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SOC 2 vs. ISO 27001

Any organization that is concerned with the storage, management or transmission of customer data is expected to adhere to security standards. Some of these standards make it possible for you to be in compliance with industry regulations; others provide you with a structure that enables you to demonstrate your compliance. This type of complementary relationship is exemplified in the scenario of SOC 2 vs ISO 27001. Understanding how these controls can work together in tandem for your company will serve to lower your risk of both a data breach and of falling out of compliance.

ISO 27001 Compliance Explained

The International Standards Organization (ISO) established a set of industry standards designed to help companies to protect the availability, confidentiality and integrity of the data that they store, manage or transmit. The standard, known as ISO 27001, also sets the requirements for an information security management system (ISMS) that would facilitate that data protection goal. In order to gain certification, a company’s ISMS needs to be concerned both with the nature of the technology used by the organization and the behavior of employees relative to it. To ensure that the ISMS is functioning properly, ISO 27001 suggests strategies such as the performance of regular internal audits, ongoing monitoring and threat detection activities. The deliverable at the end of the process is a certificate outlining the company’s ISMS scope and locations, effective dates of the certificate and the standards certified against. In most cases, this document is seen and used only by management and other internal stakeholders.

SOC 2 Report Explained

The Service Organization Control report (SOC 2 report provides your organization with a mechanism to review the information security of third-party vendors with whom you work. Alternatively, if your business is a service organization that is entrusted with valuable client data, your customers can use this type of report to gather tangible evidence that their information is thoroughly safeguarded.

SOC 2 reports come in two types. Type I will focus on the effectiveness of an entity’s security systems at a particular point in time according to the opinion of an auditor. Type II performs this task but also adds the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) attestation requirements over an extended period of time. Management is responsible for documenting how well the controls have worked over the relevant time span. Upon completion, the deliverable will be an attestation report containing an opinion letter from the auditor, an assertion letter from your management team, a system description of the key components being reviewed, organizational procedures, applicable trust services criteria, controls and testing procedures and results performed by the auditor.

How ISO 27001 Compliance Can Lead To Easier SOC 2 Reporting

Delineating your security compliance is a complex task containing numerous components. To streamline the process, the AICPA has set forth documentation requirements whose most recent update is known as the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE 18). This framework requires not only that you review and assess your own controls but also that you do the same for your third-party vendors. As a result, compliance with SOC 2 requirements comes along with the package.

Vendor management can create challenges of its own, and ISO 27001 has set guidelines to help organizations to meet the necessary criteria. For one thing, you are required to have all vendors sign service level agreements that specify protocols and procedures for all aspects of data security, including physical and virtual environments.

Furthermore, it is your responsibility to conduct monitoring and audit procedures to ensure that your vendors are in compliance with these agreements. Finally and perhaps most important, your company must implement and enforce strict access controls that limit exposure to crucial information only to those who need to have it. A good rule of thumb is this: If your vendors do not need particular data to do their job, they should not be given permission to access it.

Similarities Between ISO 27001 And SOC 2

Although it is vital to develop an understanding of the differences between ISO 27001 and SOC 2, there are also key similarities shared by these frameworks. Both require the help of an independent assessor or auditor to review the security controls that organizations have put in place to meet the trust services principle criteria and standard requirements. Both frameworks also have the advantage of enabling organizations to work internationally with customers across the globe.

Besides, both standards focus on how companies address their information security needs, risks and mitigation strategies. Although these compliance efforts are very different from each other, they serve to build an atmosphere of trust between service organizations and their vendor partners.

In the end, it is not a question of whether SOC 2 is better or worse than ISO 27001 or vice versa. The decision which one to implement depends on factors such as your industry, compliance requirements and customer needs. Many companies decide to incorporate both frameworks into their security management and optimization strategy.