SOC 2 audit: Keys to success

A SOC 2 compliance audit, however daunting and challenging, is necessary for many organizations. Most organizations benefit from completing their SOC 2 audit before engaging with prospective clients as it acts as a reputation enhancement tool. 

Once you provide the SOC 2 certification to your clients, they experience a sense of enhanced trust, transparency, and reliability for your organization. It also acts as insurance for several organizations when faced with data breaches. 

Even though there are plenty of benefits, let’s not forget that completing the SOC 2 audit is incredibly time-consuming and requires considerable resources, especially if your organization is pursuing a SOC 2 compliance audit for the first time. 

Which brings us to the question; how can your organization streamline the audit process? Simple, through the right technology and planning! In this article, we will list 8 key ways through which organizations can accelerate and complete their SOC 2 compliance audit process. 

8 tips to follow for a successful SOC 2 audit 

1. Start with choosing the right ‘type of SOC 2 report’ 

One of the most important decisions to make before jumping in for a SOC 2 audit is deciding which type of SOC 2 report – Type 1 or Type 2 – is fit for your organization, depending on the resources and time assigned to the project. 

The Type 1 audit provides an assessment report on the security process the organization has put in place at a specific point in time, while the Type 2 audit tests the effectiveness of those designs over 6 to 12 months. 

The reason for this long-term observation period is that the Type 2 auditor checks both; whether the company designed the proper security controls and if the company has operationalized those security controls

2. Find the right SOC 2 auditor for your organization

Once you’ve determined which type of SOC 2 audit is fit for your organization, the next key step is finding the right SOC 2 auditor. Thinking that finding an auditor for SOC 2 compliance audit is easy turns out to be one of the biggest mistakes organizations often make.  

As per the AICPA, your SOC 2 audit must be conducted by an independent Certified Public Accountant. Certified Information System Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) are some credentials you can check while selecting a CPA firm for your organization. 

A CPA firm with these licenses will better understand SOC 2 auditing framework. It can also help you with strategies regarding security risk management. 

3. Fasten the SOC 2 audit by selecting criteria beforehand 

SOC 2 is based on five trust service criteria: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. As a part of the guidelines underlying the SOC 2 audit, the selection of one of five TSCs is necessary. 

However, you do not have to address all five to be SOC 2 compliant. Except for security which must be mandatory in every SOC 2 audit, the rest are entirely optional. You can decide which of the remaining TSCs fit your organization’s objectives and pursue them accordingly. 

However, in order to expedite your first SOC 2 audit, you may decide to limit the number of criteria and then address them during subsequent audits.

4. Engage and communicate with departments throughout the organization

It is essential to ensure that all employees are involved in the SOC 2 compliance audit procedures. Even if leadership is required to drive SOC 2 compliance, the procedure shouldn’t be overly top-down or coercive.

The management must take the lead and ensure that all departments are aware of the controls implemented under SOC 2 compliance requirements, especially since it also impacts them. 

Human resources, IT, security, operations, DevOps, and C-suite, are some of the departments that participate at the time of the SOC 2 audit. 

5. Have thorough knowledge of security controls 

One of the biggest challenges or pain points while pursuing a SOC 2 audit is the implementation of security controls, which is exactly why your organization must prepare for it beforehand. 

With dozens of controls covering ten essential security dimensions, it’s easy for businesses to find themselves wasting a lot of time trying to decide which controls to pick and exactly what they should do to demonstrate their readiness. 

It doesn’t help that there is very little and limited guidance on which controls to focus on and why. Ensure that you are using expert guidance or streamlining the implementation of security controls with the help of a pre-built policy library. 

6. Work on a stipulated timeline 

Timelines are very critical for organizations, and this case is no different. Typically, a SOC 2 Type 1 audit takes one to three months, while an audit for SOC 2 Type 2 can take six to twelve months or more. 

The SOC 2 audit process doesn’t have built-in deadlines, so if you don’t create and follow a timeline on your own, it might take you forever to complete the report. You can divide the milestones into categories and create a stipulated timeline to ensure everyone involved follows the same. Here is a template you can take inspiration from;  

Weeks 1-2: Select an auditor and assess the software for audit workflow

Week 3: Complete a gap analysis

Weeks 4-5: Put your security controls into action

Week 6: Participate in a mock audit.

Weeks 7-8: Submit a report draft.

Week 9 – Complete audit

7. Don’t sideline the Vendors 

Vendors can sometimes play an important role in meeting SOC 2 security requirements. For instance, if your infrastructure is housed in a third-party data center, you would expect the third party to have the needed physical security controls in place to restrict access to your infrastructure.

To fulfill the physical security requirement for SOC 2 audit, you would rely on the third party’s controls to function properly. Understanding what is expected of your vendor and communicating what is expected of them will allow for a more efficient audit flow.

8. Be active even after the final assessment

The validity of SOC 2 Type 2 reports is 12 months from the date of issuance. Any report that is older than that has less value for prospective clients. 

In order to maintain the trust of clients and ensure your organization is at par with security standards in real time, you need continuous, ongoing compliance. 

Even though it is a demanding security standard, in the end, it’s very rewarding because it shows that your company upholds constant security and dependability standards. 

Simplify SOC 2 compliance audit using automation 

This article demonstrates how organizations can successfully achieve SOC 2 compliance by following the ‘key pointers for the SOC 2 audit’. It reiterates the importance of a well-structured auditing process and how it can either make or break the organization’s compliance procedure. 

Most organizations use technologically advanced platforms, like Scrut, that help streamline the compliance process and effectively reduce the resources required to complete the SOC 2 audit. 

Frequently answered questions (FAQs)

1. What is a SOC 2 audit?

The SOC 2 audit is a document that describes in detail the measures organizations have implemented in order to meet the SOC 2 standards. Depending on the success of the audit, a report is issued to reassure clients that the organization is committed and capable of safeguarding data. 

2. How can organizations make SOC 2 audits cost-effective? 

Making SOC 2 compliance audit cost-effective is easier than it seems, especially if your organization uses a compliance automation platform like Scrut. These platforms implement their tools to reduce the resources required from your organization, thereby limiting the financial and organizational dependency significantly. 

3. What is the goal of the SOC 2 compliance audit? 

The goal of the SOC 2 audit process is to demonstrate your company’s capability to safeguard private information and customer data. Security, Availability, Confidentiality, Processing Reliability, and Privacy are the five Trust Services Criteria that are used to evaluate the objectives of your organization. 

4. How much does a SOC 2 audit cost? 

There are several factors that influence the cost of a SOC 2 audit, including the type of SOC 2 audit, the auditor selected by your organization, the size of your organization, etc. To gain an understanding of the same, you can go through this article on the cost of a SOC 2 audit. 

Scrut 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.

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