When it comes to cybersecurity, the SOC (System and Organization Controls) is the cybersecurity standard to which the AICPA, or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, holds service organizations (SO). More specifically, the SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3 reports and certifications help consumers, stakeholders, and other interested parties know the degree to which an organization protects its data and the data of its users. This is vital for the safe management and transfer of sensitive information across larger organizations. While there are multiple kinds of SOC reports, the SOC 2 report is the most thorough and trusted of the three AICPA audit types. This is largely due to SOC 2 trust principles.
So, what are SOC 2 trust principles? How do they affect the outcome of SOC 2 reports? Finally, how can service organizations and their auditors use these trust principles to improve cybersecurity processes and protocols? We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s examine each of the SOC 2 trust principles one by one:
Compared to SOC 2, the SOC 1 report does not provide the complete picture of a service organization’s data protocols. This is because the SOC 2 report — both SOC 2 Type 1 and SOC 2 Type 2 — depend on 5 basic trust principles:
Though the exact procedures needed to satisfy the 5 SOC 2 trust principles vary between organizations, there are some general protocols that can help ensure compliance:
Security breach management
Security is one of the most important elements of SOC 2 compliance. User data is secure if access controls and protocols can prevent a data breach or any form of unauthorized access. This could include misuse of an SO’s system, unauthorized removal or transfer of data, inappropriate alterations to files, or illegal disclosure of user information. Generally speaking, an SOC 2 auditor will look for protocols like network firewalls, two-factor authentication, and data breach detection when evaluating an organization’s security.
Availability refers to how accessible a system is for both the service organization’s internal agents and users of an SO’s products or services. Naturally, the degree of accessibility for users external to the organization will depend on stipulations made in a contract or service agreement. As such, availability standards can vary from organization to organization. That said, minimum availability standards can help improve system monitoring and the management of security breaches.
Aside from basic security, processing integrity is one of the most important SOC 2 trust principles. In essence, this principle identifies whether or not a system is fulfilling its intended purpose. Thus, every service organization must have a declared intent for its data security system, with clear and concise protocols for data processing and management. This trust principle is akin to the quality assurance of an SO’s cybersecurity system. If protocols function as they should, your processing integrity will comply with SOC 2 standards.
Confidentiality of data ensures that access is only permitted to authorized individuals within the organization. SOC 2 compliance does not just look at data shared between an SO and its users. Internal data must meet minimum confidentiality standards to protect sensitive financial information from unauthorized access. Data encryption, network firewalls, and clearly-defined access protocols are some of the most common ways to meet these SOC 2 compliance requirements.
Though confidentiality and privacy are closely related, they are still distinct from one another. Confidentiality refers to an organization’s data that is only shared with select individuals, while privacy refers to proper collection, storage, transmission, and disposal of sensitive user data. In most cases, this means that a user’s personal information (name, address, Social Security number, etc.) can only be accessed by the user and authorized personnel within the service organization, per the contract or service agreement. During SOC 2 audits, a service organization’s protocols are also judged against the Generally-Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP).
With the global shift to cloud-based data management, the need for standardized cybersecurity is now greater than ever. While SOC 2 compliance is not required by US law, it can help service organizations stand out from the competition and prevent a cybersecurity PR nightmare. When you acquire SOC 2 certification after a thorough audit, your users and stakeholders will know that you can safely manage and transfer sensitive data. Additionally, achieving SOC 2 compliance greatly reduces the risk of a costly security breach in the future.
Is your service organization in need of an informed SOC 2 compliance checklist? If so, the experts at Security Rangers are here and ready to help. We can provide a dedicated security management team and constant security monitoring to ensure that you comply with all 5 SOC 2 trust principles. If you’d like to learn more about our cybersecurity compliance services, feel free to reach out to Security Rangers today!