A System and Organization Controls for Service Organizations 2 (SOC 2) audit assesses whether the internal controls and practices of service providers effectively safeguard the privacy and security of customer data. Service providers include those providing software-as-a-service, or SaaS, or cloud computing services.

The auditor will measure the service organization’s internal controls and practices against the applicable Trust Services Categories. The resulting report, or attestation, will state whether the service organization’s controls are sufficient to ensure data security.

The five Trust Services Categories are as follows:

  • Security – The system is protected against unauthorized access (both physical and logical).
  • Availability – The system is available for operation and use as committed or agreed.
  • Processing Integrity – System processing is complete, valid, accurate, timely, and authorized to meet the organization’s objectives.  
  • Confidentiality – Information that is designated “confidential” is protected according to policy or agreement.
  • Privacy – Personal information is collected, used, retained, disclosed, and disposed of in conformity with the commitments in the entity’s privacy notice and with criteria set forth in Generally Accepted Privacy Principles issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

The Assessment Process

The independent Certified Public Accountant or accounting firm you have chosen to conduct your SOC 2 audit will generally follow these steps:

  1. Determine your audit scope, a critical first step in which you determine:
    • Which of the three types of SOC audit you need:
      • SOC 1, which focuses on financial reporting
      • SOC 2, which creates a highly detailed assessment of your security and privacy controls and practices
      • SOC 3, which uses the same audit as SOC 2 but produces a less detailed report more suitable for marketing or public consumption.
  2. Which of the Trust Services Categories and their 61 requirements apply to your organization
  3. Which SOC report you need: Type i (1) or Type ii (2). Most organizations choose a Type 1 report which considers SOC 2 compliance at a point in time, for their first SOC 2 audit, and Type 2, which examines compliance over a period of time, for subsequent audits.
  4. Examine your controls for each applicable Trust Services Category, a process that includes evidence collection. Documents the auditor may examine include:
    • Organizational charts
    • Asset inventories
    • Onboarding and off-boarding processes
    • Change management processes.

If the auditor finds problems or gaps, no worries: You’ll have an opportunity for remediation. Findings can drive up audit costs, however, so thorough preparation using a SOC 2 audit checklist is your best bet for efficiency and ease.

How to Prepare For a SOC 2 Audit

The key to SOC 2 readiness is preparation. Before the auditor walks in your door, you should have checked off all the boxes on your SOC 2 compliance checklist and have your supporting evidence on hand. Here’s how to prepare:

  • Establish your goals. What is the scope of your audit? Begin by establishing which of the SOC 2 Trust Service Categories and their 61 requirements apply to your organization.
  • Organize your materials—the documents and correspondence proving the effectiveness of your controls—in line with the Trust Services Categories and principles you’ve deemed applicable.
  • Conduct a self-audit. This step can save untold grief and cost down the road. If you can show the professional conducting your SOC 2 audit that you have remediated compliance issues or are in the process of doing so, your organization will be well on its way to achieving that coveted SOC 2 attestation and demonstrating to your customers that you take cybersecurity seriously.

Get help if you need it. Let’s face it: If SOC 2 certification were easy, everyone would have done it already. SOC 2 is a complex information security and privacy framework that changes frequently and can be confusing—especially for organizations trying to manage compliance using Excel or other spreadsheets. You can simplify the task and save time by using a digital solution.