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Are You Prepared for a SOC 2 Readiness Assessment?

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Taking on a SOC 2 audit can be a significant undertaking for any organization, demanding considerable investment in both time and resources. The key to navigating this process successfully lies in thorough preparation. This is where a SOC 2 readiness assessment can be a significant help.

“Most people are surprised to learn that SOC 2 audits aren’t just focused on data security. They encompass the entire organization in an effort to determine its ability to maintain the service it sells. Secure technology is important but organizations must also consider other business factors such as management, HR, and communications,” said Silent Sector Founding Partner Zach Fuller.

In this blog post, we’ll briefly explain the importance of a SOC 2 readiness assessment, types of SOC 2 reports, what you should keep an eye out for in your readiness assessment, what your auditor will look for in your actual SOC2 assessment, and how working with an expert in cybersecurity can make achieving compliance much more simple.

 

What is a SOC 2 Readiness Assessment?

A SOC 2 readiness assessment is an essential step for companies aiming to achieve SOC 2 compliance. This assessment acts as a preparatory review, ensuring that your company's documents, policies, processes, and any existing vulnerabilities are in order before undergoing a formal SOC 2 audit.

Conducting a SOC 2 readiness assessment is like doing a trial run, offering a valuable opportunity to spot potential gaps in your controls and devise a plan to rectify them. This process is crucial because it directly influences your ability to successfully complete a formal SOC 2 audit—a critical evaluation that scrutinizes your organization's information security measures.

A good SOC 2 readiness assessment will also provide a roadmap toward compliance. It should clearly identify gaps and make prioritized remediation recommendations, including estimated timelines based on the capabilities of your organization.

By engaging in a readiness assessment, you can confidently answer important questions about your organization's preparedness, the sufficiency of your current controls for proving compliance, and the necessary steps to address any identified gaps.

Types of SOC 2 Reports

SOC 2 reports are critical for service organizations to demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity and data protection. These reports come in two types: SOC 2 Type 1 and SOC 2 Type 2, each serving different purposes and timelines.

Feature

SOC 2 Type 1 Assessment

SOC 2 Type 2 Assessment

Focus

Evaluates cybersecurity controls at a specific point in time.

Examines the effectiveness of controls over a period (3-12 months).

Assessment

Assesses if controls are sufficient and correctly designed to meet Trust Services Criteria.

Provides a comprehensive view of how controls function over time and ensures they operate as intended.

Duration

Relatively quick, often completed within weeks.

Extended duration, typically ranging from 3 to 12 months.

Suitability

Suitable for organizations needing to demonstrate compliance in a short timeframe.

More thorough and respected, offering a detailed assessment of control effectiveness over time.

Cost

Slightly lower cost due to the shorter audit period, although not by much when compared to Type 2 pricing.

Slightly more costly due to the extended duration and thoroughness of the audit.



Which Should I Choose?

Choosing between SOC 2 Type 1 and Type 2 depends largely on your organization's immediate needs and the expectations of your clients or partners. 

If you're under pressure to show compliance quickly, perhaps due to a pending deal, a Type 1 report can serve as an interim solution. 

However, as the market increasingly favors the more detailed Type 2 reports, aiming directly for a Type 2 audit is advisable. It not only satisfies more stringent customer requirements but also streamlines the process, potentially saving time and resources by avoiding the need for multiple audits. 

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What to Keep an Eye Out For During Your SOC 2 Readiness Assessment

Before the formal SOC 2 audit, organizations undergo a readiness assessment to identify any potential issues or vulnerabilities that need addressing. This assessment can be conducted internally or by an external auditor and focuses on several key areas.

  • Policies and controls: These are the backbone of your organization's security efforts, encompassing access management, password policies, vendor management, and more. The readiness assessment ensures that each policy is current and effectively mapped to controls.
  • Vulnerability and risk management: This involves identifying and addressing potential security weaknesses through vulnerability scanning, and penetration testing in some cases. High- and medium-severity vulnerabilities should be resolved before the audit, with mitigation tasks created for each identified risk.
  • Documentation: Proper documentation is essential, including evidence that security controls and procedures are followed. This documentation should be organized, accurate, and reflective of the organization's current compliance status.

 

Did you know? You can conduct a SOC 2 self-assessment.

Choosing between a professional readiness assessment and a self-assessment often hinges on the resources available to an organization. 

While a readiness assessment conducted by external experts incurs additional costs, it provides an objective evaluation of an organization's compliance posture. 

On the other hand, self-assessments can save on external expenses but require significant internal time and effort. Moreover, they depend heavily on having staff with the necessary expertise to conduct a thorough and effective review.



What Your Auditor Will Look For During Your Formal SOC 2 Examination

The specifics of a SOC 2 audit are tailored to the individual organization, defined by the scope agreed upon with the CPA firm conducting the audit.

Trust Services Criteria (TSC) included in a SOC 2 report include one or more of the following.

Security

This principle is the cornerstone of every SOC 2, focusing on safeguarding system resources against unauthorized access. Implementing robust access controls and utilizing IT security tools like firewalls, two-factor authentication, and intrusion detection systems are essential strategies to prevent unauthorized access and ensure the security of systems and data.

All SOC 2 audits assess the security criteria, with the inclusion of the other four TSC categories depending on the nature of the company. The criteria within each TSC category outline objectives that companies should meet but allow flexibility in how these objectives are achieved. 

Availability

This principle pertains to the accessibility of the system, products, or services as defined by a contract or service level agreement (SLA). It emphasizes the importance of maintaining the system's availability at agreed-upon levels, which is critical for operational continuity. 

Techniques such as monitoring network performance, implementing site failover, and managing security incidents play a vital role in upholding system availability.

Confidentiality

The confidentiality principle addresses the protection of sensitive information from unauthorized access and disclosure. Encryption, along with network and application firewalls and stringent access controls, are key measures for protecting confidential data, whether in transit or at rest.

Privacy

This principle focuses on how personal information is collected, used, retained, disclosed, and disposed of, in accordance with the organization's privacy notice and the AICPA’s generally accepted privacy principles (GAPP)

Protecting personally identifiable information (PII) and sensitive personal data requires comprehensive controls to prevent unauthorized access and ensure privacy.

Processing Integrity

Ensuring that a system performs its intended function in a reliable manner is the essence of the processing integrity principle. It involves the accurate, complete, valid, timely, and authorized processing of data. 

While this principle focuses on the processing of data, it also acknowledges the importance of quality assurance and monitoring to maintain integrity throughout the data processing lifecycle.

Learn how assessments can help you spot security gaps and win new contracts:


How to Identify Vulnerabilities With an SOC 2 Gap Assessment

Identifying gaps in compliance is a critical step, and companies have two primary methods to choose from: automated compliance scans and manual gap analysis. Each approach has its advantages and considerations.

Automated SOC 2 Compliance Scan

Automated compliance scanning tools offer a fast method for identifying some of the technology gaps in SOC 2 compliance. This process is straightforward: purchase the tool, run the scan, and receive a detailed report highlighting both compliant areas and those requiring attention. However, due to the holistic nature of SOC 2 requirements, automated tools can only cover a portion of the required controls.

Manual Compliance Gap Analysis

Alternatively or in addition, companies can opt for a manual investigation conducted by their internal team or a hired compliance specialist. This method involves a thorough review of the company's systems and processes to determine their alignment with SOC 2 criteria, followed by a report on the findings and a plan to address any identified gaps.

When you work with a trusted partner to identify and address any gaps in your security, you’re gaining access to years of expertise and insights with a more comprehensive approach. 

Take On the Challenges of SOC 2 Compliance With Expertise-Driven Cybersecurity 

Navigating the complexities of SOC 2 compliance can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be a journey you embark on alone. Silent Sector, with our expertise-driven approach to cybersecurity, stands ready to guide you through every step of the SOC 2 readiness assessment and audit process. 

With our comprehensive information security programs and hands-on support, we'll help you navigate the audit process smoothly, ensuring your controls are robust, your documentation is thorough, and your cybersecurity posture is stronger than ever.

Ready to take the first step towards seamless SOC 2 compliance? Contact Silent Sector today.

About the Author

Written by Haidon Storro

Cybersecurity Research & Content Manager, Silent Sector -- Haidon Storro is a Cyber Security Analyst for CVS Health. She has her BS in IT Cyber Security as well as security certifications like CompTIA Security+ and ISC2. While Haidon is newer to the security community, she has dedicated herself to learning as much as she can through internships, online courses, and conventions like DefCon. In her free time, she enjoys reading about new advancements in technology, going to security meetups and participating in cyber defense competitions. One of Haidon’s goals is to make the connected world safer by bridging the human aspect with technology.