SOC 2 reporting and documentation

SOC 2 background check requirements: What are they and why are they important?

Getting your SOC 2 requires more than implementing controls in your information security system, it also encompasses secure hiring and onboarding processes. To get a SOC 2, you must demonstrate that you hire reliable individuals and provide them with training on your organization's confidentiality and security practices.

Given the significant role people play in security, it's essential to conduct background checks for potential employees and vendors when aiming for SOC 2 compliance. In this article, we'll cover the SOC 2 background check criteria, how to meet the standards, and why they’re important. 

What are the SOC 2 background check requirements?

The SOC 2 guidelines emphasize the importance of collaborating with credible individuals, highlighted as a key security control for SOC 2 compliance in CC1.4: “The entity commits to recruiting, nurturing, and retaining capable individuals aligned with its goals.”

Within CC1.4, various controls are specified, one being: “evaluating individual backgrounds.” Typically, this requirement is fulfilled by performing background checks on prospective employees, vendors, and contractors to validate their trustworthiness before giving them access to your data and systems. It's also worth noting that background checks fall under the purview of CC1.1, which states: “The entity shows a dedication to ethical values and integrity.”

Although the SOC 2 framework doesn’t overtly mandate background checks for potential staff, the final decision rests with your SOC 2 auditor. They'll determine if your recruitment strategies align with controls CC1.4 and CC1.1. If you have alternative robust methods of evaluating backgrounds, the auditor might issue an unqualified opinion in your SOC 2 report even without background checks, though it's not guaranteed.

Implementing background checks is a concrete measure to meet the relevant SOC 2 standards. It's best to have a systematic and documented approach integrated into your recruitment or induction procedures. Numerous external providers offer comprehensive yet cost-effective background check services.

Why are SOC 2 background checks important? 

Ensuring you hire reliable staff is crucial for data security. By conducting background checks, you can confidently employ individuals who are less likely to jeopardize, misuse, or compromise your data.

While setting up SOC 2 controls, you'll establish measures to restrict data access according to a person's role and responsibilities. However, certain individuals will require deeper access to your organization's data. It's important to make sure that these individuals pose minimal risks related to theft, fraud, or other potential threats to your data. Background checks serve as a preventive measure to mitigate these concerns.

Benefits of SOC 2 background checks

While background checks are valuable for organizations pursuing or upholding SOC 2 compliance, their advantages extend beyond just meeting SOC 2 requirements.

Ensuring employee and customer safety

Prioritizing the safety of your employees and clients is essential. To maintain a secure environment, it's crucial to be informed about who you're employing. Background checks provide insights into the potential risks associated with an individual's history, such as past convictions for violent offenses or a questionable driving record if the job involves driving.

Adhering to legal requirements

A standard background check often includes verifying if the individual is legally permitted to work in your country. Many countries mandate this screening by law and your organization might be penalized for hiring unauthorized workers. Conducting background checks ensures compliance with your country's employment regulations.

Minimizing risks 

Lastly, background checks aid in mitigating the risk of employing individuals with criminal convictions by revealing any history of theft or fraud. Such criminal records suggest that the prospective employee might pose a heightened risk to your organization or its customers.

Document your background checks 

To fulfill SOC 2 compliance prerequisites, it's essential to have a documented hiring policy and procedures to present to your auditor. This documentation should align with the actions of your HR team and incorporate background checks as a key step. Additionally, it should detail the regularity with which these checks are conducted.

It's crucial for your HR team to maintain records of background checks for every individual they hire. During the audit, the auditor will select a few employee names and request their background check records as evidence of your adherence to the required protocols.

Simplify your SOC 2 compliance

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