SOC Compliance: Knowing What You Are Getting Into Before Signing Up
“Trust but verify” is a quote often associated with the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. If he coined the term himself or was fond of using it, it is up for debate, but the simple message that the quote portrays still cuts to the core of understanding how we ought to treat one another in business dealings and beyond. Even among those you otherwise put a lot of trust in with essential matters, a certain skepticism level is healthy. Companies seeking a provider of technological services should certainly apply this principle to the work that they do. That is why SOC Compliance exists in the technology services space, and it is critical to understand its meaning in your particular set of circumstances.
What Is SOC Compliance?
SOC compliance has been around long enough now that we are on to SOC 2 level compliance at this point. Rsisecurity.com presents the straightforward definition of what this means:
Service organization control (SOC) 2 is an auditing procedure designed to ensure that third-party service providers or service organizations can securely manage data to protect their clients’ interests and privacy. For many businesses, compliance with this auditing procedure is a prerequisite in looking for a service provider.
Some specific procedures and policies need to be followed before hiring an outside technology services provider. These policies and procedures have been agreed to by the wider industry, and that is why the SOC compliance rules came into being in the first place. They are a standard by which virtually any company can obtain the best possible outcome when needed by a technology services provider.
The standards continue to be updated as the use of technology is far more widespread than in the past and is used for many more purposes than before. Before 2010, these services’ only governing standards were known as the Statement of Auditing Standards No. 70 (SAS 70). These were audits performed by certified public accountants. This was acceptable when computers were the size of half a room and primarily used for university research projects, but that is no longer the case. Higher standards had to be set, and that is where the SOC compliance standards came into play.
What Factors Do SOC Compliance Standards Take Into Account?
SOC 2 compliance, the latest set of standards in the industry, is pretty strict in terms of what achievements one must accomplish. This is done on purpose to ensure that any company known to be SOC 2 compliant is meeting the highest standards possible. There are various things that the SOC 2 compliance standards take into account that we will take a look at in more detail. They include the following:
- The ability to monitor known and unknown threats to technological systems
- Audit trails
- Top-level confidentiality agreements with clients
- Integrity in getting the proper data to the appropriate place in the proper time
- A level of forensic detail that can be acted upon
Each of these elements must be present and a few others to even come close to SOC 2 compliance. This is why these compliance standards are taken so seriously in the industry. We want to take a closer peek at what some of these elements mean and why they matter.
New threats are dreamed up in the minds of cyber-criminals every day. There is a gold mine of information and data that those criminals would love to have access to, and they are more than happy to invent the viruses and other malicious tools they need to get to it. This is why any SOC 2 compliant vendor or company must have the ability to monitor any potential threats on a software system. Not only should they be able to monitor threats that are already known and previously detected, but they need to have the ability to keep tabs on emerging threats that have not yet shown their face.
Details matter, and audit trails are the only way to keep all of those details and pieces of information together in one place. Just like a court of law requires a detailed record of everything said and done in the courtroom, so too should companies seeking to protect themselves and their data from attack.
Confidential Agreements With Clients
It is crucial that all matters between a service provider and the company purchasing those services be kept confidential. Sensitive data is passed between the two regularly as a matter of doing business. Thus, any SOC 2 compliant service provider must demonstrate that they have the utmost integrity and values regarding confidentiality.
Integrity Of Data
All data must seamlessly pass through the service provider and get to where it needs to go without hiccups or mistakes. Protecting that data at every stage of the process is the service provider’s work, and there is no reason for there to be any issues when it comes to this. Routine checks on the data’s ability to get from Point A to Point B without problem are recommended and are factors in achieving SOC 2 compliance.
Threatshack.com explains to service providers why extremely detailed forensics is essential in the services that they provide:
Your customers need assurance that you are not only monitoring for suspicious activity and receiving real-time alerts, but that you have the ability to take corrective action on these alerts before a system-wide situation exposing or compromising critical customer data occurs.
Customers will never trust a company that cannot help them correct an issue should one occur. Knowing that there is a problem and doing something about that problem are two separate issues, and both must be present if one is to become SOC 2 compliant.
Bear in mind that SOC compliance is entirely voluntary. It is highly recommended that any service provider wants to attract new clients to work towards SOC compliance, but they do not legally offer their services. Thus, a large portion of the responsibility for hiring the right technology services company falls at the company’s feet doing the hiring. They are responsible for researching all of their options and making an informed decision regarding the information available. SOC compliance is something that many are insisting on these days, and there are good reasons for that. Remember the value that it adds, and make a wise choice for yourself.
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