What Does it Mean to be SOC 2 Certified?


SOC 2 certification based upon AICPA standards is a means of testing a company’s data protection as part of its overall IT and network security. The certification is not a legal requirement, yet it is internationally recognized as an indication of optimal data security. 

The following SOC 2 features are summarised below:

  • SOC 2 Compliance
  • How to Become Certified
  • Benefits of SOC 2

For any IT company with a cloud-based service, SOC 2 compliance is widely regarded as a badge of optimal network integrity. Certification tests various points of data security and can take up to 12 months at a high cost. However, the initial cost far outweighs the consequences of poor security, and clients are assured their data is secure.

SOC 2 Compliance

Storing data in the cloud comes with the inherent risk of loss, corruption, or theft[1] as part of a cyber attack. Therefore, a security audit is necessary to determine risk and design security infrastructure around the assessment. The most effective method is via a SOC 2 audit, formerly known as SAS 70.

Because of the risk of a data breach where client confidentiality and data protection are a primary concern, SOC 2 compliance is highly recommended but is not a legal requirement. However, the widely recognized protocol certification is an unwritten bond of trust between two or more parties.

How to Become Certified

To become a SOC 2 certified vendor, your company’s compliance with various aspects of personal data protection is measured[2].

Security

Access prevention systems are assessed. These include multi-factor authentication, firewall integrity, and intrusion detection.

Availability

Performance is measured based upon agreed availability criteria. Access to required information and systems are prime examples.

Processing Integrity

A system is measured against the accuracy and validity of its data. Corrupted data before entry can invalidate a system, so QA and data processing are recommended to maximize integrity. 

Confidentiality 

User access and access to data by authorized parties are measured. The effectiveness of access restrictions is based upon relevant authorizations, encryption, and system access.

Privacy

How data is collected, stored, and used is measured according to generally accepted privacy principles. An organizational privacy notice also determines this.

For SOC 2 certification, it is recommended to hire outside counsel from an IT company for reviewing select criteria. Then, based upon an independent review, organizational and IT department changes should be made to work towards improvements. 

A full review and certification will take approximately 12 months[3] at the cost of around $150,000[3]

Benefits of SOC 2

A SOC 2 certification is not a legal requirement but an officially recognized symbol of highly secure data protection practices. Consequently, a client is assured that your systems offer the best protection against malware, intrusion, and data theft. Therefore, SOC 2 compliance aims to drive customer attraction and retention.

Additionally, the ongoing testing of security systems aims to deliver a cost-effective approach to the integrity of IT infrastructure that could potentially save millions of dollars. For example, a disastrous breach costs an average of almost $4 million[4]. Therefore, the initial cost far outweighs the potential for loss. Finally, SOC 2 certification can also accelerate other assessments such as HIPAA and ISO 27001 certifications[4].

Summary

While not a legally required assessment, SOC 2 is essential as a means of displaying a company’s proactive approach to confidential and private data. The cost of acquiring a SOC2 certification is initially high, but it will offset the potential cost of a data breach. Additionally, a valid SOC 2 certificate will speed up auditing other essential, security-based certifications like HIPAA and ISO 27001.