Understanding SOC 2 Compliance: A Comprehensive Guide
Jessica Doering

March 10, 2023



 min reading time

What is SOC 2 compliance?

SOC 2 is like a self-improvement program for service organizations. It's not a fancy certificate you can hang on your wall, but it's a way to show off your sweet security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy skills. 

Sounds cute, so let’s dive in..

What is SOC 2?

SOC 2 stands for Service Organization Control 2 and is an attestation that demonstrates an organization's commitment to the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of its customers' data. The SOC 2 attestation is an audit report issued by a public accounting firm. The purpose of SOC 2 implementation is to assure customers, stakeholders, and other third parties that an organization has adequate controls and procedures in place to protect their data.

Think of it like getting a stamp of approval from a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who has assessed your controls and procedures in accordance with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Trust Services Criteria. It's like getting a high-five from a cool accountant who knows their stuff. 🤟

So, while SOC 2 might not be the most exciting thing to talk about at a party, it's a way for service organizations to show off their security swagger and give their customers and stakeholders some peace of mind. 

How does SOC 2 work?

The SOC 2 framework is based on five Trust Services Criteria (TSCs).

The Trust Services Criteria (TSC) are like the rules of the game for service organizations. Each category has its own set of criteria that must be followed in order to win at the corresponding principle. Think of it like a video game where you have to collect coins or defeat bad guys to progress to the next level.

But don't worry, the TSC are designed to be flexible enough to work for all kinds of service organizations and systems, like a pair of stretchy pants that can accommodate a wide range of body types. 

However, they're also rigorous enough to provide real assurance to customers and stakeholders, like a personal trainer who makes sure you're doing your exercises correctly.

When a service organization goes through a SOC 2 audit, it's like a performance review where the auditor evaluates the controls in place and gives feedback on how well they're doing. 

The resulting report is like a report card that customers and stakeholders can use to see how secure and reliable the organization's systems and processes are. Think of it like Yelp for service organizations, but with fewer food pics and more technical jargon.

The TSC are divided into five categories, each of which corresponds to one of the five SOC 2 principles:

  • 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, accurate, timely, and authorized.
  • Confidentiality: Information designated as confidential is protected as committed or agreed.
  • Privacy: Personal information is collected, used, retained, disclosed, and disposed of in accordance with the organization's privacy notice.

What does it take to become SOC 2 compliant?

The SOC 2 attestation requirements can be divided into two categories: 

  • The organization's internal controls:

The internal controls are the policies and procedures that the organization has in place to ensure the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of its customers' data. 

  • The auditor's requirements: 

The auditor's requirements are the procedures that the CPA firm follows to issue an assurance report.

To be SOC 2 compliant, businesses must follow the steps below:

  • Choose a SOC 2 framework: There are two types of SOC 2 frameworks: SOC 2 Type 1 and SOC 2 Type 2. SOC 2 Type 1 reports on the organization's controls at a specific point in time, while SOC 2 Type 2 reports on the effectiveness of the organization's controls over a period of time (typically six months to one year).
  • Define the scope: The organization needs to define the scope of the SOC 2 certification, including the services, systems, and locations covered by the certification.
  • Conduct a risk assessment: The organization needs to identify and assess the risks associated with its systems and services and develop appropriate controls to mitigate those risks.
  • Implement controls: The organization needs to implement controls to address the risks identified in the risk assessment.
  • Perform testing: The organization needs to test the effectiveness of the controls in place.
  • Engage a licensed CPA firm: The organization needs to engage a licensed CPA firm to conduct an audit and issue an assurance report.
  • Receive the SOC 2 attestation: If the auditor determines that the organization's controls are effective, it will issue a SOC 2 certification.

The second question about information security is usually always about the cost of implementing a security standard, or two or whatever a company needs to be competitive in their industry. 

By the way, this really shouldn't be one of THE main questions ... You can't invest enough money in the security of your company's data. 

Because if (for some unknown reason) there is a "major data leak disaster", it is not unlikely that the company's reputation will be irreparably damaged... What follows: well, employee layoffs, termination of the office lease, refunds that are no longer possible anyway ... actually bankruptcy, headaches, maybe never seeing the Chief of Staff's office dog again. Or, possibly worse than being separated from a dog, you find yourself in court! Is that what one wants? NO! 

But.. in the end, it's already understandable to want to know how much budget to invest to safely navigate the data landscape - for everyone involved and also for the safety of your own business… So what will SOC 2 cost one approximately?

How much does SOC 2 cost?

As with ISO 27001, you can't just say that you can cover a company's information security with $5k, $30k or $60k or even more. And it is not surprising that the bigger the company, the more people work there and the equipment is at least as high as the number of employees, that you can speculate with a fixed sum for all types of companies. And then there is the extent to which data and assets are used.... Again, very complex!

So, the cost of SOC 2 compliance can vary widely depending on several factors, including the organization's size, the scope of the audit, the industry, and the level of effort required to meet the SOC 2 trust services criteria. 

Some of the main cost factors for SOC 2 compliance include:

  • Audit fees: The fees charged by the audit firm for conducting the SOC 2 audit. These fees typically depend on the scope of the audit and the complexity of the organization's control environment.
  • Preparation costs: The costs associated with preparing for the audit, such as documenting policies and procedures, testing controls, and conducting remediation activities.
  • Consulting fees: The fees charged by consultants or other third-party providers who may be engaged to assist with SOC 2 compliance, such as cybersecurity experts, risk assessors, or technology vendors.
  • Technology costs: The costs associated with implementing and maintaining technology solutions to support SOC 2 compliance, such as security information and event management (SIEM) systems, identity and access management (IAM) solutions, and vulnerability scanning tools.
  • Ongoing compliance costs: The costs associated with maintaining SOC 2 compliance over time, including periodic assessments, ongoing testing and monitoring of controls, and remediation of identified issues.

Overall, the cost of SOC 2 compliance can range from several thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the organization's size and complexity, the scope of the audit, and the level of effort required to meet the SOC 2 trust services criteria. It is important to note that the cost of non-compliance with SOC 2 can be even greater, as it can result in financial losses, reputational damage, and regulatory fines or penalties.

And how long will you have fun after you achieve SOC 2 compliance for the first time? 

How long is SOC 2 compliance valid?

SOC 2 compliance is valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance.

To maintain SOC 2 compliance, an organization will need to undergo regular audits by a licensed CPA firm to ensure that its controls and processes continue to meet the Trust Services Criteria (TSCs) of security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. These audits are typically conducted on an annual basis, although the frequency may vary depending on the needs of the organization and its customers.

It's important to note that SOC 2 compliance is an ongoing process, and organizations must continually monitor and improve their security controls and processes to maintain their certification. 

A SOC 2 report is a point-in-time assessment, and organizations must demonstrate that their controls and processes remain effective throughout the year. Therefore, ongoing monitoring and continuous improvement are critical to maintaining SOC 2 compliance.

And now for those who want to know more precisely or perhaps also wonder:

If there is SOC 2, is there also a SOC 1? ... and what is the difference?? 

Difference of SOC 1 and SOC 2

The main difference between SOC 1 and SOC 2 is the type of organization being audited and the focus of the audit.

SOC 1 reports are focused on controls over financial reporting, and are intended for service organizations that provide services that impact their clients' financial reporting. These reports are typically used by auditors of the service organization's clients to obtain assurance that the controls in place at the service organization are effective in ensuring the accuracy and completeness of their clients' financial statements.

On the other hand, SOC 2 reports are focused on controls over the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of the systems used to process data. These reports are intended for service organizations that store or process sensitive or confidential data on behalf of their clients, such as data centers, cloud computing providers, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. SOC 2 reports are used by clients of the service organization to obtain assurance that the organization has adequate controls in place to protect their data and ensure its availability, integrity, and confidentiality.

In summary, SOC 1 reports focus on controls over financial reporting, while SOC 2 reports focus on controls over data security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

How long does a SOC 1 and SOC 2 audit take?

The duration of each stage will vary based on the organization's size and complexity and the scope of the audit. A small organization with a narrow scope may complete the audit in a shorter time frame, while a large organization with a broad scope may take longer to complete the audit. Additionally, the audit team's experience and efficiency can impact the audit's duration. A highly experienced and efficient audit team may be able to complete the audit faster than a less experienced team.

However, typically a SOC-1 audit takes between 2 and 6 months to complete and in general, a SOC 2 audit can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months too. 

Benefits of SOC 2 Compliance

There are several benefits of SOC 2 compliance, including:

  • Increased customer confidence: SOC 2 compliance demonstrates to customers that the organization has adequate controls and processes in place to protect their data.
  • Competitive advantage: SOC 2 compliance can give an organization a competitive advantage over its competitors that do not have the certification.
  • Reduced audit and compliance costs: SOC 2 certification can help an organization reduce audit and compliance costs by providing a single assurance report that covers multiple compliance requirements.
  • Improved risk management: SOC 2 compliance can help an organization

And because someone whispers “ISO 27001” in a delightful voice while writing this blog...

Does it make sense to get certified to SOC 2 if I am already certified to ISO 27001 or the other way around?

Yes, it can make sense to have both SOC 2 compliance and ISO 27001 certification.

Although both ISO 27001 and SOC 2 focus on information security, they have different goals and requirements. ISO 27001 is a broader framework that covers a wide range of security controls, while SOC 2 is more specific and focuses on TSCs.

Possessing both can provide an organization with a more comprehensive and robust approach to information security. It demonstrates that the organization has implemented a comprehensive set of security controls and processes that are consistent with industry best practices and meet the specific needs and expectations of its customers. 

In addition, an organization that can demonstrate both ISO 27001 certification and SOC 2 compliance can meet a broader range of regulatory requirements and industry standards.

In summary: While there is some overlap between ISO 27001 and SOC 2 requirements, they are not identical and do not fully cover each other's requirements. Thus, they are not interchangeable, but both can provide a comprehensive approach to information security.

And a question that not only a tired IT guy would ask...

Which one is easier to achieve?

Achieving ISO 27001 or SOC 2 requires a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. In both cases, an organization must implement robust security controls, policies and procedures and undergo an audit by a third-party auditor.

However, how easy it is to achieve either standard depends on several factors, such as an organization's existing security posture, the complexity of its operations, and the maturity of its security program. In general, the process to achieve ISO 27001 certification is considered more complex and time-consuming than SOC 2 compliance because it has a larger scope.

That's why ISO 27001 is also called the "Queen of Information Security". Nothing is free... yet, and this should be clearly mentioned here, ISO 27001 is respected worldwide and people in the industry know immediately what they are dealing with! SOC 2 is just more of a solid thing in the United States... still... no one is being judged here! 

In summary, both ISO 27001 certification and SOC 2 compliance require significant effort and resources, but how easily both qualifications can be achieved depends on several factors. It is important to carefully evaluate an organization's security posture, operations and goals to determine which of the two types of attestations is most appropriate.

And not to forget: One of the key differences between ISO 27001 and SOC 2 is that SOC 2 compliance is not a certification. If you meet the strong requirements of ISO 27001, your organization is certified to ISO 27001! And with that you can really show off... 🚀

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Jessica Doering

Jess is the marketing mind at Secfix. She loves every dog on this planet and is especially open-minded for any future-oriented inspiring humans and things that cross her path.