News of cybercrime dominates the headlines on a regular basis. For that reason, earning the trust of clients is absolutely crucial for any organization that provides cloud-based data storage, management, or transmission services. The customers who entrust you with their precious data want more than your promise that all is well with your cybersecurity controls, systems, and procedures.

Obtaining a SOC 2 report provides just what they need: attestation from an objective, third-party professional auditor that your organization puts data safety first. This type of evaluation uses the criteria of specific trust services principles to make this determination and provide solid assurance to stakeholders across all industries. Therefore, it is important that you learn about them so that you can determine which are relevant to your organization and its security goals.

What is a SOC 2 Report?

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) established a set of standards, also known as trust service principles, against which companies can compare their own non-financial security controls via audits. The result is a document prepared by a third-party auditor that details how the business’s controls stack up against these criteria, including specific information about the procedures the assessor used to measure compliance.

The completed report can be an invaluable help for management as well as internal and external stakeholders, including present and potential customers. When a business receives a glowing SOC 2 report that demonstrates its adherence to all relevant SOC 2 principles, customers can breathe easier knowing that their information is being tended to in the most responsible, security-conscious way possible.

What Are the SOC 2 Trust Principles?

Obtaining SOC 2 compliance is not a rigid undertaking. In fact, complying with the trust services principle of security is the only requirement that is written in stone, with the other four SOC 2 trust principles left to your discretion to tackle or set aside according to your company’s unique objectives and needs. The SOC 2 principles include the following categories:

  • Security. This is the backbone of SOC 2 compliance and contains many moving parts. You must demonstrate that you have controls and procedures in place that protect customer data and ensure that users have access only to information specifically relevant to them. Security pertains to your website, images, shopping cart service, links, and behind-the-scenes back-end processes.

When focusing on security, pay particular attention to the controls that pertain to physical and logical access to your systems; system operations; change management (how you identify when changes in your controls need to be made and avoid unauthorized changes); and how you identify and mitigate risk.

  • Availability. To comply with this second of the SOC 2 reporting principles, you must show that you have put systems in place to ensure that your customers have a clear understanding of the services you are providing and how they meet your organizational objectives.
  • Processing integrity. Pertaining to your data processing and transmission controls, this standard ensures that you are handling valuable customer data in a secure way. According to the AICPA, you must prove that your systems are “complete, valid, accurate, timely, and authorized to meet the organization’s objectives.”
  • Confidentiality. This fourth of the SOC 2 principles refers to who is granted access to data and how it is shared. When addressing compliance with this principle, aspects such as firewalls, encryption strategies, and various cybersecurity measures can be discussed in detail.
  • Privacy. This fifth of the SOC 2 principles relates only to personal information and pertains to how it is obtained, stored, disclosed, and disposed of. To that end, you should show that you protect customers’ personal information by providing proper notification of changes or updates, giving customers choice in all matters pertaining to their data, conducting proper collection, use, and disposal of customer data, and providing clients with the ability to access and modify their information.

It is incumbent upon you to ensure that all customer data is kept up-to-date and secure. Should any security breaches occur, you must notify clients immediately, also furnishing them with information about how the situation is to be handled and how you monitor your systems to protect against hackers.

Although security is the most essential of the SOC 2 trust principles, the other four can go a long way toward further enhancing a company’s credibility with stakeholders. As you and your management team prepare for a SOC 2 audit, one of your first objectives should be to determine which, if any, of the other SOC 2 trust principles you want to focus on. Although compliance with these standards involves a significant investment of time and resources, the benefits to your company as well as your clients will be palpable.