Streamlining SOC 2 compliance
What is SOC 2 automation? How to automate your SOC 2 compliance
SOC 2 is a framework used around the world by organizations that handle customer data to implement security best practices, demonstrate their security posture, and earn trust with stakeholders. It’s become such a reliable standard that many large organizations now expect the vendors they work with to have a SOC 2 report before they can agree to do business with them.
However, getting your SOC 2 can be an expensive, time-consuming, and complicated process. The average SOC 2 takes roughly a year to complete when done manually. This is because you need to scope your report, implement the controls, collect documentation and evidence, and then find an auditor. But compliance automation can cut this time in half and streamline your SOC 2 project.
In this article, we’ll explain what SOC 2 compliance automation is, the benefits of compliance automation, which parts of the SOC 2 process can be automated, and how to find the right compliance automation platform for you.
What is SOC 2 compliance automation?
Compliance automation is the use of specialized software to automate or augment portions of the compliance process. Compliance automation tools help reduce the manual time and effort required to get your SOC 2 by completing certain tasks automatically or by providing guided steps your team needs to take to get compliant in a certain framework.
Some of the tasks that compliance automation helps with include continuous monitoring, document and evidence collection, scanning and testing your controls, guidance to mitigate areas of non-compliance, and automated risk assessments.
Compliance automation can be applied to the SOC 2 framework to help organizations streamline their SOC 2 process and get their report faster. Compliance automation can help you prepare for your SOC 2 audit by helping you scope your report, list out the actions needed to get your SOC 2, run assessments and tests on your controls, and prepare your documentation for audit.
Compliance automation can continue to support your organization even after your initial SOC 2 audit. Your compliance automation platform provides additional data protection by running hourly checks on your system to ensure all compliance controls remain fully operational. This helps you to stay audit-ready for future SOC 2 audits and ensures your data is well protected.
Benefits of compliance automation
There are three ways to pursue your SOC 2:
- Perform all the work manually in-house.
- Hire a cybersecurity consultant or contractor to manage your compliance project.
- Get compliance automation software.
Below are some of the key benefits of using compliance automation for your SOC 2 instead of doing it manually or hiring a consultant:
Enhance expertise and reliability
Getting your SOC 2 requires knowledge of compliance policies and prior experience, which can sometimes create skills gaps for small or inexperienced teams. This is often what leads organizations to hire a consultant for their SOC 2 project. Compliance automation can fill those gaps by providing automated workflows and easy-to-follow guidance to complete your SOC 2.
Even with a skilled compliance team, there is always a margin of error when your SOC 2 controls are set up and tested by humans only. An automated compliance platform is more consistent and reliable at catching compliance gaps and helping you mitigate them. This reduces your overall security risk and the possibility of failing your audit.
Save time and money
If you were to do your compliance work manually, this will likely take your team several months of work scoping your report, implementing the proper controls, and collecting evidence ahead of your audit. However, hiring a consultant to manage your compliance project is often expensive.
Using a compliance automation platform for your SOC 2 can save your organization time and money. Your compliance platform will provide your team with step-by-step instructions to complete your SOC 2 effectively and can complete certain steps in the process on your behalf. This gives you the expertise of a consultant without the expensive price tag.
Run efficient audits
Getting your SOC 2 report depends on successfully completing your audit. If you’re not properly prepared, you could add additional weeks or months to your audit. If your auditor doesn’t have access to the systems or have the documentation they need to perform the audit, you’ll have a lot of back-and-forth communication getting them what they need.
Compliance automation makes preparing and collecting your documentation ahead of your audit easy. Your platform will serve as a centralized repository to store, organize, and maintain your security documentation. Many compliance automation platforms allow you to grant your auditor direct access to the platform so they can complete your audit faster and reduce back and forth.
Empower continued compliance
SOC 2 compliance is a continuous process — you must monitor your security controls on a regular basis to ensure the SOC 2 protocols are still being followed. Compliance automation makes this process easy by providing continuous monitoring capabilities that notify you when a control has fallen out of compliance.
Attain multiple compliance standards
Depending on your offerings and who your customers are, you may need additional compliance frameworks beyond SOC 2, such as ISO 27001, HIPAA, or GDPR. While it’s more time- and cost-effective to implement the controls for multiple frameworks at the same time, manually keeping track of all the compliance regulations, controls, and standards you need to implement can be difficult. Compliance automation can help you track your compliance progress across multiple frameworks to ensure you’ve completed all the steps required to meet your compliance goals.
What can be automated within the SOC 2 compliance process?
Automation software is specifically developed by compliance specialists to look for the criteria that SOC 2 requires and make meeting those requirements as easy as possible. While compliance automation can’t automate every single step of your SOC 2 journey, it can help you with a significant portion of the steps that you’d otherwise manually perform, while augmenting others.
What can be automated for SOC 2:
Below are several steps within your SOC 2 process that can be automated:
- Collecting and tracking evidence to document how your controls work.
- Holistically assessing your risk.
- Managing employee security training.
- Reviewing security policies.
- Tracking progress for compliance tasks and assigning owners.
- Scanning your system for areas of non-compliance.
- Continuously monitoring for security and compliance gaps.
- Monitoring third-party applications and tools to check for vulnerabilities.
- Implementing select and custom controls into your system.
- Managing data access and onboarding and offboarding workflows.
What can’t be automated for SOC 2:
Below are several steps within your SOC 2 process that can’t be automated, but may be augmented depending on the compliance automation platform you use:
- Creating and enforcing security-related policies — though many platforms do offer templates to make this easier.
- Vulnerability scanning and penetration tests — though many platforms can integrate with vulnerability scanners and manage the scanners’ feedback.
- Scoping your SOC 2 report — though many offer guidance tailored to your organization to make this easier.
- Physical security at offices and business locations — though a compliance automation platform can store policies and documentation related to physical security.
- Internal audits —though a compliance automation platform can help you prepare and collect evidence for an internal audit.
- Incident response plans — though a compliance automation platform can store policies and documentation related to incident response.
- Business continuity management — though a compliance automation platform can store policies and documentation related to business continuity.
While compliance automation can’t automate every step of your compliance journey, it can automate a significant portion of the process while helping you complete the steps it can’t automate.
What you need from SOC 2 compliance automation software
An effective compliance automation tool doesn’t stop once you’ve completed your SOC 2 — it continues to protect and monitor the security functions across your organization. Here’s some capabilities to look out for as you select the compliance automation platform that’s right for you:
Point-in-time monitoring used to be a normal method for proving your information security before compliance automation. Point-in-time monitoring consists of periodic snapshots that assess security at a single point in time, while continuous monitoring is a constant and ongoing surveillance of your information security systems. This method ensures that you’re properly notified whenever there are security risks, vulnerabilities, and outdated practices so you can mitigate them before they become problematic.
Effective risk management
A compliance automation platform needs to have a risk register to simplify your annual SOC 2 assessments. An automated risk register is a single source of truth to create mitigation tasks, assign tasks to owners, and execute on mitigations. This ensures that when it’s time for your annual SOC 2 audit, your documentation is already ready.
Onboarding and offboarding employees
One of the important security criteria for SOC 2 are your onboarding and offboarding practices to ensure only the right people have access to your organization's data. Compliance automation platforms should have built-in access management tools that allow you to onboard, offboard, and review access for personnel across your organization.
Completing and remediating tests
SOC 2 compliance is largely influenced by vulnerability scans — a technical scan of your technology landscape used to identify gaps in your data security. These scans are done by a third-party tool that needs to be integrated with your compliance automation platform. You’ll also need to access your cloud environment to remediate any issues. Vanta automatically finds vulnerabilities from AWS Inspector, offering a dashboard where users can fix flagged items.
Get started with compliance automation
With Vanta’s trust management platform with compliance automation capabilities, you can streamline your SOC 2 audit. Here’s what an automated SOC 2 process can look like with Vanta:
- Connect your infrastructure to the Vanta platform with our 200+ built-in integrations.
- Assess your risk holistically from one unified view.
- Identify areas of non-compliance with in-platform notifications.
- Get a checklist of actions to help you make the needed changes.
- Automate evidence collection and centralize all your documents in one place.
- Find a Vanta-vetted auditor within the platform.
- Streamline reviews by giving your auditor the documents and evidence they need.
- Complete your SOC 2 in half the time.
Learn how you can automate your SOC 2 by requesting a demo.