Passing a SOC 2 audit validates your efforts to achieve a high standard of security and privacy. It can be a powerful tool in demonstrating your company’s commitment to keeping customer data safe and, consequently, opening the door to new and continued business.
Although they provide some room for flexibility, SOC 2 compliance requirements aren’t easy to meet, especially for organizations preparing for their first ever audit. That’s why it’s critical to understand the common mistakes that lead to audits failing.
What are the SOC 2 compliance requirements?
A SOC 2 audit can only be carried out by a certified public accountant (CPA), since this is the regulatory body that introduced the standard. Moreover, audits must be carried out externally by a third party, although you can conduct mock audits in-house in preparation for a real one.
A compliance report details the auditor’s evaluation of your computing infrastructure across a range of areas. The SOC 2 categories, officially known as trust services criteria, including data security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.
There are three types of SOC 2 report. A Type 1 report evaluates your current environment at a given point in time. Type 2 reports test your compliance with the five trust services criteria over a specific timeframe, with six months being the minimum requirement. Finally, a Type 3 report is much the same as a Type 2 report, albeit with potentially sensitive details redacted to make it suitable for public release.
Here are some of the common mistakes to avoid when preparing for your first audit:
#1. Not having a dedicated project manager
Meeting the SOC 2 data security requirements is no easy task, especially if you don’t have a fully staffed IT department. Few smaller businesses have those kind of resources, and instead need to enlist the help of a designated project manager.
Having a project manager is vital for streamlining the flow of information around your company. After all, SOC 2 compliance requirements are broad in scope, requiring businesses to collect data from across their operations. Having a single point of contact to oversee the process will help things go much faster and more efficiently.
#2. Not performing external vulnerability testing
When preparing for a SOC 2 audit, it’s imperative that you first do everything you can to locate and resolve any potential vulnerabilities. This is best achieved by running a gap assessment to evaluate your entire computing infrastructure from an outside perspective. In some ways, a gap assessment is rather like a practice audit.
You might also consider combining your gap assessment with penetration testing. Also known as pen testing, this method uses a similar range of methods to infiltrate your network as those cybercriminals use, thereby identifying more sophisticated potential attack vectors.
#3. Confusing the five trust service principles
The trust services framework identifies five main areas that will be evaluated during an audit. There’s a fair amount of crossover between them, but the most important one is the Security criteria, which is also known as the SOC 2 common criteria. It addresses the risk management requirements that apply across the other four criteria too.
For example, the security criteria mandates end-to-end encryption to protect customer data in transit. This safeguards both privacy and confidentiality while also securing sensitive data from data exfiltration. Some of your clients may ask for all criteria to be included in your report, so it makes sense to take a comprehensive approach.
#4. Not documenting your security program
You can’t protect what you don’t know, which is why every information security program needs to be thoroughly documented. For example, NIST clearly sets out cybersecurity requirements across a range of categories, and it is one of the most widely recognized global standards. If your controls align with NIST, and you have the documentation to prove it, you should be much closer towards passing a SOC 2 audit.
Your documentation should be accompanied by a complete inventory of your digital assets, including individual endpoints, virtual machines, mobile devices, and user accounts. A SOC 2 compliance report will evaluate every data-bearing device and system in your organization, so it’s important to have a comprehensive documentation and up-to-date system inventory.
#5. Failing to carry out a readiness assessment
It might be tempting to schedule a SOC 2 audit as soon as possible, but it’s vital to make sure you’re ready. Failing an audit can cause serious problems, such as lost business or failure to comply with other federally mandated regulations. Before you engage an auditor, you should have already had a gap assessment and given yourself a chance to patch any vulnerabilities it uncovered.
It’s also important to carry out interim testing, especially when you’re applying any new security controls. If you’re performing a SOC 2 Type 2 report, which is typically based on a six- to nine-month period, you should carry out an interim readiness assessment about three months in advance.
Charles IT carries out a detailed assessment of your current security posture before delivering solutions that help prepare you for your SOC 2 audit. Call us today to get certified.