Choosing the correct type of SOC audit is a crucial decision for almost every organization, one that is taken after considering the alignment of requirements with audit types as well as the implementation of controls.
No matter which type of audit you select – SOC 2 Type I or SOC 2 Type 2 – picking the right auditor is one of the critical factors for conducting and completing the certification. Before we dwell on the points to consider while choosing the right auditor for your organization, let’s first understand the role of SOC 2 auditors in SOC attestation.
What role does an auditor play during SOC 2 compliance?
In order to comply with SOC 2, organizations must go through an audit that evaluates their controls in comparison to the applicable standard or Trust Services Criteria and achieve a SOC1 or SOC2 audit report.
This audit is performed by a SOC 2 auditor, who is responsible for providing a detailed report on how the organization has implemented security controls and whether or not the organization can achieve SOC 2 compliance based on the findings.
SOC 2 audit also acts as a tool for organizations to verify that a vendor follows specific best practices related to protecting their client’s data before outsourcing to them.
All in all, it can be summarized that to achieve compliance, SOC 2 reports are vital, and since these reports are based on the findings of the auditor, selecting the right SOC 2 auditor inadvertently becomes essential.
Criteria for selecting a SOC 2 auditor
Service organizations often find themselves in a dilemma when approaching auditors since there are several factors that must be considered. However, selecting the right SOC 2 auditor for your organization, albeit difficult, is an important step.
Here are a few criteria that can significantly simplify the process of choosing a SOC 2 auditor for your organization.
1. Affiliated with the AICPA
One of the first things to consider is whether the auditor is affiliated with AICPA or a certified CPA firm. It is imperative that to conduct an audit and receive a SOC2 attestation, you must only use an independent SOC 2 auditor or assessor.
2. Experience and reputation
Experience is a critical factor in the auditing industry for several reasons. One of them is the sound use of resources and a smooth journey for the organization. Determine whether the audit firm has performed similar SOC audits in your niche and for organizations of similar size. It will be significantly easier to work with an audit firm that has previously audited similar companies to yours.
3. Question their qualifications
Before hiring an AICPA-certified audit firm as a partner, you should investigate the individual qualifications and skills of the audit team. Below are three questions you must ask before taking the discussion forward:
What other assessments or certifications do you conduct?
It’s easy to get the certifications done from a single auditor. Switching auditors for each certification will cost you time and money.
From which industry do your customers come?
Every auditor cannot be an expert in every domain. Choose an auditor who has experience in your industry, particularly with companies of a similar scale.
Is your auditing firm aligned on the mechanics of the audit and evidence-sharing methods?
Ensure you work with an auditor who knows how to extract information from various repositories relevant to you. This will help you save time and effort and accelerate your audit process.
4. Style of communication
It’s always important to choose an auditing firm that matches your communication style. There are plenty of auditing firms that deliver excellent work and match your financial goals, but all of that goes in vain when there’s miscommunication. And this, in turn, fritters away your time, effort, and money.
5. Knowledge of tech stack
Test the auditor on their knowledge and understanding of your tech stack. If you start talking about your tech stack and they don’t seem to know what you’re talking about, it’s best to start looking at other options. An audit firm that aligns with the tools you use will be able to test the controls comprehensively and help you collect the right evidence with minimal effort.
6. SOC 2 audit cost
If you are tight on budget, you can choose a CPA firm that matches your financial goals. That being said, low costs often are accompanied by hidden, more often than not, substantial costs.
If the low-cost auditor can’t adhere to the timelines for the audit, it may lead to losing a critical customer sale. This, in turn, will exponentially increase the associated costs. Similarly, if it comes at the expense of the lack of handholding support that most startups need – the price difference will probably not be worth it.
You must also note that SOC 2 compliance is an ongoing process; hence instead of considering just the expense of the first year, plan ahead for at least two or three years. In cases like these, collaborating with the same audit firm will be much more efficient over time
7. Approach for SOC 2 auditing
Understanding the approach your auditor will take while executing the audit and how they will interpret the policies and controls is an important criterion to consider. Why? Because the complexity of a SOC 2 audit is almost entirely dependent on the execution process.
This includes, but is not limited to, how the auditor manages the audit progress, submits evidence requests, and collects them. Few auditors use spreadsheets and emails to manage the entire audit process, while others use automated tools like Scrut to manage the audit process.
SOC 2 audits, without a doubt, have complex controls and guidelines, particularly so for an engineering team not specializing in security. They are also descriptive rather than prescriptive in nature. As a result, no two auditors will interpret them the same way.
Hence, it’s better to ask your auditor how they would collect evidence from you to gauge the level of effort you would require your team to put in.
To round up the criteria, here are a few questions you can discuss with the shortlisted auditors in order to ensure that the selected auditor is competent and aligned with your requirements.
- How are you different from other auditing firms?
- How’s your auditing team’s quality of service and responsiveness?
- How often does your team miss the timelines during an auditing process? What steps do you take to mitigate such delays?
- Have you ever over-promised and under-delivered? If yes, why?
Best practices to follow while selecting a SOC 2 auditor
Now that you have a clear picture of how to pick and employ the right auditor for your organization, here are a few tips and tricks to help you navigate the auditor selection process without depleting resources:
- Talk to at least four prospective auditors to get an idea of who best fits your needs.
- Evaluate your auditors based on reputation, experience, communication, price, and approach.
- It’s always good to have a few reference calls with customers your auditors have served, similar to you in terms of industry and size.
- Speak with the dedicated account lead who will be driving the audit for your organization.
It is imperative to have the right auditor on board, not merely because of compliance but also to ensure the security of your organization is maintained. Automated platforms like Scrut assist you in selecting the auditor fit for your organization by providing you with a pre-negotiated marketplace of independent and affiliated auditors.
Scrut Automation is a smart and radically simple governance, risk, and compliance automation platform for growing startups and mid-market enterprises. With Scrut, compliance teams can reduce ~70% of their manual effort in continuously maintaining compliance towards SOC 2, ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and CCPA. Schedule your demo today to see how it works.