A SOC 2 compliance report can be a powerful tool in demonstrating your company’s commitment to securing your customers’ data. Still, several common mistakes or misunderstandings can make the audit process more complicated, lengthier, and more expensive.
A SOC 2 compliance report summarizes the results of an external auditor’s evaluation of your company’s policies and controls for protecting customer data in five key areas:
- Processing Integrity
A SOC 2 Type 1 report tests control design at a specific point-in-time, while a more useful Type 2 report tests controls repeatedly over a period of time to confirm operating effectiveness.
Customers depend on the SOC 2 audit results as they conduct due diligence on prospective and current cloud service vendors because they want assurance they can safely integrate their internal and customer data. For many companies, SOC 2 compliance is an important consideration or a requirement as they choose technology partners.
The following five mistakes can complicate the SOC 2 audit process or otherwise hinder your ability to take advantage of the assurance a SOC compliance report offers your customers.
1. Not Designating a Project Manager
As you’re planning for a SOC 2, naming a project manager is an essential step in streamlining the flows of information within your organization as well as with your external auditor. The broad scope of a SOC 2 audit means you’re going to be collecting information and documentation from business functions including HR, operations, systems admins, database professionals, and others.
Each control will require someone with subject matter expertise to provide evidence of that control’s effectiveness for the auditors to review. If you don’t designate someone to coordinate that information flow, the auditors will have to track down documentation function by function. This complex process will extend the life of the project considerably.
Instead, choosing a single point of contact can make this process faster and more efficient. If you do not have someone with project management experience on staff, consider bringing in an external project manager on a consulting basis.
2. Not Performing a Readiness Assessment
Before you engage an auditor, it’s crucial to conduct a readiness assessment to identify the controls that will be examined during the audit, any missing controls, and any controls that lack documentation.
Failing to perform these basic steps before the audit begins can easily lead to unexpected control gaps and failures during the audit. It can hamper your ability to obtain a report documenting SOC 2 compliance. As with project management, a consultant with readiness assessment expertise can help streamline the process and enhance your capabilities.
3. Not Performing Interim Testing During an Audit
It’s important to test your controls during the first reporting period covered by your SOC 2 assessment. If you’re performing an audit based on a six-month period, for instance, you should test your controls after three months to ensure they have been operating effectively for that timeframe.
This interim testing provides an opportunity to identify and mitigate any control exceptions, so you’d have the rest of the period for that control to operate effectively. Interim testing is optional, but it’s far more effective than waiting for the end of the period and discovering deficient controls that force you to extend the period as you mitigate issues.
4. Expecting Customer Security Questionnaires to Stop
Although most clients who ask about your information-protections policies and controls will be satisfied with a SOC 2 report, companies with their own security questionnaires will likely continue to issue them. Because each company’s operating environment (and questionnaire) are different, merely handing over a SOC 2 report is unlikely to satisfy their request for information. You may be able to pull information from the report in answering the questionnaire, but don’t expect that questionnaires will become a memory.
5. Assuming SOC 2 Is Once and Done
When you receive a SOC 2 compliance report, that doesn’t mean the process is over. Effective risk management is an ongoing process, which means that, for subsequent periods, you’ll have to stay on top of the controls and operations covered in the initial report.
This will require ongoing risk assessments, updating policies and procedures as changes occur in your environment, vulnerability scanning and penetration testing, updating business continuity and disaster recovery plans, and other assessments.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll receive a SOC 2 report demonstrating your commitment to securing and protecting customer data, and a report you’ll be pleased to hand to any prospect or customer who asks for one.
Need help preparing for your SOC 2 audit? Download our guide, 5 Things to Do Prior to a SOC 2 Audit, for tips and guidance on how to get started or contact our team at email@example.com.