Do you want to upgrade your data security and privacy management and demonstrate this to customers, prospects and other stakeholders but don’t know whether to adopt the ISO 27001 or SOC 2 guidelines? You are not alone.
Scope of Certification
ISO 27001 and SOC 2 are two of the most commonly implemented information security and risk management frameworks. Each has its applications and benefits.
The two standards cover many of the same areas, based on requirement to implement controls to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive information. In this respect, the two standards are much more similar than they are different.
The ISO 27001 standard and SOC 2 both state that organisations need only adopt a control if it applies to them. However, the way the standards approach this is slightly different.
ISO 27001 puts a focus on the development and maintenance of an ISMS (information security management system). To achieve compliance, you need to conduct assessments, identify and implement security controls and review their effectiveness regularly.
The SOC 2 approach is more flexible. It is based on five Trust Services Principles: Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality and Privacy, but only the first of those, Security, is mandatory.
You can implement internal controls that relate to the other principles if you want, but it’s not required to achieve certification.
Both standards are recognised globally, but SOC 2 is more closely associated with North America. In North America, both SOC 2 and ISO 27001 are common but outside of the region, ISO 27001 is much more popular.
If you trade with US business customers, you would be wise to consider their requirements to work with SOC 2 certified suppliers. If you provide an international software/cloud service via the web, you may wish to consider both standards.
The implementation process is similar for ISO 27001 and SOC 2 and is typically carried out in three stages. How long this process will take depends on the amount of work you have to do to bring your processes and controls up to scratch. Roughly speaking, it typically takes three to six months to implement either standard in a small to medium sized company.
The first step is usually a gap analysis to work out which areas of the framework you are already compliant with and where you need to make improvements. As part of this process, you will also define your security objectives and which areas of your organisation will be covered. It is also common to carry out initial risk assessments at this stage.
Select and Implement Controls
In the second step you will identify which security controls are applicable for your organisation and take the necessary steps to implement them. This includes documenting your practices and establishing methods to review and improve your controls.
The last step is the audit. It is usual to carry out internal audits before engaging with an accreditation body, as it allows you to capture any outstanding issues in your management system before the final scrutiny by the external auditor.
Both standards require an external audit to achieve certification. The main difference in this process is who conducts the audit.
A recognised ISO 27001 accredited certification body needs to complete ISO 27001 certification. In the UK this would mean a UKAS accredited organisation. A SOC 2 attestation report can only be performed by a licensed CPA (Certified Public Accountant). CPAs are overseen by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants).
Organisations that pass the ISO 27001 audit receive a certificate of compliance, whereas SOC 2 compliance is documented with a formal attestation.
On paper ISO 27001 can look a more rigorous standard but because SOC 2 is audited by accounting firms the SOC 2 audits can be tough on the details.
Both standards can be used to demonstrate that you operate a robust approach to information security and privacy. Which you chose is largely a function of your business and its target markets.
Hopefully, this article has helped you decide whether SOC 2, ISO 27001 or both standards are more appropriate for your organisation. Our experts are happy to discuss with your which option is right for your organisation. Specialise in Information Security Compliance, Data Protection and Business Continuity for growing companies.