With the number and type of cybersecurity threats rapidly increasing over the past decade or so—the threats are showing no signs of slowing in the near or far future, by the way—you’ve most likely heard of SOC for Cybersecurity; especially if you outsource one or more aspects of your business to a specialized service organization. In case you haven’t heard about this framework, we are here to bring you up to speed.
What Is SOC for Cybersecurity Examination and Do You Need it for Your Business?
With anticipated security threats like crime-as-a-service (CaaS) and the inherent security risks to the IoT and the supply chain, it seems like every business—in every industry and at every size—is going to have to tighten up cybersecurity.
SOC for Cybersecurity may be the solution everyone has been scrambling to find to combat the potential risks on the horizon.
Any business that works with service organizations, which specialize in services that include cloud storage and software-as-a-service (SaaS), must ensure that each service organization maintains a safe and secure cyber environment.
With the increasing need for organizations to demonstrate proper management of cybersecurity threats with effective processes and controls in place to detect, respond to, mitigate and recover from breaches and other security events, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) designed a cybersecurity risk management reporting framework.
The resulting framework is a key component of the new System and Organization Controls (SOC) for Cybersecurity engagement.
Side note to curious IT professionals: You might find yourself wondering, “Didn’t SOC once stand for “Service Organization Controls?” If that is the case, you are correct. SOC for Cybersecurity is the cyber controls set and described by each organization’s enterprise-wide cyber risk management program.
Given the known and anticipated risks of doing business via the Internet, we believe it is important that you adopt the SOC for Cybersecurity framework for your business. It is a great way to monitor and manage your internal controls, as well as keeping your management and board members, investors, analysts, clients and prospective clients, business partners and industry regulators abreast of the health of your system on a regular basis.
Why Did the AICPA Design SOC for Cybersecurity?
The AICPA took a look at the cyber environment and realized that it could do something to help all businesses manage the risks. The body designed SOC for Cybersecurity to work as a reporting mechanism for any organization, rather than solely for service organizations that provide services to client organizations, also known as user entities. All other SOC reporting options designed by the AICPA—SOC 1, 2 and 3 examinations—are only intended for service organizations. With this new reporting option, everyone can work with a consistent reporting mechanism for assurance regarding its cybersecurity controls.
What Do You Need to Know About the SOC for Cybersecurity Examination?
The SOC for Cybersecurity goes hand-in-hand with the framework. It offers guidelines on the best ways for you to document your own cybersecurity risk management program. It also provides a number of controls and objectives that you may use to stay on track for the best possible cybersecurity.
Additionally, the examination presents standards for public accounting firms. These standards allow the firms to report on the cybersecurity programs while also giving clear guidance to CPAs to provide cybersecurity assurance to clients.
What Are the Primary Components of SOC for Cybersecurity Examination?
The AICPA designed SOC for Cybersecurity using two basic and important criteria:
- Descriptive Criteria. Descriptive criteria provide a narrative description of the company’s current risk management program and approach. This key step gives a baseline measurement of the effectiveness of the current controls within the program.
- Control Criteria. Control criteria are the ideal baseline against each company is able to compare their own baseline measurement within their descriptive criteria to determine where they stand, such as how near to or far from the mark they are.
User entities can choose from a few different pre-existing control criteria, also known as a family of standards, including:
- Trusted Services for Security, Availability and Confidentiality
- NIST Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Framework
- ISO 27001/27002
The SOC for Cybersecurity examination report will ultimately include:
- Management’s description of their organization’s cybersecurity risk program
- Management’s assertion about their cybersecurity risk program
- Practitioner’s report
Side note: Keep in mind that there is a difference between SOC for Cybersecurity and risk assessments. The main difference between the two is that a risk assessment measures an organization’s exposure against a specific collection of threats through an evaluation. SOC for Cybersecurity offers an independent opinion regarding an entity’s complete risk management program methodology and practices, which also includes its own risk assessment process.
A Few Key Benefits of the SOC for Cybersecurity Examination and Reporting
There are several benefits associated with adopting the most appealing SOC for Cybersecurity framework for your business and submitting to SOC for Cybersecurity examination and reporting.
- You provide verified proof that your organization is dedicated to operating within the most secure possible cyber environment.
- You can stay a step ahead of the competition by taking this extra step that provides assurance to your customers, business associates and any other interested or invested parties.
- Catch potential issues before they become full-blown data breaches.
The Importance of Your Auditor’s Role in SOC for Cybersecurity
Scheduling a SOC for Cybersecurity audit is an important part of implementing your framework, making sure it is running properly and obtaining verified proof that you are doing everything possible to run a safe computing environment in the context of the cyber realm.
Our team at I.S. Partners, LLC. has championed this new step made by the AICPA to help our clients stay ahead of the curve when it comes to online operations. However, it is understandable that you may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of undergoing one more adoption and implementation of more controls. We can help you sort through it all to make the process easier.