Cloud 101

How SOC 2 Audits Add Value to an Organization

How SOC 2 Audits Add Value to an Organization

Blog Article Published: 09/29/2022

Originally published by A-LIGN here.

Written by Stephanie Oyler, Vice President of Attestation Services, A-LIGN.

From ISO 27001 to PCI DSS to SOC 1 and SOC 2, there is no shortage of security assessments for organizations to pursue. While some audits can be more time intensive than others, the value they provide can benefit your organization in multiple ways.

This is especially true with SOC 2, which has become one of the most popular security assessments available. In this post, we’ll share how SOC 2 audits add value for organizations across all industries, along with how you can get started on your own SOC 2 journey.

What is a SOC 2 Audit?

A Service Organization Controls (SOC) 2 audit examines an organization’s internal controls, determining the controls’ design and effectiveness at providing security of the data within the in-scope systems.

A SOC 2 is beneficial for organizations who want to demonstrate that security measures have been properly implemented within their environment. These measures, the 5 Trust Services Criteria, include security, availability, confidentiality, privacy, and data processing integrity.

The first category, Security, is required to be in scope for every SOC 2 audit and is therefore frequently referred to as the Common Criteria. While the Security criteria is required, the rest are optional.

How SOC 2 Audits Add Value

There’s a reason why SOC 2 has seen a rise in popularity: it’s because a SOC 2 report adds value. Organizations who undergo the SOC 2 audit process benefit from:

  1. Increased insight into their security posture
  2. An understanding of opportunities for control improvements
  3. More competitive positioning within their market (prospects love to know that your organization takes security seriously and often require a SOC 2 report)
Increased Insight Into Security Posture

By undergoing a SOC 2 examination, an organization gains valuable insight into their overall environment and controls in place. The resulting SOC 2 report details processes specific to risk management, change management, vendor management, access controls, and much more. The SOC 2 report serves as a comprehensive overview of the effectiveness of those processes, and areas of opportunity.

Understanding Opportunities for Control Improvements

Organizations can use a SOC 2 report as a strategic roadmap for future security investments and initiatives. It’s an invaluable tool — created by an expert third-party — that serves as a guide against industry best practices.

SOC 2 as a Competitive Differentiator

A SOC 2 is a valuable resource to help organizations stand out amongst the competition as it demonstrates to prospective clients how much your organization values the security of client data. Having a SOC 2 report on-hand will set you apart from competitors during conversations with prospects, offering an advantage that other organizations in your industry may not have.

How to Complete a SOC 2 Audit

Prior to undergoing a SOC 2 audit, it’s important to understand what is involved and how your organization’s resources will need to take an active role in the process.

Step 1: Define the Scope. First, your organization should understand what in-scope systems need to be included in the audit. Typically, it will be limited to any applications, systems, or technologies that interact and store client data.

Step 2: Plan for the Audit. After evaluating your needs, your organization will then need to identify if you should undergo either a Type 1 or a Type 2 audit. The SOC 2 Type 1 audit will cover a single point in time and focus on the design of the controls at that point in time. The SOC 2 Type 2 audit will cover a period of time and focus on the design and operating effectiveness of the controls over the defined review period. A third-party assessor will help you with both the scoping of the audit and determining what type of audit (Type 1 or Type 2) would be most beneficial to your organization.

Step 3: Establish Deadlines. Your organization should define key deadlines and work with your auditor to ensure they can be met within a certain time frame.

Step 4: Collect Evidence. During this phase, your organization will gather all of the information that will be used for the audit.

Step 5: Perform Audit. While the collection of evidence is in progress, the third-party auditor will conduct walkthroughs of the procedures and processes of the environment for the in scope systems. Once testing is completed, the reporting phase begins and the SOC 2 report is generated based on the test results identified.

Step 6: If Wanted, Pursue a SOC 3 Report. Once your organization undergoes a SOC 2 Type 2 audit, you can then obtain a SOC 3 report. A SOC 3 is a public-facing report that highlights your organization’s commitment to security. This report is a great tool, as it can be distributed to current and prospective clients to show opinion, assertion, and system description, without revealing sensitive information around the controls and testing. A SOC 3 report can be issued for most SOC 2 Type 2 reports.

About the Author

Stephanie Oyler is the Vice President of Attestation Services at A-LIGN focused on overseeing a variation of many assessments within the SOC practice. Stephanie’s responsibilities include managing key service delivery leadership teams, maintaining auditing standards and methodologies, and analyzing business unit metrics. Stephanie has spent several years at A-LIGN in service delivery roles from auditing and managing client engagements to overseeing audit teams and providing quality reviews of reports. Prior to joining A-LIGN, Stephanie worked for CBIZ, the tenth largest accounting firm in the U.S., providing auditing services in the financial accounting spectrum for various industries including automobile, hospitality, not-for-profit, real estate, and cloud architecture. Stephanie graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree of Science in Accounting. During her time at the University of South Florida, Stephanie was an active member of Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor society for Accounting, Finance, and Information Systems students and professionals.

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