Share this article
SOC 2 compliance for startups
In a webinar with Insight Partners, Vanta CEO and co-founder Christina Cacioppo shared how your company can get started with SOC 2, and stop seeing sales get stuck in security review.
Read on for a recap on SOC 2 basics, clarity about audit timelines and costs, tips from customers about when to get a SOC 2 — and how you can put your SOC 2 to work to scale your business.
If your company is working on selling into the enterprise, you may already have security on your radar. And if you’ve ever had a deal slow to a crawl or fizzle altogether once your company hit the security review, you’ll know that the importance of security and SOC 2 certification only continues to grow. Enterprise companies are increasingly focusing on the security postures of the startups with which they do business. Today, with more employees working remotely, enterprises recognize that they are confronting an expanded set of security challenges. SOC 2 offers a framework for mitigating security risks, and proving your company’s security in a clear and consistent way.
What is SOC 2?
SOC 2 is a framework for the assessment and third-party verification of a company’s practices regarding the management of customer data.
SOC 2 requires your company to establish or affirm its security controls — i.e. security rules or commitments — and how you’ll follow through on those controls. Your company determines what you want to promise you do to maintain security, and how you do it.
Which report should I get: SOC 2 Type I or Type II?
There are two types of SOC 2: Type I and Type II.
A Type I report is issued as of a specific date and represents an auditor’s review and approval of your systems at that moment in time.
A Type II report shows not only that you understand the necessary security procedures, but that you follow them over a period of time. This type of systems review results in an audit that yields a stronger and more trustworthy report.
There are three primary dimensions to consider in deciding which SOC 2 report your company will pursue: speed, strength, and cost.
If you need a SOC 2 quickly — say an in-flight deal is blocked during the security review — a Type I report is the fastest type of SOC 2 report to secure. Your auditor will collect data for a day, and turn your report around in one to two months.
If you have some flexibility on time and are seeking a report that offers the greatest strength, a Type II report is the strongest form of SOC 2. You’ll collect data over a period of three to 12 months instead of a single point in time; you’ll talk with your auditor over that time period to review results in progress and ensure that you’re in good shape; and you’ll receive a SOC 2 report demonstrating the validity of your security controls as measured over time.
If you start with a SOC 2 Type I, you may eventually need a Type II report as well. Enterprise customers are often seeking the strength of the SOC 2 Type II report.
When deciding which SOC 2 path to take, evaluate the urgency of your need for a SOC 2. Consider the strength you need to demonstrate with your SOC 2 report, and consider whether you will eventually need to secure a SOC 2 Type II report. If time allows, focusing on a Type II report straightaway may be the most cost-effective for your company.
Time + Money: How long will it take? How much will it cost?
In the past, the SOC 2 audit process typically unfolded over a months-long period of first getting audit-ready — assessing security gaps, putting security controls and practices in place, and documenting those practices — then working with an auditor to review your company’s controls, and to manually prove that you’ve put security practices in place (imagine lots of screenshots). Audit readiness could take one to three months; working with your auditor to provide evidence, and for your auditor to prepare your report, could take an additional six to eight months.
The cost of a SOC 2 can range from $10K to $80K or more. This is an estimate based on performing a readiness assessment (in-house or with a contractor); acquiring the tools your company will need to follow the rules you’ve established for your security program, such as background checks for employees; the prep work of writing security policies or updating existing policies and training employees; and finally, the audit itself, which can run $10K–$50K with costs that scale with company headcount.
With a powerful automation tool like Vanta in place, your company can streamline its SOC 2 audit prep and evidence collection — and save time and money. Vanta gives your company a continuous monitoring tool, customizable controls, template policies, dashboards and more — ensuring your audit prep is much faster and more painless. Your auditor can leverage the continuously monitored data collected within Vanta to complete your SOC 2 report.
When is the right time to get a SOC 2?
The best time to get a SOC 2 is just before you need one. Even with automation, SOC 2 is a process, and you’ll want to leave your company time to go through that process. SOC 2 requires preparation and data collection as well as time to work with your auditor. In other words — there’s not a way to acquire a SOC 2 overnight. Start thinking about your SOC 2 proactively and your company will be ready with it when you need it.
If you’re wondering whether the time is right for your company to get a SOC 2, consider its value. If you’re aiming to close a deal with a particular company whose business will be critical, your SOC 2 may pay for itself with a single deal. If you’ve been asked for your SOC 2 and have been leaning on workarounds, consider that putting your CTO on the phone with your prospects once a month may be feasible — but if your CTO is getting on the phone weekly or several times a week to talk security, then it might be time to get a SOC 2.
Next steps: Put SOC 2 to work for your company
Proactively pursuing a SOC 2 gives you a powerful tool to communicate your company’s commitment to security. Demonstrating the strength of your security posture with your successful SOC 2 is a beacon for your prospects.
Vanta equips your company with automated security and compliance, starting with SOC 2. Vanta supports companies on establishing security controls, conducting audit readiness prep, building security policies, setting up dashboards, and more. We’ll connect to your tools and infrastructure, customize Vanta to your company, help you fix items on your to-do list, and set you on the path to audit completion with an AICPA-certified auditor — all much faster and more painlessly than the typical audit process. Ready to get started?
Determine whether the GDPR applies to you and if so, if you are a processor or controller (or both)
Do you sell goods or service in the EU or UK?
Do you sell goods or services to EU businesses, consumers, or both?
Do you have employees in the EU or UK?
Do persons from the EU or UK visit your website?
Do you monitor the behavior of persons within the EU?
Create a Data Map by taking the following actions
Identify and document every system (i.e. database, application, or vendor) which stores or processes EU or UK based personally identifiable information (PII)
Document the retention periods for PII in each system
Determine whether you collect, store, or process “special categories” of data
Determine whether your Data Map meets the requirements for Records of Processing Activities (Art. 30)
Determine whether your Data Map includes the following information about processing activities carried out by vendors on your behalf
Determine your grounds for processing data
For each category of data and system/application have you determined the lawful basis for processing based on one of the following conditions?
Take inventory of current customer and vendor contracts to confirm new GDPR-required flow-down provisions are included
Review all customer contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Review all in-scope vendor contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed a risk assessment on vendors who are processing your PII?
Determine if you need to do a Data Protection Impact Assessment
Is your data processing taking into account the nature, scope, context, and purposes of the processing, likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons?
Review product and service design (including your website or app) to ensure privacy notice links, marketing consents, and other requirements are integrated
Does the notice to the data subject include the following items?
Does the notice also include the following items?
Do you have a mechanism for persons to change or withdraw consent?
Update internal privacy policies to comply with notification obligations
Update internal privacy notices for EU employees
Determine if you need to appoint a Data Protection Officer, and appoint one if needed
Have you determined whether or not you must designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO) based on one of the following conditions (Art. 37)?
If you export data from the EU, consider if you need a compliance mechanism to cover the data transfer, such as model clauses
If you transfer, store, or process data outside the EU or UK, have you identified your legal basis for the data transfer (note: most likely covered by the Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed and documented a Transfer Impact Assessment (TIA)?
Confirm you are complying with other data subject rights (i.e. aside from notification)
Do you have a defined process for timely response to Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR) (i.e. requests for information, modification or deletion of PII)?
Are you able to provide the subject information in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language?
Do you have a process for correcting or deleting data when requested?
Do you have an internal policy regarding a Compelled Disclosure from Law Enforcement?
Determine if you need to appoint an EU-based representative, and appoint one if needed
Have you appointed an EU Representative or determined that an EU Representative is not needed based on one of the following conditions?
If operating in more than one EU state, identify a lead Data Protection Authority (DPA)
Do you operate in more than one EU state?
If so, have you designated the Supervisory Authority of the main establishment to act as your Lead Supervisory Authority?
Implement Employee Trainings to Demonstrate Compliance with GDPR Principles and Data Subject Rights
Have you provided appropriate Security Awareness and Privacy training to your staff?
Update internal procedures and policies to ensure you can comply with data breach response requirements
Have you created and implemented an Incident Response Plan which included procedures for reporting a breach to EU and UK Data Subjects as well as appropriate Data Authorities?
Do breach reporting policies comply with all prescribed timelines and include all recipients i.e. authorities, controllers, and data subjects?
Implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk
Have you implemented encryption of PII at rest and in transit?
Have you implemented pseudonymization?
Have you implemented appropriate physical security controls?
Have you implemented information security policies and procedures?
Can you access EU or UK PII data in the clear?
Do your technical and organizational measure ensure that, by default, only personal data which are necessary for each specific purpose of the processing are processed?
Develop a roadmap for successful implementation of an ISMS and ISO 27001 certification
Implement Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process to recognize challenges and identify gaps for remediation
Consider ISO 27001 certification costs relative to org size and number of employees
Clearly define scope of work to plan certification time to completion
Select an ISO 27001 auditor
Set the scope of your organization’s ISMS
Decide which business areas are covered by the ISMS and which are out of scope
Consider additional security controls for business processes that are required to pass ISMS-protected information across the trust boundary
Inform stakeholders regarding scope of the ISMS
Establish an ISMS governing body
Build a governance team with management oversight
Incorporate key members of top management, e.g. senior leadership and executive management with responsibility for strategy and resource allocation
Conduct an inventory of information assets
Consider all assets where information is stored, processed, and accessible
- Record information assets: data and people
- Record physical assets: laptops, servers, and physical building locations
- Record intangible assets: intellectual property, brand, and reputation
Assign to each asset a classification and owner responsible for ensuring the asset is appropriately inventoried, classified, protected, and handled
Execute a risk assessment
Establish and document a risk-management framework to ensure consistency
Identify scenarios in which information, systems, or services could be compromised
Determine likelihood or frequency with which these scenarios could occur
Evaluate potential impact of each scenario on confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information, systems, and services
Rank risk scenarios based on overall risk to the organization’s objectives
Develop a risk register
Record and manage your organization’s risks
Summarize each identified risk
Indicate the impact and likelihood of each risk
Document a risk treatment plan
Design a response for each risk (Risk Treatment)
Assign an accountable owner to each identified risk
Assign risk mitigation activity owners
Establish target dates for completion of risk treatment activities
Complete the Statement of Applicability worksheet
Review 114 controls of Annex A of ISO 27001 standard
Select controls to address identified risks
Complete the Statement of Applicability listing all Annex A controls, justifying inclusion or exclusion of each control in the ISMS implementation
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the ISMS
Include information or references to supporting documentation regarding:
- Information Security Objectives
- Leadership and Commitment
- Roles, Responsibilities, and Authorities
- Approach to Assessing and Treating Risk
- Control of Documented Information
- Internal Audit
- Management Review
- Corrective Action and Continual Improvement
- Policy Violations
Assemble required documents and records
Review ISO 27001 Required Documents and Records list
Customize policy templates with organization-specific policies, process, and language
Establish employee training and awareness programs
Conduct regular trainings to ensure awareness of new policies and procedures
Define expectations for personnel regarding their role in ISMS maintenance
Train personnel on common threats facing your organization and how to respond
Establish disciplinary or sanctions policies or processes for personnel found out of compliance with information security requirements
Perform an internal audit
Allocate internal resources with necessary competencies who are independent of ISMS development and maintenance, or engage an independent third party
Verify conformance with requirements from Annex A deemed applicable in your ISMS's Statement of Applicability
Share internal audit results, including nonconformities, with the ISMS governing body and senior management
Address identified issues before proceeding with the external audit
Undergo external audit of ISMS to obtain ISO 27001 certification
Engage an independent ISO 27001 auditor
Conduct Stage 1 Audit consisting of an extensive documentation review; obtain feedback regarding readiness to move to Stage 2 Audit
Conduct Stage 2 Audit consisting of tests performed on the ISMS to ensure proper design, implementation, and ongoing functionality; evaluate fairness, suitability, and effective implementation and operation of controls
Address any nonconformities
Ensure that all requirements of the ISO 27001 standard are being addressed
Ensure org is following processes that it has specified and documented
Ensure org is upholding contractual requirements with third parties
Address specific nonconformities identified by the ISO 27001 auditor
Receive auditor’s formal validation following resolution of nonconformities
Conduct regular management reviews
Plan reviews at least once per year; consider a quarterly review cycle
Ensure the ISMS and its objectives continue to remain appropriate and effective
Ensure that senior management remains informed
Ensure adjustments to address risks or deficiencies can be promptly implemented
Calendar ISO 27001 audit schedule and surveillance audit schedules
Perform a full ISO 27001 audit once every three years
Prepare to perform surveillance audits in the second and third years of the Certification Cycle
Consider streamlining ISO 27001 certification with automation
Transform manual data collection and observation processes into automated and continuous system monitoring
Identify and close any gaps in ISMS implementation in a timely manner
Download this checklist for easy referenceDownload Now
Determine which annual audits and assessments are required for your company
Perform a readiness assessment and evaluate your security against HIPAA requirements
Review the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights Audit Protocol
Conduct required HIPAA compliance audits and assessments
Perform and document ongoing technical and non-technical evaluations, internally or in partnership with a third-party security and compliance team like Vanta
Document your plans and put them into action
Document every step of building, implementing, and assessing your compliance program
Vanta’s automated compliance reporting can streamline planning and documentation
Appoint a security and compliance point person in your company
Designate an employee as your HIPAA Compliance Officer
Schedule annual HIPAA training for all employees
Distribute HIPAA policies and procedures and ensure staff read and attest to their review
Document employee trainings and other compliance activities
Thoroughly document employee training processes, activities, and attestations
Establish and communicate clear breach report processes
to all employees
Ensure that staff understand what constitutes a HIPAA breach, and how to report a breach
Implement systems to track security incidents, and to document and report all breaches
Institute an annual review process
Annually assess compliance activities against theHIPAA Rules and updates to HIPAA
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a year-round risk management program and integrate continuous monitoring
Understand the ins and outs of HIPAA compliance— and the costs of noncompliance
Download this checklist for easy referenceDownload Now
FEATURED VANTA RESOURCE
The ultimate guide to scaling your compliance program
Learn how to scale, manage, and optimize alongside your business goals.