5 Common Mistakes to Avoid Before Starting a SOC 2 Audit

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SOC 2 report can be a powerful tool in demonstrating your company’s commitment to securing your customers’ data. And while the benefits are compelling, several common mistakes or misunderstandings about SOC 2 audits can make the process more complicated, lengthy, and expensive.

A SOC 2 compliance report summarizes the results of an external auditor’s evaluation of your company’s policies, processes, and controls for protecting customer data in five key areas:

  • Security
  • Availability
  • Processing integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Privacy

A SOC 2 Type 1 report tests control designs at a specific point in time, while a more comprehensive Type 2 report tests controls repeatedly over a period of time to confirm operating effectiveness.

Customers depend on the SOC 2 audit results as they conduct due diligence on prospective and current cloud service vendors. They want assurance they can safely integrate their internal and customer data. SOC 2 compliance is an important consideration or requirement for many companies as they choose technology partners.

5 Common SOC 2 Audit Mistakes

The following five mistakes can complicate the SOC 2 audit process or hinder your ability to take advantage of the assurance a SOC compliance report offers your customers.

1. Not Designating a Project Manager

As you’re planning for a SOC 2 audit, naming a project manager is essential in streamlining the flow of information within your organization and with your external auditor. A SOC 2 audit’s broad scope means you will collect information and documentation from business functions, including HR, operations, systems admins, database professionals, and others.

Each control will require someone with subject matter expertise to provide evidence of that control’s effectiveness for the auditors to review. If you don’t designate someone to coordinate that information flow, the auditors must track down documentation function by function. This complex process will extend the life of the project considerably.

Instead, choosing a single point of contact can make this process faster and more efficient. If you do not have someone with project management experience on staff, consider bringing in an external project manager on a consulting basis.

2. Not Performing a Readiness Assessment

Before you engage an auditor, it’s crucial to conduct a readiness assessment to identify the controls that will be examined during the audit, any missing controls, and any controls that lack documentation.

Failing to perform these basic steps before the audit begins can easily lead to unexpected control gaps and failures during the audit that, in turn, can hamper your ability to obtain a report documenting SOC 2 compliance. As with project management, a consultant with readiness assessment expertise can help streamline the process and enhance your capabilities.

3. Not Performing Interim Testing During an Audit

It’s important to test your controls during the first reporting period covered by your SOC 2 assessment. For instance, if you’re performing an audit based on six months, you should test your controls after three months to ensure they have been operating effectively for that timeframe.

This interim testing allows you to identify and mitigate any control exceptions, so you’d have the rest of the period for that control to operate effectively. Interim testing is optional, but it’s far more effective than waiting for the end of the period and discovering deficient controls that force you to extend the review period as you mitigate issues.

4. Expecting Customer Security Questionnaires to Stop

Although most clients who ask about your information-protection policies and controls will be satisfied with a SOC 2 report, companies with security questionnaires will likely continue to issue them. Because each company’s operating environment (and questionnaire) are different, merely handing over a SOC 2 report is unlikely to satisfy their request for information. You may be able to pull information from the report in answering the questionnaire, but don’t expect questionnaires to become a memory.

5. Assuming SOC 2 Is One and Done

When you receive a SOC 2 compliance report, that doesn’t mean the process is over. Effective risk management is an ongoing process, which means that, for subsequent periods, you’ll have to stay on top of the controls and operations covered in the initial report.

This will require ongoing risk assessments, updating policies and procedures as changes occur in your environment, vulnerability scanning and penetration testing, updating business continuity and disaster recovery plans, and other assessments.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll receive a SOC 2 report demonstrating your commitment to securing and protecting customer data and a report you’ll be pleased to hand to any prospect or customer who asks for one.

Need help preparing for your SOC 2 audit? Contact us.