The SOC 2 audit process can be intimidating. It is definitely time-consuming, resource-intensive, and expensive. However, it does not need to be so complicated if the right legwork is done. One of the key aspects of SOC 2 is to have the right policies in place to protect customer data. If done right, and adhered to diligently, this can save an organization a significant amount of time and money during the audit. Unsurprisingly, clear, concise policy documentation is the foundation for a successful SOC 2 audit.
What are SOC 2 policies?
The SOC 2 policies establish a framework for expectations from employees and the procedures for meeting these expectations. These policies are reviewed by the SOC 2 auditor in great detail with respect to adherence to SOC 2 controls and are expected to be documented and accepted by each employee (and often external parties like vendors).
What SOC 2 policies do you need?
The scope for what policies need to be drafted and deployed for SOC 2 compliance will vary depending on the company’s size, services offered, and the Trust Services Criteria chosen. However, there are a few policies that will be required and are recommended for SOC 2:
1. Information Security Policy
Information Security (IS) policy is the cornerstone of SOC 2 compliance for any organization, and acts as the foundation for all other infosec-related policies. The key objective of the IS policy is to ensure all employees and service providers who have the access to critical data related to the organization, or its networks, satisfy the stated rules and regulations. It is important to note that the IS policy covers both physical and digital data.
2. Access Control Policy
This policy provides guidance on restricted admittance to various systems and applications and expectations from the admin accounts and their holders. It also covers the process for authorizing, modifying, and removing users, and access using the role-based access control.
3. Password Policy
The password policy includes the approach for password management, and the necessary protocols for password creation (e.g., length and complexity), changes (e.g., frequency of password changes), and mechanisms (e.g., multi-factor authentication).
4. Data classification policy
Data classification policy incorporates instructions on how to protect data and what measures need to be taken to secure the data based on the criticality and sensitivity of the data itself.
5. Physical Security Policy
The physical security policy incorporates the basics of protecting data assets from ecological and physical dangers. This reduces threats from theft, loss, harm or unauthorized access to these valuable assets.
6. Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)
The Acceptable Use policy describes the restrictions and regulations for utilizing the organization's technology assets.
7. Backup Policy
Regular Backup policy is vital for any organization in the cloud era. The policy necessitates protecting critical business data with fixed periodic backups. Ideally, backups can be safely stored with the 3-2-1 method. That implies three data copies should be stored in two different types of media, and one copy should be saved for disaster recovery.
8. Logging and Monitoring Policy
The logging and monitoring policy lays out the requirements that need to be satisfied for logging user activities and protocols for log inspections.
9. Risk Management Policy
The Risk Management policy covers the mechanisms and procedures for performing risk assessments. This also covers expected threats and potential impact. Through this policy, one can assess the risk associated with each identified threat, estimate the impact on the organization and define the appropriate mitigation strategies.
10. Change Management Policy
A change management policy acts as the ground for managing changes in production environments. The main aim of this policy document is to describe practices that minimize potential risks for unauthorized, un-tested, and sub-optimal changes. A change management policy should ideally consist of:
The most common set of changes that happen in the organization’s infrastructure
Brief description of processes to initiate the change - from source to end results along with approval criteria
Stakeholders involved in each layer of change process
Documentation and maintenance of each change record for future audit and compliance.
11. Incident Response Policy
The IR (Incident Response) policy defines the approach of the enterprise in case of an unwanted and unexpected security incident. The policy is focused on minimizing the impact on business operations and customers while handling such an incident.
12. Business Continuity Plan
The Business Continuity Plan lays down the operating procedures in case of an emergency. It covers three major aspects for a business:
How will it coordinate efforts in case of emergency?
How will the hardware, applications and essential data will be restored in case of a disaster?
How will the business continue in any unexpected situation?
13. Remote Access Policy
The remote access policy describes the allowed practices of connecting remotely to an enterprise’s internal networks. Remote access policy is a key requirement for businesses allowing permanent or semi-permanent remote work for employees.
14. Email/Communication Policy
This policy provides guidelines to employees for acceptable and unacceptable usage of an organization’s various communication mediums.
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