credibility.
Passing your audit successfully means all your policies, documentation, and operations have to be polished in order to meet the very high standard that the audit will expect. To help you through your SOC 2 certification process, we created an easy-to-follow SOC 2 compliance checklist so that you don’t miss anything.
In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about SOC 2.
What is SOC 2?
System and Organizational Control, or SOC 2, is an auditing process that makes sure service providers comply with specific criteria when working with sensitive customer information. It’s important to note, however, that SOC 2 certification (not to be confused with SOC 1 criteria) isn’t done once it’s passed successfully.
Your organization has to comply with SOC 2 guidelines and policies daily as it handles customer data, even after the audit is over. To be SOC 2 certified you need to follow strict policies and trust service specifications.
However, you can choose which trust service specifications you want to audit for. Your choice will be based on what is most important for the type of customers you’re serving.
The five trusted service specifications are:
- Privacy: Protection of personal information and its use
- Confidentiality: Protection against disclosure of sensitive information that hasn’t been authorized
- Processing integrity: Protection of the data and ensuring it’s not changed without explicit permission
- Availability: Systems and data will be available as stated in the service agreement
- Security: You have protection against unauthorized access
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or AICPA, goes into further detail about trust service and information integrity.
Now, the pros of being SOC 2 certified definitely outweigh the cons for most. Even if you have to spend months preparing for the procedure and reviewing your organization’s policies. Consider that SOC 2 compliance standards come with their advantages, including:
- Reliability: Getting SOC 2 approved is a rigorous process that takes work and diligence to pass. It’s why SOC 2 compliance is the hallmark of companies that can be trusted with a higher rate of security. Ensuring you can prove to your customers that their data is in secure hands is a competitive advantage you can leverage to your benefit.
- Optimized risk management policies: The bigger an organization grows, the more risk they’re exposed to. This goes for the customer information they manage too. With SOC 2 certification, you’ve done the preliminary work already. If any security risks were to arise, you’re more than prepared to handle the situation with organized policies and processes in place.
- Organized documentation: When you prepare to get SOC 2 certified, you’re forced to organize your processes and align your policies so your system is easier to manage.
The SOC 2 compliance checklist
A SOC 2 audit checklist will help you make it through the compliance process while covering all your bases.
1. Define the organization’s goals and provide a framework
It’s paramount to start the SOC 2 journey with a clear goal in mind. What’s your reason for doing it? Are you doing it because most of your clients require a SOC 2 certification?
Whatever your “why” may be, it’s important to get clear on how being SOC 2 compliant will help your organization. You should also be aware of how much time and resources you will need to get through the process so it doesn’t conflict with your regular company operations.
Ensure you have all internal controls in place for a successful SOC 2 audit with a predetermined framework that helps you check for what you already have in place. This way, you assess your readiness and you aren’t caught by surprise with gaps in your policies and procedures.
2. Choose your auditor
As you get clear on your objective, you can then choose the audit firm you’ll be working with. It’s necessary to pick an auditor you can trust and that can work with your specific compliance needs. Vendr + SaaS management provides several workflows and features along with automation to help you manage compliance and information security goals to remain compliant.
Access management tools and compliance workflows help add visibility to tasks like audit reports, SOC reports, or even readiness assessments. This all comes together to form a one-stop-shop to help you manage your SOC 2 compliance procedures.
Now, as you choose your SOC 2 auditor, it helps to ensure they have plenty of auditing experience and a history of industry expertise. Once you’ve selected your firm, it’ll choose which employees will work with you. Usually, they’re done by CPAs. They’ll assess your security measures and processes and approve the audit.
RSI Security, for example, is a well-established security firm that specializes in SaaS SOC 2 compliance audits. Much like RSI Security, your auditor should customize the SOC 2 audit and its controls to fit the specific needs of your organization so that you ensure the highest security possible for your customer data.
3. Define the scope and evaluate preparedness
At this step of the process, you choose which of the five service criteria you want to audit for. Security is the common criteria that is typically present in every SOC 2 compliance audit. You can decide which ones you want to include depending on what your SOC 2 compliance goal is.
You can also use your customer’s priorities to define the scope. Think about what will make your customers trust you and feel safe when their information is in your hands?
Your customers might emphasize things like:
- Quality control
- Process monitoring
- Impeccable data encryption
- Robust access control
In some cases, organizations forgo the privacy trust service criteria since their focus is on being compliant with other mainstream privacy policies like the European GDPR. This is because most European organizations use GDPR a lot more than SOC 2 privacy criteria.
Yet another example is the integrity criteria. It’s mostly used by financial institutions and companies that work with transactions. If you don’t fit into any of these categories, you might want to forgo this one too.
4. Pick the right type of SOC 2 report
Now the question becomes, should you go for SOC Type I or Type II? If you’re running SOC 2 for the first time, you can only obtain the Type I report since you won’t have a prior record of compliance to work from.
Yet once you establish a working SOC 2 policy, you have to create regular reports on how you perform against it. Type II includes all the information from your Type I report and is valued more by stakeholders.
In this case, it’s wise to go for the Type II report since it encompasses a specific period and shows your clients that they can trust the security controls you’ve set in place. To do that, you will need a log of records that have kept track of your performance over that period.
5. Prepare, assess and improve
You’ve defined your goals, scope, and the type of report you’ll run. Now you can start preparing for the audit. These are a few specific guidelines worth following for best results:
- Gather and appraise any existing procedure documents, self-assessments, and security control policies that have been created so far
- Find the gaps in these documents. For example, you might reevaluate who gets access to sensitive data or how you measure policy effectiveness.
- To improve the current security policies and control systems, you have to come up with an improvement plan. How are you going to improve these so you meet SOC 2 compliance requirements?
- After you’ve closed the gap in your current policies, double-check to see if they work effectively and as expected. You can schedule your auditor meeting once that’s finalized.
Going forward, the auditor has to check the scope and come on-site to run interviews and review all relevant documents. Once you receive their approval, congrats, you’re officially SOC 2 certified!
Hopefully, the vast amount of information in this guide help shed some clarity on the whole SOC audit process. To recap, here are the main points we covered:
- SOC 2 reports are necessary to show you comply with standardized guidelines to work with sensitive data.
- SOC 2 compliance benefits include reliability, better risk management policies, well-organized documentation, and a better security policy.
- The SOC 2 compliance checklist ensures you define your goals, define the scope of compliance, choose the type of report, and assess and improve your systems and policies.
At this point, you know the exact steps necessary for SOC 2 certification. Not it’s a matter of implementing it in your organization. Once you’re SOC 2 qualified, ensure you stick to these policies and your everyday procedures for best results.