3
Aug
Real Estate

SOC Compliance: Everything You Need to Know

Blaine Annett
I
August 3, 2021

SOC is a certification standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) to govern customer and private business data storage by third-party service providers. Service Organization Control (SOC) and SOC 2 particularly refer to data security for organizations storing client data on cloud-based servers. In simple terms, SOC compliance is a technical certification by external auditors when carrying out financial reporting, which assesses your data safety management processes concerning client data. Previously, there was SOC 1 certification that required companies only to pass an audit test, but with SOC 2, the SOC audit procedure is more comprehensive. SOC 2 mandates long-term procedures and policies to secure client data via tightened internal control.


SOC 2 is guided by trust services criteria: security, privacy, confidentiality, processing integrity, and availability.


Security

Securing your data entails protecting your data system from malicious or unauthorized access, that is, the capability of your access controls to avert information theft, system exploitation, unlawful data removal, software mishandling, unwarranted information changes, or unauthorized data disclosure. Safety tools such as intrusion detection, firewalls, and two-factor authentication can be prevented by these types of breaches.


Availability


This refers to the accessibility of products, services, or data systems, generally codified in a service level agreement (SLA). In some instances, information safety protocol measures can affect system accessibility. Therefore, it is essential to understand the service level commitment before restricting accessibility through safety measures. The trust principle includes site failover, safety incident handling, and network performance/accessibility.


Processing Integrity


Processing integrity refers to how the data system meets its objectives. In short, does the data system produce and process data as promised and intended? In this perspective, the processing of data should be timely, accurate, and precisely as requested. The trust principle relates to processing, and it usually does not cover the accuracy or integrity of the data. Data processing integrity can be safeguarded by monitoring data processing and quality assurance procedures.


Confidentiality


This refers to the confidentiality of data such as confidential client data, intellectual property, price lists, business information, or internal service organization information. A service organization should protect data confidentiality by encrypting the data during transmission. Network and application firewalls, stringent external and internal access controls, and other approaches are ways to protect data confidentiality.


Privacy


This involves personal client information used by the data system, discloses, disposes of, retains, or collects. The type of data involved could include identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, and client names. Other information that needs to be kept private by the service organization could be religion, health, sexual orientation, or race. This information could benefit from strict access controls as required by SOC 2. A service organization should also treat client personal information according to their client information privacy notices and the generally accepted privacy principles (GAPP) as stipulated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.


SOC 2 ensures high client data standards by:


• Requiring a service organization to develop and adhere to data safety procedures and policies for their cloud-based data systems.

• Performing evaluations to establish that a service organization is adhering to SOC 2 data safety procedures and policies

• Constantly updating data security standards and information compliance to reflect the special challenges that come with modern data threats


Is it Mandatory to have SOC Compliance?


SaaS providers and cloud vendors do not have to obtain SOC compliance, where compliance is not driven by HIPAA compliance or other standards and regulations. The motivation to be compliant is necessitated by customers seeking assurance that client data is secure.


Eventually, SOC compliance shows your customers and business partners that SaaS and upstream cloud partners identify a threat and respond to it appropriately; through attestation engagements. This involves having the right technology and having the right procedures, policies, and people. Furthermore, obtaining SOC compliance is not accomplished quickly as the process takes at least six months. The first step is to write information safety procedures and policies and then create an execution plan to close any loopholes. This is followed by an engagement with a third-party assessor to carry out a SOC Type 1 audit and deliver an SOC report.


Steps to Make Sure that your System becomes SOC 2 Compliant


Establish a Data Safety Oversight Plan


To achieve SOC compliance as required by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants when doing your financial reporting, you have to establish practices and processes with the right levels of oversight in your organization. Particularly, you are utilizing a process to monitor abnormal system activity, user access levels, and approved or unapproved system configuration changes. Since activities in the cloud are pretty fast, you have to monitor both the known and unknown malicious activity. You can achieve this by determining what normal activity looks like in the cloud environment to determine how an abnormal activity would appear through a SOC report.


Anomaly Alerts


Your safety system should have sufficient alerting procedures to notify you when malicious incidents occur. This ensures that you can effectively respond to an alert on unauthorized access to client data and employ correction measures on time. SOC requires organizations to set up alerts for activities that lead to unauthorized:


• Login access, account, or privileged file system

• Activities on file transfer

• Modification or exposure of configurations, controls, or data


Complete Audit Trails


SOC audit trails enable you to establish the root cause of a safety threat. They provide proper cloud context giving you all the details on a malicious incident to make informed and quick decisions on how to respond.


Audit trails provide insights to:


• The point of source and extent of the impact of the attack

• Unauthorized configuration and data modifications

• Removal, addition, or modification of major system components


Actionable Forensics


Your clients, through your attestation engagements, need reassurance that you are monitoring for malicious activity and receiving alerts in real-time. They also want to know that you can take corrective action on the alerts before critical customer data is compromised in collaboration with your business partners. You should have the ability to know:


• The origin of an attack

• The destination of the attack

• The systems affected by the attack

• The nature of the attack


...

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