Achieving SOC 2 compliance demonstrates to customers that your organization takes data security and privacy seriously. The journey to achieve SOC 2 compliance, however, is not easy. 

For example, when you perform a preliminary assessment to determine your current state of security, you’re likely to find multiple gaps between that current state and what SOC 2 standards expect you to have. You’ll need to close those gaps to achieve full SOC 2 compliance.

Some common problem areas include:

  • Lack of continuous data or system access monitoring, which allows policy violations between audits.
  • Weak identity and access controls that rely only on annual review, rather than constant visibility.
  • Failure to repeat risk assessments when launching new services, features, or architecture components.

All three of the above examples have a common theme: infrequent audits or risk assessments, which lets problems emerge between those audits or risk assessments — problems that might go undetected for months. 

The solution lies in continuous readiness assessments and internal testing between audit intervals. Repeated analyses can confirm that existing vulnerabilities have been addressed, while uncovering new cybersecurity risks and gaps in SOC 2 compliance that need your prompt attention.

Ways to Identify SOC 2 Compliance Gaps

Automated scanning and manual review are two primary methods to find gaps in SOC 2 compliance. The goal is to compare your controls against a comprehensive checklist based on guidelines from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the body that developed the SOC 2 standard. 

Of the two methods, automated scanning is more efficient and reliable. Once the scanning tool finishes its work, it delivers a detailed report documenting areas satisfying SOC 2 standards and those needing remediation.

Critical advantages of scanning include:

  • Speed and efficiency
  • Thorough, consistent analysis of internal controls
  • Clear visibility revealing precise information security and compliance improvement areas

The main limitation of scanning is the need to invest in specialized auditing software. The improved accuracy and efficiency, however, typically offset this cost.

You could also rely on a manual review by a certified public accountant (CPA) firm or an internal audit team, but manual review has several drawbacks:

  • Consumes extensive internal service provider resources
  • Leaves room for inconsistencies or oversights in customer data protections
  • Lacks independent attestation validating security controls

Manual review might seem cheaper at first, but the expense of staff time and compliance uncertainties make this a riskier approach.

Regardless of the approach you choose, it’s essential to systematically review organization controls against SOC 2 criteria so that you can address the gaps you uncover. By identifying specific weak spots, you can develop more targeted remediation efforts. 

Nurture a Culture of SOC 2 Compliance

Organizations should embed SOC 2 audit readiness as an ongoing governance priority for your whole organization. This cultural shift for sustained compliance sets the stage for more streamlined, sustainable audits.

Practices that support perpetual SOC 2 alignment include:

Security policies. Map your information security and access policies to SOC 2’s Trust Services Criteria (TSC) and top standards such as ISO 27001.

Remediation practices. When triaging and scoping remediation work, prioritize risks and control gaps that threaten alignment. 

Internal controls. Optimize technical, administrative, and physical controls to meet AICPA audit expectations and certifications.

Stakeholder awareness. Keep leadership and other stakeholders informed about alignment initiatives through executive reports and risk metrics.

Risk assessments. Tailor your assessment models to identify risks relevant to key SOC 2 domains: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

Regulatory overlaps. Identify complementary regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which share foundations in data protection best practices reflected in SOC 2. Where overlap exists, you might be able to satisfy multiple regulatory obligations with one control.

This organizational commitment across people, processes, and technology sustains compliance continuity rather than temporary audit preparation. The payoff: less scrambling to satisfy compliance obligations, and more security assurance for customers.

Continuous Monitoring for SOC 2

Achieving initial SOC 2 compliance is only one milestone; you still need to maintain adequate control throughout the year until your next SOC 2 audit. A continuous monitoring strategy is essential to avoid emerging gaps threatening security, privacy, and SOC 2 compliance over time.

  • Custom assessments. Build questionnaires and readiness checks based on the specific SOC 2 criteria applicable to your environment and controls.
  • Attack surface detection. Employ solutions that dynamically detect the risks and excessive permission requests that threaten SOC 2 compliance. Look for those threats across users, data, devices, and other attack vectors.
  • Control tracking. Establish centralized mechanisms to maintain visibility into control operations, changes, risk metrics, and other indicators of potential audit issue areas.
  • Policy attestations. Require periodic acknowledgments by your workforce to confirm their understanding of updated policies, procedures, and responsibilities related to SOC compliance.
  • Risk analysis. On an ongoing basis, gauge compliance gaps and potential impacts through threat modeling, audits by CPA firms, and identification of regulatory overlap with frameworks like ISO 27001.

Continuous visibility identifies problems early, when they are most straightforward to correct. Waiting for the next 12-month audit window to analyze controls almost guarantees unexpected gaps or failed standards. Active monitoring demonstrates the security and compliance requirements rigor auditors expect.

Frameworks and Regulations That Map to SOC 2

While SOC 2 provides standards for security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy, other frameworks such as ISO 27001, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and HIPAA reinforce good data protection practices. Many of their control requirements tie back to SOC 2 principles.

Mapping where these standards overlap allows organizations to take an integrated approach to compliance. Unified coverage of shared control objectives and policy standards helps streamline adherence across multiple regulations.

Some areas of crossover include:

  • Risk management methodologies
  • Access governance for sensitive information
  • Protecting the confidentiality of sensitive data
  • Safeguarding the privacy of individuals
  • Guidelines for third-party vendors’ assurance
  • Security measures such as encryption
  • Aligning security with business objectives

Jointly addressing these overlaps, instead of tackling each one separately, eases the compliance process. It also strengthens overall security posture through layered regulatory reinforcing of cybersecurity best practices.

ZenGRC Helps Organizations Meet Their Compliance Goals

Tools such as ZenGRC give companies built-in frameworks for SOC 2 and other audits, streamlining compliance. With ZenGRC, organizations can store evidence, track remediation, and document controls to demonstrate compliance to auditors and customers. 

Schedule a demo today to see how ZenGRC can help your company prepare for ongoing SOC 2 audits.