Preparing an organization for a SOC 2 audit can be a demanding task. Several key steps can aid in this process:
- Scope Definition: In the initial phase of the SOC 2 journey, the first step involves a two-fold approach. Firstly, determine the scope of the system and, secondly, establish the scope of the criteria (standards). The system’s scope defines what the SOC 2 statement should encompass. Focus on meeting the needs of the report’s user (your potential customer and their auditors). This means understanding which system they require assurance about and what falls outside that scope. For more details on defining criteria scope, refer to specific documentation.
- Understand the Criteria: It’s crucial to grasp what will be assessed. Thoroughly examine the criteria and always question the intent behind each one. This allows you to align the appropriate control measures with the criteria and identify any gaps, missing controls, or undescribed processes. An IT auditor can provide valuable insight into understanding the criteria.
- Document and Implement: IT service organizations are often driven by practicality but may lack formal procedures and process-oriented work. However, it’s essential to establish formal policies, procedures, plans, and guidelines to ensure processes can be consistently followed, and responsibilities are clearly defined. Describe the “what,” “how,” “when,” and “who” within the organization, and ensure that the documents capturing this information are readily available. Equally important, the organization must diligently execute what’s documented. A successful audit requires more than just a well-crafted narrative.
- Foster Awareness: The effectiveness of control measures hinges on the organization’s people. Creating a culture of awareness at all levels is crucial for maintaining a secure environment. This includes practices like reporting and documenting security incidents, secure handling of company assets and data, and thorough onboarding and offboarding processes for employees. Many control measures heavily rely on the actions of individuals within the organization.
- Ensure Accountability: Some control measures can be challenging to validate, particularly when ad-hoc actions or consultations occur without proper documentation. For meetings and consultations, maintain minutes or reports. For tracking tickets and requests, ensure there’s a detailed record of actions taken. Moreover, for routine activities like access security checks, ensure there is a clear record of how, what, when, and by whom these activities were conducted. Select a method that suits your organization to minimize additional work.
- Learn from Past Audits: Evaluate and consolidate findings from previous audits, whether internal or external (e.g., ISO or SOC 2 type1). It’s not necessary to implement every recommendation, but it’s essential to show a reasoned decision-making process when evaluating and potentially declining certain recommendations.
- Facilitate Knowledge Sharing and Detailed Planning: SOC 2 standards cut across various fields, teams, and departments within an organization. The IT auditor will likely need to engage with individuals responsible for HR, management, development, and operations. When scheduling the audit, ensure these key personnel are available for interviews and walkthroughs. Collaborate with the IT auditor to determine the necessary time allocation for each area, facilitating the creation of a comprehensive and detailed audit plan.