If your business handles sensitive customer data of any kind, and you’re looking to either attract new clients or otherwise cement your reputability as a safe and responsible caretaker of said data, chances are you’re considering one of the two most notable information security and risk management frameworks as a means of achieving that: SOC 2 vs. ISO 27001.
But which one do you choose? What are the benefits and disadvantages of each? What is the process of achieving certification like for each? And which one will provide better long-term value based on what your clients are looking for compared to the cost of maintaining compliance (in addition to costs related to achieving certification in the first place.
Granted there’s a lot to consider when it comes to comparing ISO 27001 and SOC 2 certifications.
That’s why, in this blog, we’re going to explore these questions in depth to give you the tools you need to make an informed decision about which one you’ll end up going with: SOC 2 compliance vs. ISO 27001 compliance.
What is SOC 2, What Are the Different Types and Trust Services Criteria?
SOC 2 is a standards-based compliance framework developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), a licensed CPA firm that is highly renowned.
It is used to evaluate the information security and operational practices of organizations, with an emphasis on the processing of integrity, confidentiality, and availability of sensitive customer data.
There are five Trust Services Criteria (TSC) that must be evaluated in order to assess an organization’s SOC 2 compliance:
Security – The extent to which physical, environmental and logical controls have been put in place to protect against unauthorized access to systems or data.
Availability – The extent to which systems are available for authorized use when required. This includes both planned downtime due to maintenance activities as well as unplanned downtime resulting from events such as disasters or security incidents.
Confidentiality – An evaluation of the extent to which sensitive data can be accessed or disclosed by unauthorized people, processes and systems.
Processing Integrity – The ability of internal processes and controls to ensure that information is processed accurately and completely, while taking into account any system constraints that may apply.
Privacy – The assessment of an organization’s policies, procedures and other practices related to protecting personal data against inappropriate use or disclosure.
There are three primary SOC 2 compliance types: Type 1, Type 2 and SOC 3. These differ in terms of what they involve as well as their level of rigor:
Type 1 Report: A SOC 1 audit report includes all five TSC requirements within a single examination type (either SysTrust or WebTrust).
Type 2 Report: A SOC 2 audit report includes all five TSC requirements, but can be broken out into multiple examination types. A SOC 2 report is usually reserved for organizations that use internal controls to assess security and/or availability of specific systems, rather than the entire organization as a whole.
SOC 3 Report: A SOC 3 report is meant to provide increased transparency and demonstrate trustworthiness by including only a subset of TSC requirements (Security, Availability, Confidentiality) in an unmodified form (i.e., no proforma reports).
There are also variations on these compliance types that depend on the type of organization being evaluated – for example, Public Companies are required to comply with SOX, and Government Contractors must have a System Security Plan (SSP).
What Is ISO 27001 Certification?
ISO 27001 is a certification framework that was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to help organizations ensure the security of their information.
It includes a series of guidelines and best practices related to information security controls, policies, processes, and procedures.
In order to obtain ISO 27001 compliance, organizations must undergo an independent audit against defined requirements in 12 specific areas:
- Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) – Set general requirements for establishing and maintaining an ISMS within an organization.
- Risk Assessment – Defines how risk should be assessed and evaluated on both technical and organizational levels.
- Asset Management – Covers protection methods for physical assets as well as data stored digitally or in print format.
- Access Control – Describes how access to information and systems is restricted, monitored, and logged.
- Cryptography – Outlines the process for implementing cryptography on different types of information assets.
- Physical Security – Covers general requirements for maintaining physical security at organizational sites as well as protecting assets during transport or storage.
- Personnel Security – Compliance with ISO 27001 requires that you focus on hiring practices, training, and evaluation of personnel with access to sensitive data or system components.
- Work Environment – Addresses safety hazards that can impact the work environment or compromise the overall integrity of an ISMS.
- Communication Security – Highlights methods for encrypting communication channels and preventing unauthorized data access through these channels.
- IT operations – Defines controls for configuring and managing IT system components, including hardware, software, and networking systems.
- Supplier Relationships – Outlines methods for assessing potential suppliers and mitigating risks in supplier relationships.
- Compliance – Specifies how organizations can ensure that their systems and processes comply with applicable legislation, regulations, and best practices.
ISO 27001 vs. SOC 2 Type 2: Differences for Certification and Ongoing Compliance Requirements
There are many differences between ISO 27001 certification and SOC 2 Type 2 compliance, including the specific requirements for achieving each one and the ongoing compliance requirements once certified.
At a high level, the difference between SOC 2 and ISO 27001 is that:
- ISO 27001 certification assesses an organization’s overall information security practices.
- SOC 2 Type 2 focuses on the security of specific systems or services that may be used to store sensitive data or process business transactions.
In order to achieve ISO 27001 certification, organizations must complete a stringent audit process against defined criteria in all 12 areas mentioned above.
In contrast, achieving SOC 2 Type 2 compliance typically involves demonstrating that an organization has implemented appropriate controls in its IT systems related to confidentiality, integrity, and/or availability.
For example, this may involve documenting and testing measures to ensure that proper access controls are in place, or implementing encryption on transmitted data.
In terms of ongoing compliance requirements, organizations must undergo periodic audits to maintain their ISO 27001 certification, while SOC 2 Type 2 is generally an annual assessment.
Depending on the specific industry and regulations that apply to their operations, organizations may also be required to undergo additional assessments or submit an attestation report related to other compliance frameworks such as PCI DSS or HIPAA.
Overall, whether you are considering ISO 27001 standard certification or SOC 2 Type 2 compliance for your organization, it is important to understand the unique requirements and benefits of SOC 2 Type 2 vs. ISO 27001 so that you can make the best decision based on your business needs.
ISO 27001 vs. SOC 2 Mapping XLS: What You Need to Know
An important resource for understanding the differences between SOC Type 2 vs. ISO 27001 compliance is the SOC 2 vs. ISO 27001 Mapping XLS.
This document provides a side-by-side comparison of the two frameworks, outlining the specific controls and requirements that apply to each.
This can be a helpful tool for organizations that are trying to decide which certification is right for them, or for those that are already certified but need to ensure their compliance with both frameworks.
The document also includes a table mapping each control area in ISO 27001 to its corresponding control area in SOC 2 Type 2.
The ISO 27001 vs. SOC 2 Mapping XLS is available on the ISACA website.
Getting a Leading MSP to Help You Decide Between SOC 2 vs. ISO 27001
If you’re still on the fence about which compliance framework would be best for your business to follow, don’t worry, we can help.
At XL.net we are highly practiced in working with businesses across a variety of industries and taking everything into consideration in order to best inform them on which compliance route to take.
And not only that, our managed services can take the reins for you, and spearhead the charge on achieving either, or both of these rigorous information security frameworks.
To find out more about how we can make this journey a lot easier for you, simply schedule a free consultation with us today!