Everything You Need To Know About Remote SOC 2 Compliance Audits

Updated: Aug 16

Vector Representation of SOC 2 Automation Software
Everything you need to know about SOC automation software

SOC 2 compliance has become a business imperative for SaaS vendors, but remote auditing can make the process significantly easier.

The Service Organization Controls 2 is an auditing procedure that evaluates the effectiveness of your organization’s data-management controls across five ‘trust service principles’. These include security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Although legally voluntary, passing an audit has become a business imperative for SaaS vendors, as well as any organization that outsources any key operations to them.

To receive official certification, SOC 2 audits must be finalized by an external auditor who has been licensed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Although the auditing process itself can be carried out internally or externally by anyone with the relevant expertise, the report and supporting evidence must be submitted to the AICPA for evaluation and certification. In any case, it is now possible to complete the SOC 2 compliance audit itself remotely.

What is a remote SOC 2 audit?

Since the onset of the pandemic, many organizations have been working in exclusively remote environments. That said, some new startups never had a physical business premise, to begin with. Instead, the entirety of their operations takes place online across a broad range of cloud computing services and remote work models. This has made remote auditing a clear necessity in such cases, but moving to remote audits has not been without its challenges.

Traditionally, SOC 2 audits rely upon the physical inspection of data-bearing systems and the review of the evidence pertaining to information security and privacy controls. As a result, a lot of organizations have chosen to postpone their SOC 2 audits until conditions change. However, a significant backlog of auditing requests, combined with the fact that many companies have moved permanently to a remote work model, have rendered this option inadequate.

A remote SOC 2 audit involves having remote workers capture and upload evidence of their security controls to formally meet the auditing protocols. For example, they might use screen-sharing and video conferencing software to collaborate with auditors. SOC 2 automation tools also play an increasingly important role in simplifying and scaling the auditing process across disparate cloud computing environments.

Benefits of remote audit

Remote audits can be done at any stage of the certification process, and the following are a few reasons why you should choose remote audits.

Improved Efficiency

Remote audits promote active participation from people with different skills and expertise, across the board. The remote setup forces auditors to think of creative and cost-effective resolutions to critical issues.

Flexible Approach

Remote audits allow auditors to engage with global employees without traveling. Not only does this save costs significantly, but it also helps in managing the tight audit schedules by facilitating parallel processing of audit critical tasks. Moreover, auditors working from their own workspace tend to be more productive. It's easy to record audit calls, and thereby it provides better visibility to the leadership teams and improves the quality of audits.

Saves Cost and Time

Remote audits cost less, period. Travel costs often take up 10%-20% of the overall auditor costs, which is effectively saved by opting for remote audits.

Four tips for smoother remote audits

Remote working is here to stay. and so are remote audits. There are four steps that every organization should take to ensure faster, hassle-free remote audits.

  1. Establish a clearly defined audit plan. Define the scope, purpose, requirements, and timelines for each audit.

  2. Communication is key. It is important to have the expectations aligned across each individual stakeholder from the very beginning. Regular check-ins with the auditors to evaluate progress, resolve issues and streamline the flow of communication will help keep the remote audit on track.

  3. A project manager, who understands the organization, is great at influencing the right stakeholders to get the work done, and has tight project management skills should be appointed to drive SOC 2 remote audits to closure on time.

  4. Leverage a compliance automation platform. The Scrut platform integrates with the cloud infrastructure automated evidence collection across 150+ controls, facilitates infosec policy rollouts - backed by prebuilt policy templates, and manages evidence artifacts and workflows - all in one place. Auditors find all relevant policies and evidence artifacts in one place, enabling them for faster remote audits,

Security controls in a remote world

Remote work introduces both new risks and new opportunities when it comes to safeguarding client data in accordance with SOC 2 auditing demands. Some controls are no longer relevant, while new risks inherent to remote work may need to be addressed for the first time. In remote environments, organizations must pay special attention to areas like where people are actually working, how they access data remotely, and how they monitor the flow of data.

Remote audits can be carried out either internally or externally, but they can only be approved by the AICPA itself. That said, working with a third-party auditor can speed up the process and save money. Whichever pathway you choose, the process broadly consists of establishing an audit plan, conducting the audit, and then compiling the reports for the AICPA. As the process is highly standardized, it is possible to automate much of it.

Good software plays a vital role in remote auditing. SOC 2 automation software is a practical necessity since it overcomes the challenges of scale involved in reviewing, analyzing, and evaluating a large and often disparate range of systems and processes. Automation also helps establish a standardized and repeatable methodological process that involves continuous monitoring, reporting, and problem resolution. Especially in a remote environment, SOC 2 automation also helps improve team collaboration with stakeholders and auditors.

Although remote work has undeniably introduced fresh challenges to preparing and executing SOC 2 audits, new automation solutions have made it quicker, easier, and more scalable. A SOC 2 certification will ultimately make your organization far more attractive to do business with, so there is no time like the present to get started!

Scrut Automation is a one-stop shop for compliance. Our software provides the fastest solution for achieving and maintaining SOC 2 compliance, making it an ideal choice for busy startups. Schedule your demo today to see how it works.