Business practices from a decade ago may seem nearly unrecognizable to today’s organizational leaders—even those business leaders who were around a decade ago. Such is the nature of the modern digital landscape. The boundaries that once slowed progress and change evaporate more rapidly with each year—sometimes within far shorter time frames.
As you work to keep up with all the latest advancements in technology that apply to your service organization and clients, it is easy to get caught up in the fray and inadvertently set compliance matters on the back burner. Of course, you know how disastrous such a postponement could be, no matter how brief.
Thanks to an endless barrage of data breaches and other cloud-based security threats, it is important that you add compliance efforts to the front burner, at least in alignment with tending to your team’s core IT tasks, along with the huge list of responsibilities before you.
It may seem difficult to imagine working on one more project. But this one is essential, and it offers peace of mind for you and your clients. That alone makes it worth the commitment and effort.
What Is SOC 2 Compliance?
Designed and maintained by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the System and Organization Control (SOC) 2 provides a report on controls at a service organization related to the five Trust Security Criteria (TSC), which are Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality or Privacy.
Developed especially for service providers that store customer data in the cloud—this may include those working in SaaS, cloud hosting and storage, payroll, Managed Services and human resources—SOC 2 applies to a broad swath of service organizations.
SOC 2 is a technical audit that requires businesses to establish and adhere to strict information security practices, policies and procedures that cover the five TSC for customer data. The SOC 2 provides assurance that the organization’s information security practices align with the framework of today’s cloud requirements.
4 Areas of Security Practice Critical to SOC 2 Compliance
Compliance with the SOC 2 reporting platform can make a huge difference for your organization and your clients, giving you tested tools to help you fortify your business against determined hackers and other cyber criminals while also not sacrificing productivity that will satisfy your clients’ daily needs.
It may feel like a big tradeoff in time and resources to prepare to achieve SOC 2 compliance, but we believe it is worth it in the returned peace of mind alone, but keep in mind that your existing and prospective clients will appreciate your efforts, as well.
Our team came up with four areas of security practice critical to SOC 2 compliance that we believe serve as an excellent foundation for you and your team. Our hope is that these best practices work as a practical daily guide while also giving you a boost of confidence as you work toward achieving and maintaining SOC 2 compliance.
1. Conducting a Scoping and Readiness Assessment
Conducting a scoping and readiness assessment is a logical place to start your work toward achieving and maintaining sterling SOC 2 compliance. This important exercise helps to ensure the long-term success of your audit by understanding your operating environment’s health from the outset.
A comprehensive scoping and readiness assessment can help you unearth any deficiencies in your internal control environment, such as any inefficient processes and procedures, before launching your annual SOC 2 audit. Once you discover any underlying problems, you then have the opportunity to remediate them before spending thousands of dollars on the official SOC 2 audit report process and finding them at that point, which only adds to your auditing costs.
2. Monitoring for Known and Unknown Malicious Activity
With your processes and practices in place for optimized oversight of your service organization and its internal controls, you have the power to continuously monitor for any known malicious activity that may be lurking in the shadows. You are monitoring all user access levels for unusual system activity and authorized, or unauthorized, system configuration changes.
Given the fast-paced nature of the internet and working in the cloud, you must also prepare for unknown malicious activity. The best strategy for combating unknown problems is to setting a baseline for what normal internal environment activity looks like within your cloud environment, which makes it far easier to detect and identify abnormal activity.
Industry professionals probably could not have predicted ransomware intrusions like Wannacry or the CloudBleed bug, but businesses who had the feelers out for unknown suspicious activity fared best under such attacks.
3. Developing and Implementing Anomaly Alerts That You Won’t Miss
Given the current threat landscape, you will most likely—at some point—experience a security incident. It is probably less common for organizations to go untouched by cyberthreats in today’s climate.
So that you and your team never miss a threatening event on the horizon, or at the gates right away, you must have and be able to demonstrate sufficient alerting practices and procedures. In case any unauthorized access—or access attempts—are made to customer data, you can bolt into action and demonstrate the necessary response capabilities, including taking proper corrective action in time to avoid danger or incur the least possible damage.
To avoid false positives that leave you and your team scrambling for nothing, develop a process that alerts you only when activity deviates for standard operating procedures, as defined for your service organization’s unique operating environment.
SOC 2 helps in this regard by requiring businesses to set up alerts for any activities that result in the following unauthorized behaviors:
- File transfer activities
- Modification or exposure of controls, data or configurations
- Unusual login access, privileged file system or account alteration attempts
Essentially, anything outside of the parameters that you set for your specific internal control environment can be set as anomaly alert triggers and indicators that you should leap to action to prevent customer information compromise and other data loss.
4. Keeping Detailed Audit Records for Actionable Forensics
Detailed audit records give you a historical reference to the root cause of any attack that your service organization has experienced. With such a record, you can refer back to aid in response to potential future attacks. These records provide deep and contextual insights to assist in your current and future remediation efforts.
Following are a few key insights that an audit trail can provide:
- The breadth and impact of a specific attack and the source point
- Any addition, modification or removal of key system components
With the detailed audit trail information readily at hand, you can perform actionable forensics exercises like the following:
- Where and how the attack originated
- Where and how the attack proceeded once it made its way into the system
- What parts of the system were ultimately impacted
- The nature and severity of the impact
- What the next move may be for response and remediation
Does Your Service Organization Need Help Determining Your Areas of Security Practice?
If you are looking for ways to achieve efficient, on-time and on-budget SOC 2 compliance, and you feel you need more help than the ideas we have listed, let us know. Our I.S. Partners LLC. team knows SOC 2 compliance, and we would love to help you iron out the details for your service organization.
We look forward to working with you and helping you to better understand that SOC 2 compliance is about developing well-defined policies, practices and procedures that become a meaningful part of your efforts to protect your own internal control environment, as much as your clients’.
Call us at 215-631-3452, send us a message, request a quote or launch a chat session for more information about SOC 2 compliance and all the great things it can do for your business.