Everything you need to know about remote SOC 2 audit

COVID-19 has changed how we work. Despite all the new regulations for businesses, one thing remained clear: there was still a need for compliant reports. And, with travel restrictions in place and strict regulations to curb COVID spread, onsite audits have become a thing of the past. 

Hence, organizations have implemented remote audits to ensure they can still undergo the rigorous compliance process. Since remote audits are a new concept, this blog will highlight all the essential details about SOC 2 remote audits, how to prepare for your first remote audit, and its benefits.

Before we dive deep into remote audits, let’s get an overview of SOC 2 audits.

SOC 2: Overview 

The Service Organization Controls 2 (SOC 2) is an auditing procedure that evaluates the effectiveness of your organization’s data-management controls across five Trust Services Criteria (TSC) – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of the system. 

To receive a SOC 2 official report, SOC 2 audits must be finalized by an external auditor 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. In any case, it is now possible to complete the SOC 2 compliance audit itself remotely.

SOC 2 remote audits: Overview

A remote/virtual audit is a procedure of conducting an audit remotely, using tools like video call, email, and telephone to obtain audit evidence, just like you would during an onsite audit.  

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

Steps to perform a remote audit

Once the technical team gives you the go-ahead for a remote audit, you will need to start preparing. Below are the steps you need to follow for a successful remote audit.

1. Carry out a self-assessment

Once you are all good to go, conduct a self-assessment. Here, you answer the questions about the organization’s policies, procedures, or any changes to the operations process. 

2. Assessment review

After submitting your self-assessment, the technical team will review your answers and check if the systems and procedures can be audited remotely. If not, the organizations should stick to onsite audits.

3. Select a remote auditor

Remember, the auditor with excellent onsite auditing skills may not have hands-on experience in remote auditing. So, choose an auditor who has experience in conducting remote audits.

4. Have the remote audit

Once your application for remote audit is approved, you can start preparing for it. The auditing team will suggest the best possible way to have the audit. After a successful audit, your organization receives a SOC 2 compliant report.

The report generated is shared digitally over a private portal. The auditing team will provide recommendations over the portal if your organization requires an onsite audit at a later time.

Benefits of remote audit

Remote audits can be done at any stage of the SOC 2 process, and the following are a few reasons why you should choose remote audits.

1. Improved efficiency

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

2. Flexible approach

Remote audits allow auditors to engage with global employees without traveling. Not only does this save costs significantly, but it also helps manage tight audit schedules by facilitating parallel processing of critical audit tasks. Moreover, auditors working from their workspace tend to be more productive.

3. Saves cost and time

As discussed above, remote audits save time and the cost of resources. Travel costs often take up 10%-20% of the overall auditor costs, which is effectively saved by opting for remote audits.

4 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 expectations aligned across each stakeholder from the 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 to automate 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.

Closing thoughts

Remote work introduces new risks and new opportunities for 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 work, how they access data remotely and monitor data flow.

Start your compliance journey with us!

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How do I know if my organization is SOC 2 audit ready?

The only way to be sure you’re ready for a SOC 2 compliance audit is to review your systems. You can help self-assess your system using readiness assessment

2. How do I choose a SOC 2 remote auditor?

Remember these 3 while choosing a SOC 2 auditor:
AICPA approved. The SOC 2 auditor must and should be AICPA approved
Budget. Few auditors charge less, that doesn’t mean they cannot perform SOC 2 audits. Choose the SOC 2 auditor according to your budget.
Experience. Every onsite SOC 2 auditor isn’t good at conducting remote audits. So, choose a SOC 2 auditor who has experience in conducting remoter audits 

3. Why is remote SOC 2 audit better than onsite SOC 2 audit?

Remote audits promote active participation from people with different skills and expertise. The remote setup forces auditors to think of creative and cost-effective resolutions to critical issues. In addition, it saves time and the cost of traveling.

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