Faced with the constantly evolving cyberthreat landscape, businesses must do everything in their power to avoid getting breached. The standards are growing stricter as the threats grow ever more sophisticated and varied in nature. Clients of services companies are increasingly wary about who they do business with, not least because many attacks happen somewhere along the supply chain.
SOC 2 compliance is essential for any company in the managed services sector. By passing a security assessment audit, businesses can demonstrate and validate their efforts to protect client data across five main areas. These areas, known as trust services criteria in SOC 2, are security, privacy, confidentiality, availability, and processing integrity. Before you engage with a third-party auditor, it’s imperative that you identify and close any security gaps.
Why you need a security assessment audit to be SOC 2 Compliant
A security assessment audit follows the understanding that trust is earned rather than applied through technical measures alone. Audits should be carried out with the understanding that no security solution is ever going to be 100% effective at all times, that new threats are always emerging, and that many security gaps aren’t obvious.
Businesses should carry out a security assessment audit before they go apply for a third-party SOC 2 audit. This will give them the chance to identify and address any potential vulnerabilities rather than risk failing the test. The best security risk assessment methods determine the gaps in your architecture that could potentially be exploited. Fortunately, most of these gaps should be easy enough to address, but you can, after all, only solve the issues you know about.
Here are some of the easiest security gaps to miss (and correct):
#1. Outdated security protocols
New security protocols are released regularly to counter recently discovered vulnerabilities. It is dangerous to use outdated protocols, and doing so will almost certainly result in your SOC 2 audit failing tests pertaining to processing integrity and security.
Until a few years ago, the standard way to protect web communications was to use the secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption protocol. However, this has long since been deprecated, with the newer transport layer security (TLS) protocol taking over.
Every encryption protocol comes with an expiration date, and even TLS is no exception. The Internet Engineering Task Force released a document in 2019 recommending against the use of earlier versions of the protocol. As a result, TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 were deprecated by the end of the year. The current version is TLS 1.3, which should be applied to all communications.
#2. Unpatched operating systems
Operating systems, particularly those designed to run on servers, workstations, and portable devices, are enormously complex. This complexity means new vulnerabilities are inevitable, hence the fact that software developers regularly release critical security updates. While many systems enforce automatic security updates, this is not something you can count on. You also need to ensure your device firmware is kept up to date, especially in the case of networking hardware and other infrastructure.
A security assessment starts with a complete inventory of all your digital assets, including both physical and virtual resources. It will then identify which versions of which operating systems and firmware each endpoint is running and inform you about any that are unpatched.
#3. Unused user accounts
Account-based security is critical, especially in the era of cloud computing. These days, most sensitive data is stored in online accounts rather than local computing devices, hence why it’s important to keep a close eye on your user account portfolio. One of the most common attack vectors cybercriminals exploit is old and overlooked user accounts, such as those belonging to employees who have left the company.
A security assessment audit should evaluate your user account portfolio to determine who has access to what, which user accounts should be retired, and which security measures are put in place to protect each one.
#4. Lack of user verification
Any robust security posture revolves around the principle of layered security, in which multiple measures are put in place to protect sensitive data. Encryption, for example, is one of those layers, and it should be applied to all client data, whether at rest or in transit and regardless of the device or system it’s stored on. Other essential layers include multifactor authentication, intrusion detection and prevention, and network firewalls.
User verification measures should follow the principles of least privilege and zero-trust. These mean that people should only have access to the data they need to perform a given task, and they should apply to both employees and clients. Multifactor authentication is another powerful tool against cybercriminals, since it goes beyond passwords to include things like single-use access tokens or biometric verification measures.
Charles IT carries out comprehensive network vulnerability scanning and penetration testing to help you prepare your IT systems for passing a SOC 2 audit. Call us today to learn more.