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The Essential Guide to SOC 2 Certification: What You Need to Know

we got our SOC 2 Certification

SOC 2 certification is a rite of passage for tech companies (SAAS) that handle customer data. It’s a demonstration of your commitment to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Having a structured review of controls serves two functions:

  • Security Program assurance / Roadmap structure for internal use
  • Trust Declaration to instill customer confidence and smooth sales cycle

The journey to certification can seem labyrinthine for the uninitiated. A vCISO can help guide you! Here’s a structured roadmap to SOC 2 compliance.

Getting ready for SOC 2

1. Establish Your Policies

Your security policies are the bedrock of your SOC 2 compliance efforts. These policies set forth your company’s commitment to security, the expectations for employees and the systems they use and should flow from an organizational risk appetite statement. Your policies should cover everything from data handling and access controls to incident response and disaster recovery.

2. Define Your Controls

Controls are specific actions and tools you put in place to enforce your policies. For SOC 2 compliance, you’ll need to clearly define how each control addresses the principles relevant to your service commitments and system requirements. Whether it’s two-factor authentication to ensure data confidentiality or encryption to secure data integrity, each control must have a purpose and a plan.

3. Implement Processes and Procedures

Having defined controls isn’t enough; you need to ensure they’re operational and effective. This is where processes, procedures, and automations come into play. They serve as the operational blueprints that keep your controls functioning day in and day out. They’re also vital for demonstrating to auditors that your controls are not just well-designed but also consistently applied. Change Management is critical for getting this right, as without it, you can’t evidence that you have control of what is happening.

4. Establish Assurance Mechanisms

Verification is key to maintaining SOC 2 compliance. You’ll need ongoing assurance mechanisms like regular audits, real-time monitoring, and testing to validate the effectiveness of your controls. These mechanisms should highlight any deficiencies and help you correct course before they become compliance issues or security risks. Assurance also includes practice exercises for Incident Response and Disaster Recovery.

The Triad of Compliance: People, Systems, and Locations

  • People: Your employees can either be your greatest asset or your biggest vulnerability. Ensure they are thoroughly trained, understand their roles in compliance, and are vetted through background checks.
  • Systems: Your systems — from servers to smartphones — must be inventoried, monitored, and maintained. Are they patched? Are they configured with the principle of least privilege in mind? Do they meet the necessary encryption standards?
  • Locations: Today’s work environment is not limited to the office. With remote work and cloud storage, perimeter security must be adapted to consider various environments. Access controls, VPNs, and firewalls must be intelligently deployed to protect data wherever it resides.

Additional Considerations for SOC 2 Readiness /
How Viridis Security can help

Most companies will have already given thought to security controls and executed best-effort actions to keep data safe. Where companies play catch-up when it comes to certification is documenting what they are doing and ensuring there are repeatable processes and controls in place. It’s not always fun but documentation isn’t just for auditors; it’s for your peace of mind. Keep thorough records of all compliance-related activities.

Organizations can struggle with the changes that accompany this compliance effort. It can feel like it is harder to get work done, there is more work to do, or that freedom is being taken away. That’s why strong top-down communication about the importance of the work needs to accompany the technical and process changes.

SOC 2 certification is a journey, but it’s one worth embarking on. Not only does it provide your customers with confidence in your services, but it also instills a culture of security within your organization. Remember, SOC 2 is not a one-time achievement but a continuous commitment to uphold the principles of security and privacy in all aspects of your business.

Read Choosing a SOC 2 tool for more information on how compliance tooling, combined with vCISO services, can help you manage the work related to your compliance journey.

Don’t forget that many controls span multiple frameworks: ISO 27001, HIPPA, HITRUST, PCI etc. The work you do for SOC 2 compliance will also apply to other frameworks.