An IT Leader's guide to SOC2

Sanjeev NC

SOC 2 is a framework for managing data security and privacy that has become increasingly relevant for IT teams, particularly those involved in the handling of customer data. Developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), SOC 2 is specifically designed for service providers storing customer data in the cloud, which means it's highly pertinent to software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies and various other technology and cloud-computing based businesses.

What is Trust Service Criteria?

The Trust Service Criteria in the context of SOC 2 are essentially a set of benchmarks used to assess how well an organization manages and protects its client's data. These criteria provide a structured way to ensure that an organization is handling data responsibly, focusing on five key areas - Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy.


1. Security

Security refers to the protection of information and systems from unauthorized access, use, or modification. It's about ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your data. A breach can lead to loss of data, trust, and potentially significant financial repercussions. Ensuring robust security protects your organization's reputation and complies with regulatory requirements.


  • Financial Institutions: Implementing robust authentication mechanisms to protect customer financial data from unauthorized access.

  • Cloud Service Providers: Using firewalls and intrusion detection systems to safeguard stored client data from cyber threats.

  • Healthcare Providers: Employing encryption and secure data storage to protect patient records and ensure HIPAA compliance.

Action Items:

  • Conduct Regular Security Assessments: Schedule periodic security audits to identify vulnerabilities.

  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enforce MFA for accessing sensitive systems and data.

  • Update and Patch Systems Regularly: Establish a routine for updating software and patching vulnerabilities.

  • Employee Security Training: Regularly train employees on security best practices and phishing awareness.

  • Develop an Incident Response Plan: Create and test a comprehensive plan for responding to security breaches.

Tools Required:

  • Firewalls and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): Tools like Cisco ASA, Palo Alto Networks, and Fortinet for network protection.

  • Antivirus and Anti-malware Software: Solutions from Symantec, McAfee, or Bitdefender.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Tools like Duo Security, Authy, or Microsoft Authenticator.

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): Platforms such as Splunk, LogRhythm, or IBM QRadar for real-time analysis of security alerts.

  • Vulnerability Management Tools: Tenable Nessus, Qualys, or Rapid7 for scanning and assessing vulnerabilities.

2. Availability

Availability ensures that systems, products, or services are operational and usable when needed. Downtime can be costly and damage customer trust. Ensuring high availability is critical for maintaining service continuity.


  • E-commerce Platforms: Ensuring website uptime, especially during high traffic events like Black Friday, to maintain sales and customer satisfaction.

  • Online Banking Services: Implementing redundant systems to guarantee that banking services are always accessible to customers.

  • Telecommunications Companies: Maintaining network infrastructure to provide uninterrupted service to users.

Action Items:

  • Invest in Redundant Infrastructure: Implement backup systems and data centers to ensure continuous service availability.

  • Monitor System Performance: Use tools to monitor the health and performance of critical systems in real time.

  • Establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs): Define and commit to specific availability targets in SLAs with customers.

  • Regularly Test Disaster Recovery Plans: Conduct routine drills to ensure your disaster recovery procedures are effective.

  • Optimize Load Balancing: Implement load balancing to distribute traffic evenly across servers.

Tools Required:

  • Monitoring and Performance Tools: Nagios, SolarWinds, or Datadog for monitoring network and system performance.

  • Disaster Recovery Solutions: Veeam, Zerto, or AWS Disaster Recovery for backup and recovery.

  • Cloud Service Providers: AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud for scalable and redundant infrastructure.

  • Load Balancers: F5 Networks or Nginx to distribute network or application traffic.

  • Redundancy Planning Tools: VMware for virtualization and redundancy planning.

3. Processing Integrity

Processing integrity ensures that system processing is complete, accurate, timely, and authorized. Incorrect or delayed processing can lead to errors, customer dissatisfaction, and financial loss.


  • Payroll Processing Companies: Ensuring accurate and timely processing of payroll to avoid employee dissatisfaction and legal issues.

  • Supply Chain Management Systems: Implementing checks to ensure inventory data is accurately processed and reflected in real-time.

  • Online Ticket Booking Services: Accurate processing of bookings and payments to prevent overbooking and ensure customer satisfaction.

Action Items:

  • Automate Data Processing Checks: Use software to automatically check for processing errors or inconsistencies.

  • Implement Transaction Logging: Keep detailed logs of all system transactions for audit and troubleshooting purposes.

  • Regular System Auditing: Conduct frequent audits to ensure processing systems are functioning accurately.

  • Validate Data Input and Output: Establish procedures to validate the integrity of data both at entry and exit points.

  • User Access Controls: Restrict processing capabilities to authorized personnel only.

Tools Required:

  • Automated Workflow Tools: Microsoft Power Automate or Zapier for automating business processes.

  • Database Management Systems: Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, or MySQL to manage and secure data.

  • Transaction Monitoring Software: New Relic or AppDynamics for monitoring application transactions.

  • Audit Logging Solutions: Splunk or ELK Stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana) for maintaining comprehensive logs.

4. Confidentiality

Confidentiality involves protecting sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure. Breaches of confidentiality can lead to legal issues, loss of intellectual property, and damage to client trust.


  • Legal Firms: Protecting sensitive client information, such as case details and personal data, from being accessed by unauthorized parties.

  • IT Consultancies: Ensuring client project details and proprietary information are shared only with authorized personnel.

  • Research and Development Firms: Safeguarding confidential data about new technologies or products to maintain a competitive edge.

Action Items:

  • Data Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data both in transit and at rest.

  • Access Control Policies: Define and enforce strict access control policies and permissions.

  • Employee Confidentiality Training: Train employees on handling confidential information and the importance of discretion.

  • Regularly Review Confidentiality Policies: Continuously update your policies to address emerging threats and changes in business processes.

  • Secure Communication Channels: Use secure communication tools for transmitting confidential information.

Tools Required:

  • Data Encryption Tools: VeraCrypt or BitLocker for encrypting data at rest.

  • Secure File Transfer: File transfer solutions like Globalscape EFT or IBM Aspera for secure data transmission.

  • Document Management Systems: Microsoft SharePoint or M-Files for controlling access to confidential documents.

  • Access Control Solutions: Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) or Microsoft Azure Active Directory for managing access rights.

  • VPN Services: NordVPN or Cisco AnyConnect for secure remote access.

5. Privacy

Privacy pertains to the proper handling of personal information, including its collection, use, retention, disclosure, and disposal, in accordance with privacy principles. Violations of privacy can lead to legal penalties, loss of customer trust, and reputational damage. It's critical for compliance with laws like GDPR or HIPAA.


  • Social Media Platforms: Managing user data responsibly, ensuring that personal information is collected, used, and shared in line with privacy policies and regulations.

  • HR Management Software: Protecting employee personal data from unauthorized access and ensuring compliance with privacy laws.

  • Marketing and Analytics Firms: Properly handling customer data used for targeting and analysis, respecting user consent and privacy preferences.

Action Items:

  • Develop a Comprehensive Privacy Policy: Create a clear policy on how personal data is collected, used, and protected.

  • Implement Consent Management: Implement mechanisms to obtain and manage user consent for data collection and processing.

  • Data Minimization Practices: Collect only the data that is necessary for your business purposes.

  • Privacy Impact Assessments: Conduct assessments to understand the impact of new projects or changes on user privacy.

  • Training on Privacy Regulations: Regularly train staff on privacy laws like GDPR, CCPA, etc., and their implications for your operations.

Tools Required:

  • Privacy Compliance Software: OneTrust or TrustArc for managing privacy regulations compliance.

  • Data Discovery and Classification Tools: Spirion or Varonis to locate and classify personal data across your network.

  • Consent Management Platforms: Cookiebot or Quantcast for handling user consent in web applications.

  • Data Anonymization Tools: ARX Data Anonymization Tool or Informatica for anonymizing sensitive data.

  • Customer Data Platforms (CDPs): Salesforce CDP or Adobe Real-time CDP to manage customer data responsibly.

Types of SOC 2 Reports

As an IT leader in your organization, it's crucial to understand the different types of SOC 2 reports, as they play a key role in demonstrating your organization's commitment to maintaining high standards in handling customer data. There are two primary types of SOC 2 reports: Type I and Type II.


SOC 2 Type I Report

A SOC 2 Type I report is an audit that evaluates and documents the design of your organization's controls at a specific point in time. It assesses whether your systems are correctly designed to meet the Trust Service Criteria.

Focus Areas:

  • Design Effectiveness: The auditor looks at whether the controls are suitably designed to achieve the desired objectives according to the Trust Service Criteria.

  • Point-in-Time Evaluation: The assessment is based on the state of the system at a specific date.

Type I report is ideal for organizations starting their SOC 2 journey, providing a baseline for how their controls are designed. It offers clients and stakeholders a degree of confidence that you are committed to maintaining a secure and compliant environment.

SOC 2 Type II Report

A SOC 2 Type II report goes a step further by evaluating the operational effectiveness of these controls over a period, typically covering a minimum of six months.

Focus Areas:

  • Operational Effectiveness: The auditor assesses if the controls are not only designed appropriately but also operating effectively over the review period.

  • Time-Period Evaluation: It provides an historical perspective of how well the controls functioned during the audit period.

Type II report demonstrates that your organization consistently maintains the required standards over time, not just at a single point in time. A Type II report is often seen as more comprehensive and can be a deciding factor for clients and partners when assessing the reliability and security of a service provider.

SOC 2 Type I or Type II Report?

Type I focuses on the design of controls at a specific point in time. It's about setting up the right processes and measures. Type II focuses on how those controls are executed and maintained over a period of time, ensuring sustained compliance and security.

Here is a handy checklist to decide if you should pursue Type I or Type II report:


If most of your answers point towards the SOC 2 Type I column, it suggests that a Type I report is a good starting point. However, if the answers lean more towards the SOC 2 Type II column, it indicates readiness for the more comprehensive Type II report.

Step-by-Step Implementation Guide

Here is an overview of the guide:


Step 1: Understanding SOC 2

Action Items:

  • Gain in-depth knowledge about SOC 2, its criteria, and what the certification entails.

  • Understand the difference between SOC 2 Type I and Type II reports and decide which is appropriate for your organization


  • AICPA’s official guide on SOC 2.

  • Online courses and webinars on SOC 2 compliance.

Data/Information Needed:

  • Details on SOC 2 requirements.

  • Your organization's current compliance posture.

Step 2: Defining the scope

Action Items:

  • Identify the systems, processes, and data that will be included in the SOC 2 audit scope.

  • Perform a gap analysis to compare current practices against SOC 2 requirements.


  • SOC 2 readiness checklists.

  • Gap analysis tools or software.

Data/Information Needed:

  • Comprehensive list of IT assets and processes.

  • Current security and privacy policies.

Step 3: Develop and Implement Required Controls

Action Items:

  • Create or modify policies and procedures to address identified gaps.

  • Implement necessary security and privacy controls.


  • Policy templates and examples.

  • Project management tools to track implementation.

Data/Information Needed:

  • Detailed implementation plans.

  • Records of changes and updates made.

Step 4: Policies & Training

Action Items:

  • Document all relevant policies, procedures, and control implementations.

  • Develop and conduct comprehensive training for staff on new policies and procedures.


  • Document management systems.

  • Training platforms and materials.

Data/Information Needed:

  • Documentation of all SOC 2-related policies and procedures.

  • Training attendance and completion records.

Step 5: Conduct Internal Audit

Action Items:

  • Test the effectiveness of implemented controls.

  • Conduct an internal audit to simulate the SOC 2 audit.


  • Internal audit checklists.

  • External consultants for objective assessment.

Data/Information Needed:

  • Results of control tests.

  • Internal audit reports.

Step 6: Audit Process

Action Items:

  • Select a qualified and experienced SOC 2 auditor.

  • Collaborate with the auditor throughout the assessment process.


  • List of certified SOC 2 auditors.

  • Pre-audit preparation guides.

Data/Information Needed:

  • Selection criteria for choosing an auditor.

  • Organizational data and documentation to be reviewed during the audit.

Step 7: Address Audit Findings

Action Items:

  • Address any findings or recommendations from the audit.

  • Establish a process for ongoing monitoring and improvement.


  • Post-audit action plan templates.

  • Compliance monitoring tools.

Data/Information Needed:

  • Auditor’s final report and recommendations.

  • Schedule for regular review and updates of controls.

After the certification

After obtaining SOC 2 certification, an IT leader's focus should shift to maintaining compliance, leveraging the certification for business advantage, and continuous improvement.

1. Maintain and Monitor Controls

SOC 2 is not a one-time achievement. Regularly review and update your controls to ensure ongoing compliance.
Action Item: Establish a routine schedule for reviewing and testing controls. Utilize monitoring tools to track the performance and effectiveness of your security measures.

2. Internal Audits and Improvement

Conduct internal audits to identify areas for improvement.
Action Item: Plan annual or bi-annual internal audits. Use audit findings to refine and enhance your security and privacy controls.

3. Training and Awareness Programs

Continuously educate your team about SOC 2 compliance, especially as you update controls or onboard new employees.
Action Item: Implement regular training sessions. Create engaging content to keep the team updated on the latest compliance standards and best practices.

4. Vendor Management

Ensure that your vendors and third-party service providers also adhere to SOC 2 standards, especially if they handle your sensitive data.
Action Item: Conduct regular reviews of your vendors' SOC 2 compliance status. Include SOC 2 compliance in your criteria for selecting new vendors.

5. Leverage SOC 2 for Business Growth

Use your SOC 2 compliance as a competitive advantage in your marketing and sales efforts.
Action Item: Highlight your SOC 2 certification in marketing materials, proposals, and sales pitches. Educate your sales team on how to leverage this certification to gain clients' trust.

6. Prepare for Recertification

SOC 2 Type II certification requires annual recertification.
Action Item: Start preparing for your next SOC 2 audit well in advance. Keep an ongoing log of any changes or updates made throughout the year to streamline the recertification process.

Ultimately, SOC 2 certification is not just a compliance achievement; it's a commitment to operational excellence, security, and reliability. It's an investment in your organization's future, building a foundation of trust and integrity that benefits not only your clients but also the entire organizational ecosystem.

Having access to the right data is a keystone in this journey. It empowers you to make informed decisions, accurately assess the effectiveness of your controls, and promptly address any areas of concern. Data-driven insights enable you to anticipate potential risks, optimize resource allocation, and continuously improve your compliance posture. By leveraging comprehensive data analytics and reporting tools, you can transform the complex task of SOC 2 compliance into a manageable, transparent, and continuously evolving process.