SOC 2 compliance audits & reports for software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud vendors is becoming extremely commonplace in today’s digitally driven global economy, ultimately prompting service organizations to undertake annual SOC audits. While there are technically three (3) different AICPA Service Organization Control (SOC) reporting options to choose from – SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3 – the preferred choice is without question SOC 2 reporting in accordance with the relevant Trust Services Principles (TSP) and related “Common Criteria”. NDB Accountants & Consultants, LLP (NDB) – one of North America’s leading providers of regulatory compliance services, provides an in-depth look into SOC 2 compliance for Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud Vendors.
SOC 2 Assessment for SaaS & Cloud Vendors – 5 Things to Know
1. Begin with a SOC 2 Readiness Assessment: The very first step that every SaaS/cloud vendor should take in performing a SOC 2 audit is to begin with a SOC 2 scoping & readiness assessment. Why? Because you’ll want to unearth, assess, and understand all important elements of the SOC 2 auditing process – and specifically – what areas within your control environment will require remediation prior to the actual audit commencing. Call it the “who, what, when, where and why” of SOC 2, the process for learning all you can about your control environment and the merits of SOC auditing.
When properly performed, a SOC 2 scoping & readiness assessment helps in better understanding audit scope, technical and operational remediation necessary, personnel expectations, business functions to be assessed, the relevant Trust Services Principles (TSP) to be audited – along with the supporting “Common Criteria” initiatives, and much more. Bottom line, if you’re looking to gain long-term efficiencies in terms of SOC 2 compliance – and other regulatory compliance mandates – then beginning with a scoping & readiness assessment is absolutely critical. NDB provides fixed-fee audits that includes pricing and coverage for scoping & readiness assessments.
2. Understand the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and SOC 2 Audits: SOC 2 compliance for Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud Vendors must include a healthy discussion on the use and possible application of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) controls. Why? Because the CSA is without question the industry leading standard organization when it comes to assessing cloud security from a compliance perspective. Most reputable CPA firms – such as NDB – will ultimately recommend to Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud Vendors that they assess against the CSA framework when performing a SOC 2 audit. From testing API’s to secure software development, deployment, and implementation practices, the CSA framework assesses these initiatives, and much more. Learn more about the Cloud Security Alliance and how they incorporate SOC 2 testing by visiting https://cloudsecurityalliance.org/
If not the CSA, then what Framework? While you technically do not have to use the CSA framework – it’s not at all a requirement – you will need to ensure that your SOC 2 assessment methodology incorporates best practices for assessing cloud vendors. There are other frameworks available, they’re just not as well-known.
3. Policy Remediation is Critical: One element that that holds very true for today’s regulatory compliance reporting mandates is the importance of information security policies and procedures. Have you been through an actual audit before, if so then you’re well aware that auditors often ask for a laundry list of policies and procedures; essential documentation that helps assess and understand one’s internal controls. The challenge is that most organizations are severely lacking when it comes to having current, well-written, and highly factual policies and procedures, and it’s easy to understand why. After all, who has hundreds of hours to devote to monotonous writing of a wide-range of information security policies and procedures? Additionally, even if you do have existing documentation in place, it’s highly likely that it’s not well-written, has been sitting on a shelf (it’s what we proverbially call “shelfware), thus the time and effort it would take to enhance such documentation is often more time-consuming than starting from scratch with a blank template. We can help, as we offer SaaS and cloud vendors a wide-variety of well-written and easy-to-use information security policies, procedures, forms, checklists, templates, and more. It’s just another example of how NDB goes above and beyond other regulatory compliance auditors.
4. Technical Remediation is Essential: Internal controls are much more than just policies and procedures, they’re about ensuring one’s actual processes are adequately designed and operating effectively. With that said, SaaS/cloud vendors will want to ensure that from an I.T. perspective, such controls are functioning as intended. For example, are your firewalls properly configured, have you provisioned your servers with industry leading hardening requirements, are your password complexity requirements strong, do you perform regularly scheduled vulnerability scans – just a few of the many technical and security controls that should be in place for SOC 2 compliance.
5. Tools are Essential: As a general rule, the following tools/solutions should be in place for any SaaS/cloud vendor seeking to become SOC 2 compliant:
- File Integrity Monitoring (FIM)
- Vulnerability Scanning solution
- Audit Logs and Audit Trails
- CPU Performance Monitoring
- Two-Factor/Multi Factor Authentication
- Security Awareness Training for personnel responsible for deploying and administrating cloud based systems
We’re North America’s Leading Provider of SOC 2 Audits for SaaS/Cloud Vendors
When it comes to understanding the true intent, scope, and applicability of SOC 2 audits in regards to SaaS/cloud vendors, trust the experts at NDB with unbiased, upfront, and professional expertise and advice. We offer fixed-fee SOC 2 reports, along with compliance services and solutions for cloud based entities requiring PCI DSS, FISMA, HIPAA, HITECH, GLBA compliance, and more.