Developed by AICPA, service organizational control (SOC) is a voluntary standard for corporations that provide various services to their clients. SOC specifies how the corporation should store and use its customer data.
Although the SOC-2 compliance reports are customized in accordance with the requirements of each organization, the fundamental compliance requirement of privacy, security, availability, integrity, and confidentiality is maintained.
Why SOC-2 Compliance Is Important
SOC-2 is a voluntary compliance certification for corporations. Although compliance is not mandatory, being compliant as an organization is beneficial. That is because clients today are becoming more aware of data breaches and data security has become a top concern.
If your direct competitors have SOC-2 compliance and you don’t, the users might choose them over you as their solution.
The 5 methods that you can implement in your organization’s system to achieve SOC-2 compliance requirements are:
1. Privacy Audit
A privacy audit addresses the corporate organization’s capability and commitment to the privacy of user data. You need to provide support documentation that attests to the parameters of SOC-2 to get an appraisal from the auditors. A certified public accounting (CPA) firm may examine a sample transaction to ensure that the operation is performed effectively and as per the requirement.
In a SOC-2 privacy audit, certain criteria are reviewed and reports are generated based on these. Those include:
The organization must notify the users about their data being collected before or at the time of collection to comply with SOC-2 standards. The users should also be notified should there be any changes to the privacy terms. If not notified, organizations should make sure that these said changes are available and easy to access.
You need to inform your data subject about the choices available to them and the consequences relating to the collection, retention, and disposal of each one. The users need to give consent to the organization before data collection occurs.
The organization needs to only collect the required data that’s important for business operations. If data is being collected from other sources (third-party), you need to ensure that it’s obtained by clean methods and has complied with the SOC-2 requirements.
Use, Retention, and Disposal
The data collected from users should only be used for the purposes they are intended for. And it’s necessary that you only use the data for purposes they’ve consented to.
The data retention policy should state the usage of data and for how long it needs to be in the system. During this time, the data should be protected from unauthorized access, unauthorized disclosure, and unauthorized modification.
The data shouldn’t be kept in the system after the purpose has been fulfilled.
Your users must be authenticated before giving them access to their collected data. This is to ensure that no unauthorized access can be granted to sensitive user information. If authorized access to data modification is denied, you need to state the exact reason for denial.
If you must disclose user information to third parties, appropriate consent from the subjects is necessary to comply with SOC-2 norms. It also falls in your duty to ensure that the organizations that you are disclosing the information, are taking appropriate measures to safeguard them.
You must take measures to effectively monitor the collection, use, retention, and disposal of user data to ensure that no unauthorized access is allowed.
2. Security Audit
A security audit manifested by a CPA firm refers to the resources used against unauthorized access. The objective of the security audit for SOC-2 is to ensure that the cybersecurity measures are effective enough to prevent system abuse, data breach, ransomware attacks, theft, and misuse of data.
To confirm that, you must use tools like:
Two-factor authentication is the practice to confirm the identity of users twice before giving them access to sensitive data. The first factor generally requires a login ID and password, and the second factor can consist of an OTP or a one-click authentication from a known device.
Web Application Firewalls
Web application firewalls (WAF) help protect the web apps that your organization uses from malicious HTTP traffic. It can protect you from cross-site forgery, SQL injection, and XSS attacks.
Intrusion Detection System
An intrusion detection system (IDS) detects any anomaly in the system’s network and notifies your cybersecurity team about it. These tools are particularly effective in proactively blocking the attacks before full infiltration.
3. Availability Audit
The availability audit addresses the accessibility of the web functions that let the users access, modify, or get information about their data. The availability audit doesn’t take account of the functionality or the effectiveness of the function, but the reachability and accessibility of them.
The key things to determinate in this context is:
Apart from cybersecurity risks, you also need to monitor your systems–especially the pages that are critical of data accessibility–for downtime and failovers.
You need to minimize the downtime of your systems as much as possible. An extended downtime affects the audits in negative ways.
Failover is the backup system that takes charge upon the breakdown of a system. Having a failover is extremely critical for systems that require constant accessibility.
4. Processing Integrity Audit
Processing integrity is different from data integrity. Process integrity focuses on the channels that are being used to transport the user data and not the data itself. If the collected data is already faulty upon arrival, it’s not the purpose of processing integrity audits to take account of that. Data monitoring and quality assurance protocols can be helpful to ensure processing integrity.
5. Confidentiality Audit
A dataset is flagged as confidential if it can only be accessed by parties that are involved in handling or managing it. Confidential data usually contains more sensitive information thus the limit on who can access it.
Your organization is responsible for encrypting, access controlling, and safeguarding the interest of subjects with confidentiality compliance of SOC-2.
The Bottom Line
Despite being voluntary, SOC-2 certification has become essential for corporate organizations that collect data and provide services to the user directly or through intermediaries. The methods to achieve SOC-2 compliance consist of ensuring privacy, confidentiality, availability, security, data processing, and compliance with the SOC-2 norms.