SOC 2 Compliance Checklist [XLS Downloadable]

Chris Koehnecke, VP Security Engineering & CISO
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SOC 2 Compliance Checklist [XLS Downloadable]

The moment your very first application begins to interact with client data is a moment too late to start thinking about data protection and privacy standards. Data protection and code security should be baked into your software from day zero.

95% of companies are trying to build a culture of compliance and share this responsibility across teams. But how does this translate to their day-to-day? DevOps teams must continuously follow secure coding practices and use various security tools to conduct vulnerability assessments and testing. Product and security teams are also responsible for embedding all the necessary tools and processes into your services - ensuring no gaps get to production. 

Various frameworks help you mind the security gap. SOC 2 is the most popular framework for auditing organizations that develop SaaS products or offer online services. While not mandatory, it enables you to improve and prove your security posture. In this article, we dive into what it takes to be SOC 2-compliant and provide a downloadable checklist you can check on the go.

Let’s talk SOC 2

SOC stands for System and Organization Controls, developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). There are three SOC frameworks available: SOC 1 covers accounting and financial reporting, while SOC 2 and 3 are more focused on cybersecurity, therefore, ideal for software development companies. SOC 3 is aimed at the general public and is much less detailed than SOC 2. 

The SOC 2 framework evaluates and improves the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of confidential customer data that organizations store and process. 

What is SOC 2 Compliance?

While it is an American standard, SOC 2 is globally regarded as a minimum requirement for online service providers, SaaS developers, and data processing and storage providers. Proof of SOC 2 compliance may be demanded by security-conscious customers and stakeholders looking to gain confidence in the information security practices of a business entrusted with sensitive customer data.

From a software and data security perspective, SOC 2 compliance can be a way to begin putting the Sec in DevSecOps and shifting security left in any growing software development business or initiative. Even if your organization doesn’t immediately require a SOC 2 compliance certification, understanding and closing the security gaps in your SDLC is critical to improving your security posture.

How does the SOC 2 audit work?

SOC 2 typically focuses on security, and looks to analyze how vulnerable your systems are to cyber threats, the processes you use to secure your systems and customer data, and how you implement security best practices across your organization. The official audit comprises five criteria, which we discuss in detail below. Each measure has a set of controls, and you could look at between 80 to 100 controls. 

You can have your own DIY experience with SOC 2, as you can choose which criteria to focus on or even remove or add criteria depending on your needs and goals. For instance, you can opt to audit the availability of your systems but remove the confidentiality criteria.

Therefore, SOC 2s audits may all look very different. There is also no one-approach-fits-all when preparing for your SOC 2 audit. However, you should take some common best steps to ensure you’re as prepared as possible and the official audit goes smoothly. In the next section, we will take you through the following steps:

  1. Choose your SOC 2 type
  2. Understand the SOC 2 Trust Service Criteria
  3. Determine your scope
  4. Review your security controls
  5. Close control gaps
  6. Implement control maintenance
  7. Undergo the official SOC 2 audit 

Once the audit is complete, you get a SOC 2 report which you can share with relevant stakeholders and customers and use internally to improve the safety and stability of your systems continuously. 

The complete SOC 2 compliance checklist

#1 Choose your SOC 2 type

SOC 2 audit reports come in two flavors - Type 1 and Type 2, and the first step on your SOC 2 compliance journey is selecting the type of SOC 2 audit your business needs. 

With SOC 2 Type 1, your auditor will review policies, procedures, and control evidence at a specific time to determine if controls suit the applicable SOC 2 criteria. With Type 2, the process is more rigorous, and the report is more insightful as it considers your security controls' past and present effectiveness.

Though SOC 2 Type 1 is not a prerequisite for the Type 2 report, organizations typically complete a Type 1 audit before performing the more in-depth SOC 2 Type 2 audit.

SOC 2 Type 1 vs Type 2

#2 Understand the SOC 2 Trust Service Criteria

SOC 2 focuses on five distinct principles called Trust Service Criteria (TSC). Understanding which criteria applies to your organization and its processes is the first step to determining the scope of your SOC 2 audit. The criteria are:

  • Security: Your systems and the information they store should be protected from unauthorized access, disclosure, or system damage that may compromise the availability, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of sensitive information.
  • Availability: Your system and data are available for use and operation by permitted parties to enable the organization to reach its business objectives.
  • Processing integrity: Your organizational systems perform data processing in a complete, valid, accurate, and timely manner.
  • Confidentiality: You gather, use, store, process, and properly dispose of non-personal data.
  • Privacy: The personal information you collect is used, stored, disclosed, and disposed of properly.

#3 Determine your scope

Security is the most vital Trust Service Criteria for compliance, but SaaS organizations often include availability and confidentiality in their SOC 2 audit criteria. A broader scope means higher attestation costs but contributes to partner and customer trust and a more robust overall security posture. 

SOC 2 Scope Recommendation by sector

Before determining the scope of your audit, consider what is included under each criterion and how it may relate to your organization and its business objectives. For example, sub-criteria for Confidentiality include data classification and data access control. For Privacy, the sub-criteria of rules pertains to regulatory topics such as Data Subject Rights and Privacy Policies.

#4 Review your security controls - Gap Analysis

Now that you have a pretty good idea of what you should have to be SOC 2 compliant, it’s time to check how it compares to what you have. 

First, you need to understand where your gaps are so that you allocate your resources to the correct places. Gap assessment requires using security tools to scan and test your systems so you know exactly where the gaps lie, spot misconfigurations, manage vulnerabilities, and understand the risks you face when it comes to security threats. 

This step involves the participation of multiple stakeholders across departments and must be coordinated and communicated efficiently. However, most crucially, you need the right tools and reporting features. Open-source SAST tools such as Semgrep, Bandit, or  KICS can help you find vulnerabilities and compliance issues in your code. 

Deploying various open-source security tools may be necessary for a comprehensive gap analysis. This usually comes with additional complexity, lack of clear visibility into your gaps, redundancy of tools, and alert fatigue. Using a single solution to deploy these tools and get reports could streamline the compliance process and save significant time and resources.

Jit allows you to manage open-source security tools under one platform, automate them for every new PR, and get detailed reporting with further insights and recommendations. Plus, you can build your Minimum Viable Secure Product with Jit, which provides exactly what you need to be SOC 2 compliant, speeding up and easing your SOC compliance journey without compromising development speed.

Jit Security Gap Analysis

#5 Close control gaps

The gaps you’ve discovered in the previous step of the process need to be remediated. To level up your security controls to meet the criteria of SOC 2, you will need to review policies, formalize procedures, employ software or services to streamline security processes and address any additional changes like deprecating old in-secure software or services. Then, you must prove that you have addressed and solved all the gaps.  

This is a challenging undertaking, so automating as many steps as possible will save you time and stress. Jit can help you implement and collect evidence supporting dozens of SOC 2 security controls, so you can confidently close control gaps and prove that you met their requirements. 

#6 Implement control maintenance

With all the remediation and controls in place to reach SOC 2 compliance, now you must focus on maintaining these. Achieving continuous security requires considering security at every stage of the CI/CD and implementing tools and processes to secure your systems from development to deployment. 

The common problem is that the more security tools you integrate into your CI/CD, the more complex its management gets - not what you’d want from DevOps. Automate security through a DevSecOps tool like Jit, so you can effectively maintain and monitor your controls with no developer overhead. 

#7 Undergo the official SOC 2 audit

Before you pick your auditor and provide them with the information and system access necessary for the audit, you should use a checklist to perform a self-assessment. You can use our comprehensive list, but remember to customize it to your audit scope and transparency demands.

SOC 2 compliance with Jit

While not mandatory, complying with SOC 2 is crucial to boost credibility, prove the security of your systems, and ensure you comply with all the standard data protection rules (which are requested by most official regulations). Plus, if you don’t thoroughly audit your systems at least once in a while, you’ll never really know how vulnerable you are. 

With Jit's vendor-agnostic control orchestration framework, you can choose the security tools you want for your complete tech stack, adding more controls, policies, and tools you need as you go. The Orchestration Framework's plug-in architecture unifies the execution and interfaces of any security control, enabling a much simpler and consistent developer experience and hassle-free SOC 2 compliance throughout and around your SDLC. Get started for free. 

Instantly achieve continuous product security, from day 0