Achieving SOC 2 Compliance

FPT Software recently played a crucial role in assisting a leading financial firm through an acquisition by a venture capital firm. FPT ensured the firm’s compliance with SOC 2 (System and Organization Controls 2) standards. SOC 2 compliance is vital for demonstrating that a company controls IT security and operational risks adequately.

Understanding SOC Compliance

SOC compliance underscores a commitment to security, adherence to regulatory requirements, practical risk management, and avoiding reputational damage.  Achieving SOC 2 (System and Organization Controls 2) compliance quickly and cost-effectively requires careful planning and implementation.  It involves furnishing proof of controls for security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and data privacy. Although SOC 2 is a US standard, its principles align closely with international standards.  Achieving SOC compliance is often perceived as a barrier to Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and acquisitions because of the typical cost and complexity.

SOC Standards and Controls

SOC 2, SOC 1, and SOX Compliance: SOC 1 is dedicated to financial reporting and is not the focus of this article. SOC 2 audits are divided into two types: Type I, offering a moment-in-time evaluation, and Type II, which assesses compliance over a specified period. It is crucial to distinguish between SOC and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), although both pertain to compliance. SOX often presents more complex challenges than SOC compliance.

Control Effectiveness: Controls are designed to mitigate security risks, recognizing that complete risk elimination is unattainable. However, a comprehensive blend of IT, policy, and physical safeguards can establish robust security.  It's important to note that SOC evaluations focus on policy implementation and adherence, and they prove such adherence without delving into the technical aspects.

Achieving Enhanced Security Through SOC 2 Compliance

Achieving SOC 2 compliance does not guarantee absolute security. However, passing a SOC audit increases the likelihood of your systems being secure. Passing a SOC audit doesn't inherently mean your systems are impervious to threats. Nevertheless, meeting SOC 2 criteria raises the chances that your systems are protected.

The objective should extend beyond achieving "better security" towards ensuring rigorous adherence to your established security policies. Compliance signifies a commitment to maintaining a robust security posture, reflecting a proactive approach to safeguarding sensitive information and systems.

Strategies for Efficient Compliance

Defining the Audit Scope: To streamline compliance efforts, it's essential to determine your audit's scope as narrowly as possible. Focus on the crucial systems, processes, and data for the audit. This approach minimizes compliance time and costs, which is particularly beneficial for large organizations. For instance, if your organization operates multiple internal systems but only one is customer-facing, limit the audit scope to that system. This targeted strategy ensures effective management of compliance efforts without overwhelming resources.

Leveraging Other Security Frameworks and Tools: While frameworks like NIST Cybersecurity or ISO 27001 may overlap with SOC 2 requirements, integrating automated tools and software can significantly streamline the compliance process. These resources can reduce the need for manual tasks, balancing the investment of time and resources. However, remember that a well-structured checklist and diligent evidence collection are foundational to your compliance journey.

Pre-Audit Readiness Assessment: Conducting a thorough readiness assessment before your SOC 2 audit is paramount. This evaluation will highlight areas for improvement and prepare you for the audit process. Use a checklist that covers standard IT controls relevant to your industry and business size, including those specific to SOC 2's five trust service criteria. While industry-specific controls might seem daunting, most large auditing firms offer tailored questionnaires to guide your preparation. A comprehensive internal review will streamline the audit and reflect your company's proactive stance on compliance.

Executive Involvement: Active engagement and awareness from executive management are crucial, even though they may not handle security on a day-to-day basis. Their involvement underscores the organization's commitment to security and compliance.

Documentation Practices: Maintaining documentation of your policies, procedures, risk assessments, and evidence of control effectiveness is ideal. However, it's common for even the most prepared organizations to have gaps in their documentation. Work closely with auditors to address their specific inquiries, focusing on providing summaries and the most relevant documents. This approach minimizes unnecessary audit hours and directly addresses the auditors' concerns.

Control documentation without evidence will not be acceptable to an auditor.

Evidence Gathering: Documentation should be supported by concrete evidence, such as screenshots of controls and policy documents. Be prepared to explain any instances where evidence is unavailable.

Addressing Evidence Gaps: If you encounter situations where evidence cannot be provided, especially with new systems, communicate openly with your auditor. Provide justifications for technical limitations and ensure your explanations are clear and reasonable.

Starting Points for Evidence Collection

Gather evidence on standard IT controls, which constitute 70-80% of typical audit points. Key areas to focus on include:

  • Security and Design Documentation: Provide security-focused diagrams for each key system.
  • Organizational Structure: An organization chart, details on management involvement, third-party interactions, and employee roles.
  • Security Policies: Documentation related to onboarding, termination, password policies, multifactor authentication, training, and employee agreements.
  • Access Controls: Details on measures to protect sensitive data.
  • Product Management: Documentation on risk management, change management, and quality assurance.
  • Security Technical Analysis: Outline procedures for vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.
  • IT Operations: Document processes for backups, disaster recovery, monitoring, antivirus solutions, and remote access.

Adopting this systematic approach enables organizations to achieve SOC 2 compliance efficiently and cost-effectively. It demonstrates a commitment to protecting sensitive data and fulfills customer expectations regarding trust and security.

How Can FPT Software Help?

FPT Software brings proven security, operations, and quality assurance expertise to the table. We offer support with assessment checklists, conduct thorough assessments, and can represent your organization during external SOC audits. Case studies highlighting our expertise and success stories are available upon request.

For additional details on SOC 2 compliance, please visit the AICPA's website at

Author FPT Software