SOC 2 Compliance Checklist:
How to Prepare for Your Audit
Although every company’s SOC 2 journey is a little different, this SOC 2 Compliance checklist breaks down the steps that most organizations will deal with as they prepare for an audit.
Our goal with this audit checklist is to give you a high-level overview of what you can expect during each stage of the SOC 2 compliance journey.
If you’re planning to work your way through the SOC 2 process alone, grab a free copy of our SOC 2 Compliance Guide, which includes a detailed version of this checklist, time-saving best practices, and sample SOC 2 timelines.
SOC 2 Checklist
Preparing for a SOC 2 audit can usually be broken down into four phases. Here’s a high-level overview of what you can expect during each stage of the SOC 2 process.
Phase 1: Prepare and Plan
Choose the right type of SOC 2 Report: Type 1 or Type 2
First, decide which type of SOC 2 report you need—Type 1 or Type 2. The right audit report for your organization will depend on the requirements of the client or partner that has requested a SOC 2 audit report from your organization or what the standard is within the industry you serve.
If you need some help with this decision, get in touch with our team.
Determine the Trust Services Criteria for your SOC 2 report
SOC 2 compliance is based on five Trust Services Criteria. Every organization needs to comply with the first criteria (security). From there, your organization only needs to assess and document the other criteria that apply.
Assess which resources you’ll need
The resources you’ll need will depend on how closely your organization already aligns with SOC 2 security controls.
Get buy-in for the project
SOC 2 is a big project. Make sure your organization’s leadership teams understand the value of SOC 2 and are ready to provide the resources and budget you need to achieve SOC 2 compliance.
Assemble a team responsible for the project
Assemble a team responsible for the project. SOC 2 compliance typically requires input and representatives from IT, security, legal, and management. Your team should be expected to allocate a few hours weekly until you obtain your SOC 2 Type 2 report.
Create a SOC 2 project plan
Next, draft your SOC 2 project plan, outlining tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines.
Find and hire an auditor
You’ll also want to find a qualified SOC 2 auditor ASAP. Don’t wait until you’ve finished your SOC 2 preparations to complete this step. Finding a qualified auditing body early on allows you to communicate your control requirements and ensure that the auditor’s schedule can accommodate your organization’s timelines.
At Rhymetec, we connect clients to independent auditors during the initial stages of working together. However, if you’re working through SOC 2 compliance yourself and you need to find an auditor, check out our list of vetted auditors registered with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
Phase 2: Identify and Scope
Assess your organization’s current readiness
Perform a gap assessment to determine which internal controls, processes, and practices your organization has already implemented and identify those you need to put into place.
Benchmark your organization against the Security Trust Services Criteria
Identify and implement any internal controls and procedures that you don’t yet meet (access controls, encryption, monitoring, and more) across several categories of security. Make sure to document control descriptions, policies, and procedures and assign ownership of security controls to specific team members.
Benchmark your organization against all other relevant Trust Services Criteria
Identify and implement each of the applicable controls in the other Trust Services Criteria that you identified in your initial framework, but that you have not yet implemented. Once controls are in place, begin mapping controls to the Trust Services Criteria.
Educate your employees about the upcoming SOC 2 audit and their roles in compliance
Ensure that your staff is aware of the SOC 2 requirements and their roles in compliance. It is recommended to provide training on compliance requirements and awareness programs to reinforce security best practices.
Phase 3: Assess and Implement
Conduct a risk assessment
At a high level, a risk assessment in the context of SOC 2 readiness involves evaluating and documenting the potential risks to an organization’s systems and data, specifically focusing on the Trust Services Criteria relevant to SOC 2 compliance. A risk assessment will help guide your control implementation efforts.
When implementing controls for SOC 2 compliance, it’s crucial to document control testing results and promptly address any identified deficiencies through corrective actions.
Draft policies and procedures that adhere to SOC 2 standards
Your team will need to draft and manage a comprehensive set of information security policies, standards, and guidelines in accordance with business demands, compliance standards, and industry best practices.
Implement ongoing monitoring and review processes to continuously assess your controls and make necessary adjustments. You should regularly update your documentation to reflect changes and improvements.
Keep your documentation up to date and ensure it accurately reflects your organization’s current practices and controls.
Collect evidence that demonstrates compliance with the Trust Services Criteria. This evidence may include logs, reports, and records related to security incidents, access controls, change management, and more.
Ensure audit preparedness
Prepare for the SOC 2 audit by conducting a preliminary readiness assessment, ensuring the completeness and accuracy of control documentation, and providing necessary training to employees regarding their roles during the audit.
Phase 4: Prepare for Audit
Complete a SOC 2 readiness assessment
Share your control documentation with the auditor for their preliminary review and work with your auditor to determine if you have met the minimum standards to undergo a full compliance audit.
Address any final concerns
If your readiness assessment indicates that there are SOC 2 controls you need to address before your audit, complete these requirements.
Undergo a SOC 2 Audit
It’s time to work through a full audit with your chosen SOC 2 auditor. This may involve weeks or longer of working with your auditor to provide the documentation they need.When you complete your audit, the auditor will present you with your SOC 2 report to document and verify your compliance.
Phase 5: Maintain SOC 2 Compliance Annually
Continuously monitor SOC 2 compliance and controls
Establish a system to monitor your SOC 2 compliance and identify any breaches of your compliance. These can occur during system updates and changes. Control monitoring should be done on a daily basis—if a control fails, immediate remediation will need to be put into place to avoid gaps in compliance.
Address any gaps immediately
Rather than waiting until your next audit, immediately address any gaps in your compliance that arise.
Conduct user onboarding awareness training
By integrating security awareness training into the user onboarding process, organizations can strengthen their security posture, reduce risks, and demonstrate their commitment to protecting sensitive information, all of which are essential for SOC 2 compliance.
Undergo an annual SOC 2 audit
It’s a good idea for service organizations to perform a SOC 2 audit on an annual or semi-annual basis. Technically, your SOC 2 report does not expire. But companies will generally consider the information in a SOC 2 report to be outdated after 12 months because there’s no evidence that you’ve maintained your SOC 2 compliance without an annual or semi-annual audit.
Fast Forward Your SOC 2 Compliance With Rhymetec
Rhymetec’s team of cybersecurity experts has helped hundreds of CTOs and SaaS organizations navigate the SOC 2 process. Our vCISOs can provide the exact level of support your team needs to streamline the process and achieve SOC 2 compliance ASAP.
To Learn More About Rhymetec’s Services