Security must be a top priority for any business that’s storing customer data in the cloud. But how do you demonstrate to customers you meet their increasingly-high expectations? One of the best ways to do this is to ensure you're SOC 2 compliant.
This independently-audited certification reassures customers that your systems are well-protected and you have the skills and technologies in place to respond to any emerging security threats. However, in order to pass, you'll need to focus closely on your cloud solutions.
Why SOC 2 compliance matters
SOC 2 certification is essential if you're offering services to other businesses that require you to process and store sensitive data in the cloud. In fact, in many cases this will be a minimum requirement, and if you don't have it you won't be able to operate at all.
Being SOC 2 compliant is about more than ticking boxes. To pass a SOC 2 audit and become certified, organizations will have to put in place strict controls to ensure sensitive information is handled responsibly and protected from breaches. This means you'll be less exposed to a range of data security threats and protects against negative consequences, such as fines or reputational damage.
What's more, by proving you're committed to the strongest security measures, you'll also be a more attractive partner to prospective customers, opening up new opportunities.
However, if you're looking to become SOC 2 compliant, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
Understanding the 5 principles of SOC 2
The first step will be to familiarize yourself with the five basic principles of SOC 2. Unlike some other certifications, such as PCI DSS, which have very rigid and clearly-defined requirements, the five trust service principles of SOC 2 may be interpreted differently depending on the unique needs of the organization. This means each company can design its own solutions, as long as they comply with the basic requirements.
The five trust service principles are:
This relates to how you protect your system against unauthorized access and can include tools such as antimalware, two-factor authentication, web application firewalls and intrusion detection software.
To meet these needs, you must be clear about how your system is accessed and what steps you're taking to maintain availability, as set out in your contract terms or service level agreement. It may include network performance monitoring tools, failsafes and response plans to downtime or security incidents.
3. Processing integrity
This covers whether the system meets objectives such as delivering data accurately and at the right time. Compliance with this principle will require you to have solutions in place to ensure data processing is complete, accurate, timely and authorized throughout the business.
Ensuring data is only available to those with proper authorization is vital. This differs from security in that it covers how data is shared within an organization. Strong encryption is central to this, but it also includes access controls and user segmentation, as well as data deletion policies.
Finally, this principle covers the collection, use and sharing of personally identifiable information. As well as tools such as access control, this should also cover issues such as how you identify this information, user consent, effective communication with clients about how their data is used and a clear plan for disclosure and notification should a breach occur.
Putting tools in place to meet each of these five principles will set you well on your way to passing a SOC 2 compliance audit.
4 key steps to make sure your firm is SOC 2 compliant
In order to meet these principles, there are a few essential tools and technologies you should have in place. Doing this will ensure your journey to SOC 2 compliance is as hassle-free as possible by creating a secure, futureproofed solution. These include:
1. Comprehensive monitoring
Being able to spot issues early is critical, whether this is identifying intruders attempting to gain entry to your network, highlighting performance dips that affect availability or flagging any unusual activity such as amendments to key files or configurations. Importantly, you shouldn't just be scanning for known threats, but any abnormal activity that could suggest criminal behavior.
2. Quick anomaly alerts
This must work alongside an effective notification system so the relevant people can step in and take swift corrective action. In particular, SOC 2 requires firms to set up alerts for any activities that lead to the exposure or modification of data or configurations, file transfers or access to privileged filesystems, accounts or logins.
3. Detailed audits
Keeping full records of all activities is essential in tracing the root cause of any data breach and identifying what steps can be taken to remedy any weaknesses and prevent further incidents. A full audit trail should offer insights into any unauthorized modification to systems, the source of any network breach and the breadth and depth of an attack.
4. A full response plan
Finally, being able to demonstrate to SOC auditors that you know what to do in the event of a security incident will be critical to achieving certification. You should be able to present a comprehensive response plan that sets out what activities key personnel are responsible for, how you’ll mitigate any damage or recover from downtime and how you’ll notify customers and regulators.