Is 2024 the year you finally make your SOC 2 goals a reality? Experts say that information security standards, such as SOC 2, are becoming much more central to businesses. That’s no surprise. Customers are much more discerning about information security and reliability. Competitive pressure means startups and established companies need a competitive edge. And SaaS companies recognize that they can no longer afford the risk of mediocre InfoSec practices. SOC 2 solves these challenges, and more so if implemented correctly.
So, how can you be sure you’ve implemented a SOC 2 protocol that ticks all the boxes? Here’s a handy SOC 2 compliance checklist to help you prepare for your SOC 2 compliance audit and realize your business’ security goals.
Benefits of being SOC 2 compliant
Before we jump right into our SOC 2 compliance checklist, let’s remind ourselves of why being SOC 2 compliant is so valuable in the first place.
Businesses that are SOC 2 compliant:
- Demonstrate reliability and the highest standards of data security.
- Meet the most demanding clients’ procurement requirements.
- Gain a competitive edge when entering new markets.
It’s important noting that SOC 2 is flexible, allowing companies to scope in more stringent controls so they can demonstrate to their customers that they are going above and beyond within the report.
Below is Scytale’s 5-step checklist to achieve your SOC 2 goals in 2024
Identify your core focus from the Trust Services Principles and outline the criteria and relevant controls that will fall under the ambit of the company’s SOC 2 audit.
A SOC 2 audit checklist should ensure you’ve covered all the bases, confirming you have met all the requirements your auditors will be looking for.
But remember, before preparing for your SOC 2 audit, you want to be clear about the specific scope of your organization’s SOC 2 report. Only once you have this strategic clarity is it time to consider the finer details of your SOC 2 compliance goals. When evaluating the scope, remember that SOC 2 is evaluated according to the five Trust Services Principles, covering the following categories:
- Processing Integrity
Managers need to decide upfront which of the criteria and relevant controls will fall under the ambit of the company’s SOC 2 audit report. Security is a fundamental criterion, and is central to all SOC 2 compliance processes. However, the other criteria do not necessarily apply in all cases. For example, demonstrating Availability is extremely important for data centers, whereas Privacy can be more of a priority for companies that manage sensitive user data.
Elect a dedicated SOC 2 project manager who will ensure the process runs smoothly and successfully.
Before implementing any SOC 2 controls, you need systems, processes and personnel in place to plan, analyze and implement your SOC 2 strategy, from start to finish. A dedicated project manager should be in charge of ensuring your SOC 2 compliance project runs smoothly. In this role, they should have the authority and resources to implement decisions and track deadlines across the organization in order to meet the SOC 2 compliance requirements. If you don’t have an effective manager driving the entire SOC 2 process, you need to go back to the drawing board.
Perform a risk assessment
A SOC 2 risk assessment is the process where organizations identify and evaluate their information system-related risks. In short, it involves conducting a risk analysis and then documenting your risk responses.
Implement a proper SOC 2 compliance automation platform.
SOC 2 is complex and extremely demanding. Fortunately, technology transforms SOC 2 compliance from a tedious, complicated and time-consuming process into a relatively simple, efficient and cost-effective strategy.
Preparing for the audit with the proper SOC 2 compliance automation platform in place removes barriers and sets your company up for success.
Work with a SOC 2 expert advisory service that can help you devise the right strategy and optimize implementation.
You’ve got industry-leading SOC 2 audit software, you’ve worked out a high level SOC 2 strategy and you’ve made sure all stakeholders are invested in the compliance process. Everything is running optimally, without any gaps? Well, maybe.
But it’s impossible to know what you don’t know. That’s why an expert advisory service makes all the difference. Find a SOC 2 expert with the technical knowledge and hands-on experience to help you devise the right strategy and optimize implementation. Ultimately, expert assistance is likely to save you time and money by ensuring you get SOC 2 right the first time, and continue to deliver impeccable services to your clients on an ongoing basis.
Preparing for your SOC 2 audit: Getting the details right
As should be clear by now, preparing for a SOC 2 audit is a strategic journey that starts with a rigorous process of analysis and evaluation. Some managers may be tempted to look for shortcuts, but experience shows there is no substitute for a careful, deliberate strategy, supported by experts.
Of course, while planning and preparation are critical, you need to actually close the gaps between objective and reality. This comprises the remediation period, during which you implement the measures identified in the gap analysis.
Now, it would be nice if we could just say ‘here are the three things you need to do to meet each criterion’. But the reality is a little more complicated than that. After all, choosing the appropriate security safeguards to fulfil the relevant criteria depends on a range of factors. These factors include budget, local regulations, customer expectations, operational capacity and the level of employee expertise.
For that reason, no checklist can be overly specific. SOC 2 is different for different organizations. The critical point is that you need (appropriate) processes in place to meet the specified criteria. Your SOC 2 auditor will be providing his opinion whether you have met the stringent criteria, not that you’ve simply followed a generic set of best practice codes. Think about it: you could install best-in-class technology, but that counts for nothing if the responsible employees don’t have the time or expertise to run the software properly.
In short, you need a comprehensive and customized SOC 2 controls list, that extensively applies to the relevant Trusted Services Principles your organization is including in the report.
What makes SOC 2 quite different? SOC 2 has criteria and does not prescribe the controls which meet these criteria, whereas a framework like ISO 27001 prescribes the controls necessary to be considered in conformity with the framework.
While SOC 2 is uncompromising and demands a high level of information security, businesses, in reality, have a lot of flexibility in how they go about meeting those standards.
Practically speaking, then, you need to ensure you develop a robust SOC 2 security controls list that meets your goals, without any gaps.
Examples of the kinds of intervention your business will need to make include:
- Creating a directory of staff members who are responsible for specific controls and who are required to act if there are failures.
- Developing and effectively executing appropriate internal controls.
- Creating periodic reviews and monitoring controls.
The one box you need to tick: Get an objective assessment
This high-level SOC 2 checklist should help provide a solid foundation on which to begin your compliance journey in 2024. SOC 2 is a powerful, flexible protocol that will give your company a competitive advantage. However, precisely because SOC 2 is so flexible and far-reaching, each company’s specific path will be different. For this reason, there is no step-by-step guide on how you can reach your specific SOC 2 goals. But, if you can tick all the right boxes of our high-level SOC 2 checklist, you should be well on your way.