If you work for a B2B SaaS company, chances are you have heard about the SOC 2 compliance framework – and if not, your customers certainly have. Being an organization that is involved in storing or processing important or confidential client information, you need to reassure your customers about data security. Most critically, you need to establish trust with not only your own customers but also their customers that they provide services to.
Well, getting a SOC 2 report attesting to your compliance with that framework’s key requirements – especially security, availability and confidentiality – is one of the best ways to to create and sustain that trust.
Of course, you need to know the what and the how of a SOC 2 compliance – and that’s what this blog is for! In this blog, we will answer four of the most frequently asked questions about SOC 2. Our aim with this blog is to simplify SOC 2 compliance for you so that you are not left clueless as you step into the process of securing your certification.
1. What is a SOC 2 report?
A SOC 2 report is a document in which you (the client) and an independent auditor – whose work must be vetted by a CPA, if the hands-on auditor is not a CPA themselves – both attest that the company is meeting SOC 2’s requirements. This document is formally known as a SOC 2 attestation report, but is usually just called a “SOC 2 report.” It provides confirmation that the client is following the SOC 2 criteria for security, as a base requirement.
Optionally, the customer can widen the scope to cover the criteria for availability, confidentiality, privacy and data integrity as well.
The four main sections of a SOC 2 report are:
Section 1: an attestation by your company’s management that the report is accurate
Section 2: an auditor’s report on their findings and an opinion as to whether the company has met the requirements of the SOC 2 criteria – mainly, security criteria
Section 3: a narrative description of your company’s service, organization and the hardware and software system that supports it
Section 4: a detailed description of the relevant criteria, the company’s controls that address them, the tests applied by the auditor, and the test results
2. What does SOC 2 certification cover?
SOC 2 covers many dimensions of your company, even if you are only doing the core security part of the framework and not the optional criteria categories. Here are just a few of the areas covered:
Organizations must constantly monitor their information systems, keeping track of who is accessing sensitive data and making changes to it. This procedure should include the implementation of access controls, which ensure that sensitive data can only be accessed by those who have been authorized.
Layers of controls in a sophisticated access control management system ensure that employees can only see information that is relevant to their job. This not only mitigates the risk posed by hostile insiders, but also the damage caused if an external cyber criminal gains unauthorized access to an account. As a result, access controls add an extra layer of security if employees use weak passwords or fall victim to a phishing scam.
Data Breach Alerts
Because there are simply too many attackers and weaknesses, no matter how effective your cyber security defenses are, you will experience a data breach sooner or later.
When a security breach happens, you’ll need a system to notify you of the problem. This includes not only unauthorized access, but also unusual file transfers or sensitive data modifications. When it comes to dangers like spear phishing, when an attacker impersonates a senior employee or a trusted third party and requests that a lower-level employee provide them with access credentials, these are very critical to detect.
Organizations must follow a strict logging and log review process to guarantee that personal information and other sensitive data are accessed appropriately. Only by doing so can you spot vulnerabilities and, in the event of an attack, track down the source of a data breach and assess the full scope of the harm.
The method by which you respond to threats is another part of SOC 2 compliance. This includes the procedures you take to determine the full scope of a breach, understand how it happened, and avoid further damage. Having such forensics systems in place gives you the peace of mind that future issues will be handled quickly, preventing a bad situation from worsening.
3. Who is the audience for a SOC 2 report?
SOC 2 reports, according to the AICPA, are intended to “assist service organizations that provide services to other entities create trust and confidence in the service performed, and in the controls connected to the services, through an independent CPA report”.
In a nutshell, it’s meant to reassure your SaaS services’ clients, prospective customers and partners that your firm is secure and safe to do business with. A SOC 2 report is not intended to be available to the public – that’s what a SOC 3 document is for.
4. Is there a checklist of everything I need to do?
Since SOC 2 is a flexible framework that allows a lot of freedom in how companies design and implement their controls, a simple checklist would never be adequate. A compliance automation service like Akitra’s will guide you through the process methodically and systematically, providing you with a set of policies and controls, and taking care of most of the mundane tasks of evidence collection – automatically. But that’s a longer topic of discussion, for a future article.
Just know this: without automation, expect to be mired in lengthy spreadsheet task lists, tracking potentially thousands of emails and text threads, uploading hundreds of files to your auditor, and endlessly hounding your colleagues to meet their deadlines to provide needed evidence or to provide resolution of an open issue. It’s not fun. There’s a better way. Stay tuned to learn more about compliance automation.
Check back in with us soon and follow the rest of this educational series about SOC 2, from Akitra, a leader in compliance automation platforms.
To book your FREE DEMO, contact us right here.