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SOC 2 Audit: The Essentials for Data Security and Compliance

Wesley Van Zyl

Senior Compliance Success Manager

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Summary: Read All the Essential Steps and Requirements for Preparing for a SOC 2 Audit to Ensure Data Security and Compliance.

Spoiler alert: money doesn’t make the world go around. It’s data security and compliance. But don’t just take our word for it. 73% of consumers are more concerned about their data privacy now than they were a few years ago. But the importance of data security and compliance is old news, and customers no longer prefer companies with robust security standards – they demand it. It’s as simple as that. 

So, with most consumers stating that they will not do business with a company if they have concerns about its security practices, organizations are amplifying their data security and compliance. 

However, it’s no walk in the park, and the compliance landscape is everything but beginner-friendly. 

So naturally, it doesn’t come as a surprise that up to 74% of organizations state compliance is a burden. And frankly, we don’t blame them – especially if they don’t have their friendly neighborhood Scytale to show them the ropes. 

Fortunately, you do. 

What is SOC 2? 

Need a quick recap on the ins and outs of SOC 2? Sure thing! Now, in a (tiny) nutshell, it’s a set of data security standards and guidelines specifically designed for SaaS companies to ensure that they meet the highest level of data security. One pretty neat attribute of SOC 2 has to be its flexibility, as it’s created to adapt to the individual needs of an organization while providing a framework to assess their data and information security and integrity.

We’ll leave it at that for now, but if you’d like to read more about SOC 2, visit our SOC 2 library. Instead, let’s dive into the next step you will most likely take (seeing as you clicked on the blog title) – the SOC 2 audit. 

What is a SOC 2 Audit?

The SOC 2 audit process can be daunting, especially if you’ve spent significant time and resources on your audit readiness. It is even more complicated because SOC 2 is an attestation, not a certification. This means it’s more complex than ticking a box or getting your ‘certified’ stamp of approval. So, what is a SOC 2 audit exactly? 

A SOC 2 audit assesses an organization’s trust service principles against the AICPA’s (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) quintessential TSPs. This brings us back to the five SOC 2 trust service principles. Depending on which ones you decide to include for your SOC 2 report (including the mandatory Security TSP), your SOC 2 audit will create a report detailing the effectiveness and efficiency of internal controls. Ultimately, it proves that you have successfully implemented the requirements to safeguard customer data with adequate internal controls.

SOC 2 Audits and Types of Reports

Before deep diving into preparing for your SOC 2 audit, it’s important to note that there are two types of reports: 

  • A SOC 2 Type I report: This assesses your scope design and the relevant TSPs. It’s usually conducted at a point-in-time and doesn’t require a lengthy auditing process.
  •  A SOC 2 Type II report is focused on the operating effectiveness of an organization’s relevant TSPs. This is the more robust and ‘official’ audit, usually reporting over a period of time (a three-to-twelve-month period, as advised by the AICPA).

Now, what about the process of preparing for a SOC 2 Audit? 

Preparing for a SOC 2 Audit

The audit process requires some heavy lifting, but that doesn’t mean the task should rest solely on your shoulders. Just in case you’d like to double-check you’re on the right track, here are the essential steps for preparing for a SOC 2 audit. 

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Step One: Establish Policies and SOPs

Your employees will always remain your first line of defense. Therefore, administrative policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be the cornerstone of any security program. Establishing them from the get-go is important, as is ensuring they are tailored to fit your team’s specific needs and structure. This includes clear and easy-to-apply (and understand) policies and processes that outline standard security processes, such as an Incident Response Plan, Risk Assessment and Analysis, Security Roles, and Security Training. Additionally, organizations should prioritize regular staff training sessions so everyone knows their roles and responsibilities and how they impact security compliance. 

Step Two: Define Your Scope

Remember when we said SOC 2 is flexible? Well, it’s your responsibility to define a scope that suits your organization and speaks to the most crucial inherent security risks and threats. That’s why defining the scope is a critical step and one that will be audited in your Type 1 report.  

This step includes choosing which categories (out of the five TSPs) to have in your SOC 2 final report. Daunting? Yes! Here’s more information on SOC 2 Scope and how it’s defined.

Step Three: Get Technical

Sure, policies, SOPs, and scope design are essential, but they only get you to a certain point. Now, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get technical. When it comes to keeping your applications and infrastructure secure, implementing technical security controls and putting the necessary measures in place to protect systems are required. For most organizations, this is where it gets a bit tricky. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a tech wiz to master the technical security controls anymore. Here’s what you need to know about understanding the SOC 2 controls list and its role in a SOC 2 audit.

Step Four: Readiness Assessment

System check? You bet! Readiness Assessments are crucial before type 2 audits and double as a way for an organization to gauge which elements need work and where to focus their security efforts. Without this step, companies may miss profound issues that only pop up until it’s too late (until the official audit). Successful readiness assessments help you fill the cracks while there’s still time to ensure your audit goes as smoothly as possible. Although SOC 2 readiness assessments may be confusing at first glance, with the right understanding, you can ensure that it is in the best interest of your organization! Here’s more on What to Look for During a SOC 2 Readiness Assessment.

After you’ve conducted a readiness assessment, it’s time to schedule your audit with a reputable auditing partner accredited with AICPA

But unfortunately, before organizations get to this point, they often run out of money, time, or patience. Or worse – they drain critical resources preparing for the SOC 2 audit and don’t pass. Even if they pass, what about staying compliant? 

Here’s the thing – SOC 2 isn’t designed to be a solo project. It takes a village, which is why we’re here. Replace the stress of security compliance with effortless, automated, and continuous SOC 2 compliance. From customized SOC 2 controls, Automated Evidence Collection, Agile Audit Management, and more – we help you get (and stay) compliant up to 90% faster – as simple as that!