You’ve heard it over and over: you need to get SOC 2 compliant or else. But how long does the process take? In this article, we will discuss how long it will take your company to become SOC 2 compliant from start to finish – from the assessment phase all the way through to certification. It turns out that there are many steps involved in becoming certified with these standards, and they can’t be completed overnight.
What is the Purpose of SOC 2 Audit?
The SOC (Service Organization Controls) report is a guideline for service organizations to maintain an adequate level of security. This report is issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and can be requested from any certified public accounting firm. It outlines how to control and manage information technology systems to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data processed or stored within those systems.
The purpose of this audit is to verify that a service organization’s controls are effective in meeting its information security requirements. This process also helps identify weaknesses or areas where improvements may need to be made. A SOC audit is usually performed annually but can be done more or less often, depending on the client’s needs and industry regulations.
Type I vs. Type II: The Timing Difference
Type I is a report outlining the safeguards for meeting data security objectives as of a specified date. In contrast, Type II provides an overview of how those objectives are met over time.
Type II is a continual process. As controls are designed and put in place, they should be tested over time to ensure that there has been no degradation or loss of control effectiveness. Type II may also require an on-site examination if anomalies have been identified from other concerns like testing, new threats emerge, etc., which would call for an on-site inspection.
With this in mind, we can conclude that Type I reports can be generated right away once all controls are in place. As for Type II, if we are talking about the initial examination, a certain period must pass when controls are operating – as a rule, it takes nine to twelve months to get the final version of the report.
SOC 2 Audit Process Overview
It is the first step in the SOC procedure, and this is where you can set up your audit process. The client decides what SOC criteria should be audited, how they will handle system access for audits, what locations are to be included during the audit, who needs authorization for accessing resources that have been audited, and what type of testing should be done. This phase usually takes from one to three weeks.
- Pre-Audit Readiness Assessment
The pre-audit readiness assessment is a process that includes the implementation of cybersecurity controls and procedures, as well as their evaluation for effectiveness in preventing and detecting cybersecurity risks or incidents. It is designed to help an organization decide which areas need more attention from a risk management perspective; gaps identified during this assessment can also be addressed during the pre-audit gap analysis. The pre-audit gap analysis is a detailed overview of an organization’s information security program. Gap analysis identifies issues such as improper configuration settings on network devices or missing patches which should have been applied to protect against vulnerabilities. For most cases, this process takes two to four weeks. However, for some specific circumstances, it can sometimes take up to eight weeks.
Various factors can determine how long it will take to remediate a company’s data security breaches, such as the type of breach and the amount of personal data exposed. For instance, if an organization has had multiple external or internal intrusions in a short period, then the processing can take a while. In contrast, if it was just one intrusion, then remediation may be much quicker.
It typically takes up to twelve months to remediate all the issues found after a SOC pre-audit gap analysis. That’s because it can be difficult and time-consuming for many companies that are not experienced in IT security. Still, there is always help at hand through third-party assessors who specialize in this kind of work. In this case, remediation usually takes four to eight weeks.
- Audit Fieldwork
The audit fieldwork is the most crucial phase of a SOC Audit because it helps auditors determine whether or not your company has adequate controls in place to protect its assets and data from unauthorized access, alteration, misuse, destruction, or disclosure. At this phase, auditors actually start to gather and examining evidence for your SOC report, test the controls in your company, and make sure they work as intended. Audit fieldwork is usually a mix of both remote and on-site work. It usually takes two to ten weeks.
- Preparing the Report
At this phase, the auditing team needs to write the SOC report. Once all the fieldwork is done, they will compile all of their findings and provide an overview of them in a “Conclusions” section at the front end of the document. They’ll then go back and describe each finding in detail so that readers can understand what was found, how it was discovered, and what the auditors did to address it. The SOC auditor will also include any required disclaimers, such as how they identified their work and that the report wasn’t created for regulatory purposes. You will be able to read the report before its final release. The average time needed to complete the phase of the report preparation is two to five weeks, but it may vary due to the number of review comments from internal stakeholders.
- Maintaining Compliance
SOC 2 compliance is a year-round process. It is not uncommon for a company that has spent significant time and money setting up security procedures to suddenly slip back into non-compliance over extended periods of time. The most important thing for organizations looking to maintain compliance with SOC is to keep accurate records, be proactive in their responses to issues that may arise, and continue training employees on the importance of maintaining compliance. The following are some tips for maintaining compliance:
- Conduct internal SOC assessments regularly.
- Ensure all security personnel is trained and competent in the company’s procedures for handling sensitive data.
- Monitor any changes to your organization, whether it is customers, employees, new products, or services.
- Use an external auditor to conduct periodic reviews of your system. These audits can be used to identify potential areas where compliance may have been compromised and help find solutions before problems escalate.
- Update your Cybersecurity Policy regularly, with input from all stakeholders. It includes the board of directors as well as employees and customers.
If you have any questions about SOC compliance or need help setting up an audit, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!