Examining the Popularity of the SOC 2 Audit

Is your organization planning for a SOC 2 report?  You’re not alone.  In our 2021 Compliance Benchmark Report, SOC 2 emerged as the most popular audit for cybersecurity, IT, quality assurance (QA), internal audit, finance, and other professionals across a variety of industries.

SOC 2 is gaining in popularity across industries and across the globe. More and more customers are asking for demonstrated SOC 2 compliance, and independent cybersecurity control validation and attestation is becoming necessary to compete for high-priority contracts. Beyond customer demand, SOC 2 ensures that controls are properly implemented and used within your organization, greatly reducing potential security threats.

In our 2021 Compliance Benchmark Report, we asked more than 200 cybersecurity, IT, quality assurance (QA), internal audit, finance, and other professionals about which audits are most important to their business.

The answer? Almost half of our respondents (47%) named SOC 2 as the most important audit, attestation, or assessment. SOC 2 examinations were designed to assist organizations of any size, regardless of industry and scope, by ensuring the personal assets of their potential and existing customers are protected. Interestingly, this audit edged out the popular ISO 27001 security framework — which only 39% of respondents labeled as the most important audit for their business.

The findings indicate that more is more when it comes to cybersecurity.  Since organizations can potentially be held liable for inaccurate financial reporting, security breaches, disclosure of confidential or private information, system downtime and incorrect processing of transactions, they now find providing the extensive information required in a SOC 2 report attests to their security posture in areas including:

  • Access control
  • Passwords
  • Change management
  • Incident response
  • Logging and monitoring
  • And other critical areas of data protection

Read on for more insights about why organizations are prioritizing SOC 2 assessments.

A Way to Build Customer Trust

The popularity of SOC 2 can be driven by customers, external stakeholders, or a business’ internal operations team. 33% of our survey respondents reported that customers most frequently ask for SOC 2 when doing their due diligence on how a company secures its data. More and more customers — especially those in large and highly regulated industries — are demanding this type of assurance from their vendors. Although SOC 2 is a voluntary standard, customers appear to put their trust in its framework and feel confident organizations that complete SOC 2 secure their systems and networks in a professional, process-oriented manner.  SOC 2 ensures organizations can protect against unauthorized access, unauthorized disclosure or damage to their systems.

Obtaining a SOC 2 report also shows customers a level of maturity in your IT security. The ability to provide a SOC 2 report ensures the customer that you prioritize the protection of their most valuable asset, data.  You can also utilize your SOC 2 to position your organization well against competitors, allowing your customers to easily see the value you provide.

Plans are in Place

Over the next 12 months, our survey respondents will remain busy with SOC 2-related tasks. A total of 43% of respondents indicated that they were currently conducting an audit or planning to conduct a SOC 2 audit in the next 12 months. In some industries, that number was significantly higher:

  • Technology: 82%
  • Finance: 75%
  • IT Services: 75%
  • Healthcare: 65%

For technology, healthcare and finance organizations, SOC 2 was the most in-progress and planned audit — edging out others like HIPAA and PCI DSS. For IT services, ISO 27001 was a slightly higher priority, at 83% to SOC 2’s 75%.

For organizations that are still in SOC 2 planning stages, there are plenty of ways to prepare for a successful audit. The first step is to make sure you choose your auditing firm carefully. Many vendors sell software to help an organization prepare and gather data for an audit but aren’t licensed to conduct the audit and issue SOC reports themselves. Choosing an auditing firm that is certified to not only help you prepare but also conduct the actual audit will make for a more seamless process.

Key Takeaways

When surveyed, 64% of respondents stated they have conducted an audit or assessment to win new business and 14% responded having lost a business deal because they were missing a compliance certification.  Although SOC 2 is optional, it is quickly becoming the cost of doing business and onboarding new clients.  More and more customers are requesting SOC 2 reports to ensure controls are properly implemented and used within your organization, reducing security threats and keeping their assets safeguarded.

The benefits of having a SOC 2 report are clear.  Investment today ensures success in the future — with an in-depth report complete and ready to share with customers, organizations can close deals without delay and demonstrate a commitment to ensuring the personal assets of their potential and existing customers are protected.

Download the 2021 A-LIGN Compliance Benchmark Report