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In an ever-changing world, the risk of cyber-attacks and threats to data security is in the mind’s eye of every business. Therefore, it makes good business sense to always be on the lookout for the most bulletproof and secure way to manage data, to protect a business’s interests and that of its customers. Globally, there are plenty of frameworks to explore, but it’s finding the right one that’s suitable for your business that is key.

Let’s take a look at SOC 2 and ISO 27001, which are both certifications to demonstrate that a business has appropriate security levels in place to protect its data. Broadly speaking, both have been designed to protect information. The policies, processes, security controls and the technologies used are very similar. Whilst they are both frameworks that are accepted globally, SOC 2 is far more prevalent in North America than anywhere else.

The approach

The main focus of ISO 27001 is on the implementation, maintenance, and development of an information security management system. A business must conduct a stringent risk assessment and implement robust security controls in order to achieve compliance. The risk assessment must also be conducted and reviewed on a regular basis.

SOC 2 is made up of five sets of criteria that a business should meet in order to attain compliance. These are: Confidentiality, Integrity, Privacy, Availability and Security. However, a business only needs to demonstrate it meets the Security element in order to attain SOC 2, making it a far more flexible means of gaining certification.

Gaining certification

All businesses have to undertake an audit to qualify for either framework.

ISO 27001 certification can only be achieved through an accredited ISO 27001 body, and after passing an audit inspection, a business will be given a certificate of compliance.

To achieve an SOC 2 certification, a licensed CPA (Certified Public Accountant) can undertake the audit. There is no certificate of compliance involved, instead, a business receives a letter of attestation.

The process

The time it takes to work through the preparation varies from business to business. It depends on how much resource is available to undertake the work involved, and how well prepared and organised a business is from the start.

The process itself should take no longer than three months to attain SOC 2, and up to six months to attain ISO 27001.

To accomplish either compliance, there are three stages involved:

1. Gap Analysis

A business must conduct a gap analysis to determine its strengths and weaknesses. Establish where it may already be compliant, and to identify areas that are not, so that action plans can be made for improvement. At this point, a business needs to also establish its security objectives, and state which areas of its organisation will be covered.

2. Security Controls

Identify the controls of security that will be put in place and take steps to implement them. This process includes documenting the measures and practices that have been put in place, and how they will be reviewed and improved on a regular basis.

3. The Audit

The final stage of the process is the audit itself. Most businesses benefit from conducting an internal audit initially, before contacting an external accreditation party. This allows them to identify any potential issues and take remedial action.

SOC 2 vs ISO 27001: In summary

SOC 2 is far easier to attain because it involves fewer onerous processes, which makes it cheaper and less hungry on manpower.

ISO 27001 involves a lot more legwork, requires more resources, and is ultimately more expensive to achieve. However, as a framework, it is far more robust and offers additional protection for businesses against information security breaches.

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