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SOC 2 compliance is voluntary. Here’s why you might want it anyway.

With the regulatory landscape growing more complex by the year, the last thing your organization might be looking for is another compliance standard. But SOC 2 compliance isn’t quite like all the rest. For one thing, it’s voluntary.

For another, having SOC 2 compliance can help companies mitigate risk, enhance customer and partner trust, set themselves apart from their competitors, and even strengthen their security practices for other compliance frameworks.

Today, we’ll provide an overview of the compliance framework, explain its five main criteria, and break down its advantages for organizations looking to set themselves apart.

What is SOC 2 compliance?

SOC 2 compliance is a standard established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the national professional organization of CPAs that sets ethical standards and US auditing standards. It’s emerged as a vital framework for evaluating data security, resilience, and privacy.

Although it’s not government-regulated, SOC 2 sets clear policies and requires rigorous audits to be performed by qualified auditors. While there are no fines or penalties associated with failing a SOC 2 audit, having strong SOC 2 practices offers assurance to business partners and customers alike that your organization can safeguard sensitive data. It’s also a way to demonstrate that your organization has the right policies, procedures, and training in place to prevent major security incidents.

What are the five SOC 2 trust services criteria?

The SOC 2 standard is based on five trust services criteria or categories. Each criterion addresses specific aspects of data protection and organizational controls.

As the AICPA’s guidelines note, the five trust services criteria were designed to provide flexibility for the individual organizations applying them. This helps companies better address the unique threats they face in their sector while also accommodating their existing security practices and business objectives.

Data security. The baseline principle of SOC 2, this category covers basic cybersecurity practices like onboarding, risk assessments, vulnerability management, and access controls like MFA (multi-factor authentication). Strong data security under this standard will provide clients and partners with reasonable assurance that their data is safe and secure from unauthorized access.

Data availability. This category requires systems to be available and data to be accessible for continuous access and use. It can include practices like backups, disaster recovery, and business continuity, and it’s particularly important for organizations using cloud services.

Data processing integrity. This SOC 2 principle focuses on keeping data complete, accurate, and valid through measures like encryption and access controls. This category, when combined with strong availability, leads to robust data resilience for organizations.

Data confidentiality. This category focuses on the handling of confidential information at every stage in its lifecycle. It may include implementing measures like process monitoring, data deletion, and data removal practices. 

Data privacy for sensitive information. Lastly, this category requires that personal identifiable information (PII) like customer names, addresses, and financial details are protected with effective privacy policies. If your organization handles sensitive data, SOC 2 compliance will require strong policies and technologies like encryption around the collection, use, retention, and disposal of that data.

What are the top benefits of SOC 2 compliance?

At its core, meeting SOC 2 standards demonstrates that an organization is managing its data securely enough to protect the privacy of its customers and partners. It’s also become a useful tool for external contractors to provide assurance to business clients that their cybersecurity practices are strong.

Internally, SOC 2 compliance encourages organizations to identify and close security gaps, establish robust data security and privacy practices, enhance customer trust, and gain a competitive advantage in today's data-driven landscape.

Achieving stronger data protection

Meeting SOC 2 compliance requires organizations to thoroughly assess their data systems and processes and identify vulnerabilities. This risk assessment in turn helps companies implement appropriate security controls and mitigation processes.

SOC 2 compliance also requires organizations to establish comprehensive policies and procedures outlining how data can be protected, accessed, and managed. These policies can act as a guide for employees and help promote consistent data protection practices as well as a culture of cybersecurity awareness.

Enhancing partner trust

The assurance of SOC 2 compliance can build trust and strengthen a company’s competitive edge with customers, who appreciate having their sensitive information handled securely. But it can also facilitate partner relationships.

Many organizations require their partners and vendors to meet specific security standards before signing deals. SOC 2 compliance is one way for companies to demonstrate to prospective partners that they have implemented stringent data protection measures and are committed to maintaining a high level of security. It fosters trust and confidence among partners, enabling smoother collaborations and enhancing business relationships.

Support for other regulatory frameworks

Lastly, SOC 2 compliance can help prepare organizations for meeting compliance with other data regulations. The AICPA’s framework is mapped to many other leading security standards and regulatory frameworks, including NIST-CSF, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and more. The SOC 2 focus on comprehensive data privacy and protection is in keeping with the requirements of many other data regulations.

SOC 2 compliance and ShardSecure

SOC 2 compliance is a valuable long-term investment for organizations operating in today's digital landscape. But it’s not always easy to achieve.

ShardSecure’s platform offers one option for significantly strengthening the security posture of organizations that are working towards SOC 2 compliance. Our technology is based on the CIA triad of data confidentiality, integrity, and availability, which form three of the five cornerstones of SOC 2. We also support the remaining two cornerstones of data privacy and security with our advanced protection against unauthorized access by infrastructure providers and other third parties.

With robust data resilience and agentless file-level protection, ShardSecure helps to simplify the path to SOC 2 compliance in on-prem, cloud, and hybrid- or multi-cloud environments. It also allows for an easy plug-and-play implementation, with only a few lines of code change required for integration and no visible changes to employee workflows.

To learn more, visit our resources page today.


Compliance: Cybersecurity Assurance OR How To Gain the Trust of Your Business Partners | Cloud Security Alliance

The Next Challenge in IT Compliance Reporting: SOC2 2017 Trust Services Criteria | ISACA

2017 Trust Services Criteria for Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy | AICPA

SOC 2 Trust Services Categories | SANS Institute

Maximize the Benefits of Your SOC 2 Audit | Cloud Security Alliance

Mapping NIST CSF to SOC 2 Criteria To Support Your Audit | Linford & Co