How to (quickly) become SOC 2 certified.
A SOC 2 certification is quickly becoming a commonly requested proof of cyber-maturity by customers. Most SaaS businesses will seek out a SOC 2 certification at some point in their growth.
Why do I need SOC 2 certification?
What does SOC 2 certification look like?
How do I create SOC 2 certification?
What is wrong with other options?
How do I expedite the process of obtaining a SOC 2 certification?
How do I maintain SOC 2 certification?
A SOC 2 certification is a formal way to provide assurance to customers, which builds trust in the contracting and renewal processes. SOC 2 is increasingly becoming important in a business' ability to compete. Customers prefer vendors who are able to demonstrate their ability to protect sensitive data, trade secrets and shared infrastructure. It is also useful in negotiating service-level agreements and responding to incidents.
SOC (System and Organization Controls) is an American standard that belongs to AICPA (the American CPA association).
Your SOC 2 report will validate your claims about your security, privacy, availability, processing integrity and confidentiality through a neutral third-party.
In the sales process, your customers will be able to access a formalized document that has been prepared by a CPA firm to confirm your ability to meet their requirements. This will help them to gain support in selecting you as a vendor, as well as will assure them that you are at trusted partner in their data and technology ecosystem.
Your ability and integrity will be confirmed by an outside resource, which will assist in attracting and renewing business.
A SOC 2 will validate your business controls. This will confirm that your business is being properly run in a secure and compliant fashion.
Through completing a SOC 2 certification, your business will become more secure. This will allow you to avoid problems that arise from a weak security posture.
A SOC 2 certification is a set of documents that you will put together to be validated by a CPA auditor. A typical set of documents could be 100 pages. You will finish your project with these documents and a document of certification as deliverables. Both may be requested by your clients for review.
A SOC 2 certification consists of three parts: preparation for the certification, an audit performed by a CPA firm, and annual review of your SOC 2 certification.
Your SOC 2 work will focused on five areas: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy.
Security is your commitment to internal security, application security, network security, data security and more. Your audit will assure customers that you maintain the level of security that they expect and you have committed to.
Availability is your ability to uphold your service-level agreements with your clients. The purpose of your audit is to provide assurance to your customers through an outside party that you are able to meet contractual agreements.
Processing integrity demonstrates to your clients that the work that you do for them, through services or products, are complete, valid, accurate, timely and authorized to fully satisfy their objectives. In a sense, your audit will assure them that you are as promised.
Confidentiality refers to the duty of anyone entrusted with information to keep that information private. Your audit will validate your ability to safely collect, store, manage and limit access to your customers' private information and data. Data encryption and firewalls are examples of measures that uphold confidentiality.
Privacy refers to the right of an individual to keep his or her information private. Your audit will provide assurance to your customers that you are able to prioritize their right to privacy as you collect, store, use, disclose, and dispose data that needs to remain private.
In order to become SOC 2 certified, you must define a set of policies and procedures to create various controls, technologically and organizationally implement them, and then prove to your auditors you are meeting them.
A SOC 2 certification is becoming an industry standard for businesses that host data for customers and partners. While you may not have pressure from customers, at present, you will likely be required in the future to obtain a SOC 2 certification in order to compete in or lead your business segment.
When you are a small and growing company, your customers will be pleasantly surprised that you have completed this effort. It will make your deals move faster and will build your reputation.
There are interim options if you are not ready to pursue a SOC 2 certification.
Prior to obtaining a SOC 2 certification, you are able to implement the NIST CSF framework into your business. 80% of small businesses operate their cybersecurity practice based on the NIST CSF methodology, which is recognized by most including the United States government. It allows you to self-audit and self-assess, which can temporarily delay the cost of hiring the Accounting firm to perform a formal SOC 2 audit.
Obtaining a SOC 2 certification typically will take you 9 to 12 months. You may need it much faster in order to meet business goals. This is possible.
The majority of SOC 2 requirements in the security and confidentiality pillars fall heavily on the change-management process. SOC 2 preparation is expedited when your development core is build around auditability, testing and pull request reviews.
Next, you must be sure that you have visibility into everything in your environment. Your auditor will be concerned about your service-level agreements and if you are able to meet them. Also, if you are able to quickly know when things are going wrong and fix them quickly.
Customers have found that automating processes and allowing them to be executed in a sanctioned and auditable way can speed up the path to SOC 2. This works best when processes govern areas that do not require control via admin privileges.
As with any suggestions, each company must make decisions internally and with their auditors that fit their product, customers, industry and regulations. These are examples, but not recommendations as to fit all.
A SOC 2 certification is reviewed annually, though the work effort is greatest in the first year and preparation process. Many businesses find that it is fairly easy to maintain, assuming that your SOC 2 documentation and supporting programs are designed and implemented correctly.
All businesses that complete a SOC 2 certification will prepare documentation as a part of the process. The prepared documentation is helpful in creating a cybersecurity program.
Through your certification, you will identify resources needed to implement and maintain your plan. These may include simple investments like anti-virus protection, penetration testing and other security protocols.