Everything You Need to Know About SOC 2 Controls 

In an era where data breaches and cybersecurity threats are daily headlines, organizations face mounting pressure to protect sensitive information and assure clients of their commitment to security. This is where the SOC 2 control list comes into play. SOC 2 compliance has become a vital benchmark for demonstrating an organization’s adherence to industry-leading security standards.  

In this blog, we will delve into the importance of obtaining a SOC 2 attestation, explain the common SOC 2 controls list, how it integrates into a SOC 2 report, and how it can help organizations create a robust security framework and build trust with their stakeholders. 

What is a SOC 2 audit? 

The SOC 2 attestation is an essential and rigorous evaluation process for organizations that provide third-party services to others. It is designed to ensure the highest level of trust and transparency when it comes to the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of the systems, applications, and data belonging to their customers and users. The framework was introduced by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as part of their System and Organization Control reporting platform. 

To achieve a SOC 2 attestation, organizations must satisfy a set of well-defined criteria for each of the five Trust Service Criteria created by the AICPA. Organizations can demonstrate achievement of the SOC 2 criteria by implementing and operating a set of controls that meet the requirements of the criteria. 

What are SOC 2 Controls? 

SOC 2 controls are a set of policies, procedures and directives that govern how an organization’s systems operate to ensure the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy of company and customer data, as applicable. The SOC 2 controls provide guidelines on how organizations can manage and secure their sensitive information and helps companies to establish effective security controls, thereby reducing the risk of data breaches and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.  

This detailed catalog outlines various security measures that organizations should implement to comply with SOC 2 requirements. By implementing controls that adhere to the SOC 2 criteria, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to employing and maintaining effective security controls, ultimately building trust with their stakeholders. SOC 2 compliance can also give businesses a competitive edge by assuring potential clients and partners of their commitment to best-in-class security practices. 

What are the SOC 2 Trust Services Criteria? 

To achieve a SOC 2 attestation, organizations must satisfy a set of well-defined criteria for each of the five Trust Service Criteria created by the AICPA. Organizations can demonstrate achievement of the SOC 2 criteria by implementing and operating a set of controls that meet the requirements of the criteria. 

These five criteria include:  

  1. Security 
  1. Availability 
  1. Processing Integrity 
  1. Confidentiality 
  1. Privacy 

Each criterion represents a critical aspect of an organization’s security posture and compliance efforts. These criteria provide a comprehensive framework for addressing potential risks, vulnerabilities, and threats, enabling organizations to assess their security controls and make necessary improvements. Businesses that adhere to these principles demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding customer data. 

But what exactly are the components of the Trust Services Criteria of a SOC 2, and how do they contribute to building trust with your stakeholders? Let’s dive in and explore the key facets of the SOC 2 Trust Services Criteria

Security/Common Criteria 

The Security criterion evaluates whether an organization’s systems and applications are protected against unauthorized access (both physical and logical) and other vulnerabilities, ensuring protection and integrity of client data and information. The Security criterion also covers organizational controls that affect the in-scope system such as governance and oversight. The Security criterion must be included in every SOC 2 audit and is often referred to as the Common Criteria.  

Availability 

The Availability criterion verifies that services provided by an organization are available for operation according to agreed-upon terms, ensuring reliability and sustainability. By showcasing a robust availability strategy, organizations instill confidence in their stakeholders, demonstrating their commitment to delivering consistent and reliable services. 

Processing Integrity 

The Processing Integrity criterion assesses the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of data processing operations. This criterion assesses an organization’s controls and measures to evaluate that data is processed accurately and as intended.  

Confidentiality 

The Confidentiality criterion ensures that sensitive customer information is properly stored, classified, protected, and accessed only by authorized personnel to maintain confidentiality. It encompasses controls such as data classification, encryption, access controls, and employee training. By implementing comprehensive measures to preserve confidentiality, organizations earn the trust of their clients, assuring them that their sensitive information is handled with the utmost care and security. 

Privacy 

With increasing regulations and growing concerns around data privacy, the Privacy criterion is more important than ever. It evaluates an organization’s practices and controls related to the collection, use, retention, and disclosure of personal information and adherence with privacy policies and any applicable laws or regulations. By addressing privacy concerns, organizations demonstrate their commitment to protecting individuals’ personal data and respect for their privacy rights, fostering trust relationships with their customers and stakeholders. 

What is the SOC 2 Common Criteria? 

The SOC 2 Common Criteria is comprised of nine essential subcategories. Each subcategory represents a specific area that organizations must address to evaluate their security controls and practices effectively.  

By understanding these subcategories, businesses can strengthen their cybersecurity posture and demonstrate their commitment to robust compliance standards: 

  1. CC1.0 Control Environment: This criterion focuses on creating a culture that prioritizes integrity and security by establishing standards of conduct, evaluating adherence to those standards, and ensuring a proper tone at the top by senior management. Supporting controls such as annual training, communication of roles and responsibilities, and enforcement of responsibilities through reporting structures and authorities are also considered as part of Control Environment. Establishing a control environment that promotes these values is crucial for maintaining strong security controls. 
  1. CC2.0 Communication and Information: This criterion evaluates whether organizations effectively communicate their security policies to internal stakeholders, external parties, and customers. Communication and Information also addresses controls around how an organization obtains and generates relevant information to support the functioning of controls.  
  1. CC3.0 Risk Assessment: Organizations must conduct thorough risk assessments to identify and manage potential threats and vulnerabilities. This subcategory evaluates whether businesses have effective risk assessment processes in place. 
  1. CC4.0 Monitoring Activities: This criterion evaluates if management has selected, developed, and continuously performs monitoring activities to ensure controls are present and functioning as intended, and that processes and controls are in place to react to any deviations identified. 
  1. CC5.0 Control Activities: This criterion addresses that management has selected appropriate controls that contribute to the mitigation of organization and technology risk to support the achievement of the company’s objectives. It is important that an organization’s SOC 2 controls are appropriate for their industry and business. 
  1. CC6.0 Logical and Physical Access Controls: This criterion addresses proper information security and access controls. These ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data and systems. This subcategory assesses whether organizations have implemented appropriate controls to manage user access and prevent unauthorized access. 
  1. CC7.0 System Operations: This criterion focuses on the day-to-day management and monitoring of systems and includes activities such as detection and prevention activities, security incident identification, documentation, and resolution.  It also evaluates whether organizations have effective processes and controls in place to ensure the security and reliability of their systems.  
  1. CC8.0 Change Management: This criterion covers controls around the design of infrastructure and software systems. Controls around the proper authorization, design, testing, and approvals of changes should be documented and maintained. 
  1. CC9.0 Risk Mitigation This criterion covers controls around the identification and selection of risk mitigation measures for risks specifically around business disruptions and risk associated with third parties, vendors, and business partners. 

Understanding the SOC 2 Common Criteria is vital for organizations aiming to achieve SOC 2 compliance. By addressing each criterion appropriately and partnering with a trusted provider, businesses can meet the stringent requirements of SOC 2 and enhance their overall security posture. 

Next steps for understanding the SOC 2 control list 

Understanding the SOC 2 control list is crucial for organizations who want to achieve compliance with data protection regulations. Equipped with this knowledge, companies can implement robust security measures and maintain strong information safeguards that align with industry best practices. 

Navigating the SOC 2 Common Criteria list can be complex, but partnering with a trusted compliance and cybersecurity provider like A-LIGN can make the journey smoother. A-LIGN provides businesses around the globe with a world-class audit experience, ensuring compliance with SOC 2 requirements and providing peace of mind. Contact us today to learn more.