UNDERSTANDING THE SOC 2 AUDIT REPORT
Businesses of all sizes are increasingly dealing with sensitive data, making information security a top priority. When dealing with partners or third-party vendors, it’s crucial to have assurances that data is being handled securely and responsibly. For these organisations this is where SOC 2 Audit Report becomes important.
What is SOC 2 Audit Report?
The Service Organisation Control (SOC) 2 Audit Report is a comprehensive certification provided by external auditors to businesses, specifically those offering Software as a Service (SaaS) or other IT services. Developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), SOC 2 is designed to ensure that systems are set up to guard the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customer data.
SOC 2 reports are unique to each organisation, reflecting the specific controls implemented by the organisation to safeguard customer data. A key aspect of SOC 2 compliance is the definition and adherence to the organisation’s own policies and procedures.
Why is it Important?
As data breaches continue to proliferate, businesses increasingly rely on SOC 2 reports to assess the data security practices of potential partners and vendors. These reports offer an in-depth look at a service provider’s controls and how effectively they protect sensitive data.
SOC 2 is often required in regulated industries, like healthcare or finance, where mishandling of data could have serious legal and financial implications. However, even for businesses operating outside these sectors, achieving SOC 2 compliance can be a strong selling point, demonstrating commitment to data protection and integrity.
The Five Trust Services Criteria
The SOC 2 report is based on five “Trust Services Criteria”:
- Security: The system is protected, both logically and physically, against unauthorised access.
- Availability: The system is available for operation and use as committed or agreed upon.
- Processing Integrity: System processing is complete, accurate, timely, and authorised.
- Confidentiality: Information designated as confidential is protected accordingly.
- Privacy: Personal information is collected, used, retained, disclosed, and disposed of in conformity with an organisation’s privacy notice and with criteria set forth in the AICPA’s generally accepted privacy principles (GAPP).
A business may choose to be evaluated on one or more of these criteria, based on its needs or the requirements of its clients.
Types of SOC 2 Reports
There are two types of SOC 2 reports:
- SOC 2 Type I: This report focuses on the suitability of the design of controls at a specific point in time.
- SOC 2 Type II: This report is more comprehensive, focusing on the effectiveness of controls over a period of time, typically 6 to 12 months.
SOC 2 Audit Process
The SOC 2 audit process is typically carried out by a certified public accounting (CPA) firm. The process starts with a thorough examination of a company’s information systems, followed by a detailed report.
The auditor’s report will include an opinion on the effectiveness of the controls in place. If any problems are identified during the audit, the report will also include recommendations for improvement.
In a world where data breaches are common, the SOC 2 Audit Report is a critical tool for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to data security. While achieving SOC 2 compliance can be a rigorous process, it can also serve as a competitive differentiator and a sign of trustworthiness in the eyes of partners and clients. Above all, SOC 2 helps ensure that businesses are doing their part to protect their sensitive data.