SOC 2, or Service Organization Control 2, is a framework for auditing and reporting on the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy controls of service organizations. It was developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) to assess the effectiveness of these controls in organizations that handle sensitive customer data.
Customers and stakeholders often request SOC 2 reports to gain assurance about the security and privacy practices of service providers. The reports are typically performed by independent auditing firms based on the AICPA's Trust Services Criteria (TSC). These criteria outline the principles and standards for evaluating the controls in place at a service organization.
A SOC 2 report typically includes a description of the system, an assessment of the design and operating effectiveness of controls, any identified control deficiencies, and other relevant information. Customers and other stakeholders can use the report to evaluate the security and privacy practices of a service organization and make informed decisions about engaging with them.
SOC 2 Trust Service Criteria
The SOC 2 framework is based on five trust service principles, also known as trust service criteria. These principles serve as the foundation for assessing and reporting on the controls implemented by a service organization.
The trust service principles are as follows:
- Security: The security principle focuses on protecting the system against unauthorized access, both physical and logical. It encompasses measures such as user authentication, access controls, data encryption, incident response, and monitoring of security events.
- Availability: The availability principle addresses the system's availability for operation and use, as agreed upon or required. It encompasses controls related to system uptime, performance monitoring, backup and disaster recovery,
fault tolerance, and response to interruptions.
- Processing Integrity: The processing integrity principle ensures that system processing is complete, accurate, timely, and authorized. It encompasses controls related to data input, processing accuracy, validation checks, transaction
completeness, and error handling.
- Confidentiality: The confidentiality principle focuses on protecting sensitive information designated as confidential. It encompasses controls related to data classification, access controls, encryption, data masking, confidentiality
agreements, and security awareness training.
- Privacy: The privacy principle addresses the organization's practices for collecting, using, retaining, disclosing, and disposing of personal information. It encompasses controls related to privacy notices, consent management,
data retention policies, data subject rights, data breach response, and compliance with applicable privacy laws and regulations.
These trust service principles provide a comprehensive framework for evaluating the controls and practices of a service organization. When conducting a SOC 2 audit, the independent auditors assess the design and operating effectiveness of controls based on these principles, and the resulting report helps customers and stakeholders assess the organization's security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy practices.
Who needs SOC 2 compliance?
SOC 2 compliance is typically relevant for service organizations that handle sensitive customer data or provide services that involve the processing, storing, or transmitting of customer information. This includes several different industries and sectors, such as:
- Software as a Service (SaaS) Providers: Companies that offer cloud-based software solutions, platforms, or applications.
- Data Centres and Hosting Providers: Organizations that provide infrastructure, hosting, or data center services.
- Managed IT Service Providers: Companies that offer outsourced IT services, including network management, system administration, or security monitoring.
- Financial Institutions: Banks, credit unions, payment processors, and other financial service providers that handle customer financial data.
- Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals, clinics, healthcare providers, and health information exchanges that handle protected health information (PHI) subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- E-commerce and Online Retailers: Companies operating online stores, processing customer payments, or storing customer information.
- Software Development Companies: Organizations that develop and distribute software products or custom software solutions.
- HR and Payroll Service Providers: Companies that provide HR, payroll processing, or benefits administration services.
- Data Analytics and Business Intelligence Providers: Organizations that collect, process, or analyze customer data to generate insights or reports.
- Marketing and Advertising Agencies: Agencies that handle customer data for marketing campaigns, audience segmentation, or targeted advertising.
It is important to note that the need for SOC 2 compliance may vary depending on each organization's specific circumstances and requirements. Factors such as the type and volume of customer data handled, industry regulations, contractual obligations, and customer demands can influence whether SOC 2 compliance is necessary or recommended.
Advantages of being SOC 2 compliant
An organization needs SOC 2 compliance for several reasons:
Trust and Assurance
SOC 2 compliance assures customers and stakeholders that the service organization has implemented effective controls to safeguard sensitive data and ensure the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of their systems and information. It helps build trust and confidence in the service provider's operations.
Many industries and jurisdictions have specific regulations and legal requirements for data security and privacy. SOC 2 compliance demonstrates that the service organization has implemented controls aligning with these requirements, helping them meet their regulatory obligations.
SOC 2 compliance can give a service organization a competitive edge. It demonstrates their commitment to data security and privacy, which can be a significant differentiator in a market where customers are increasingly concerned about protecting sensitive information. SOC 2 compliance can attract new customers and retain existing ones who prioritize working with secure and trustworthy service providers.
By undergoing SOC 2 compliance, service organizations can identify and address potential risks and vulnerabilities in their systems and controls. The audit process helps evaluate the effectiveness of security measures, detect weaknesses, and implement improvements to mitigate risks. This proactive approach reduces the likelihood of data breaches, system downtime, or other security incidents that could harm the organization's reputation and financial standing.
For organizations that rely on third-party service providers, SOC 2 compliance is often a mandatory requirement during the vendor selection process. By ensuring that their vendors are SOC 2 compliant, organizations can have confidence in the security and privacy of the services they are receiving, thereby mitigating the risk of data breaches or other security incidents associated with their vendors.
SOC 2 compliance can also benefit the service organization internally. It helps establish a strong governance framework and a security and privacy awareness culture. By implementing and maintaining robust controls, organizations can better protect their systems and data, enhance operational efficiency, and improve overall risk management practices.
Overall, SOC 2 compliance is necessary to demonstrate a service organization's commitment to data security, privacy, and the trustworthiness of its operations. It reassures customers, helps meet regulatory requirements, reduces risks, and enhances the
organization's reputation and competitive position.
SOC 2 compliance automation for the cloud using Progress Chef
Chef Cloud Security provides automation capabilities for SOC 2 audit of your cloud estate. Let’s look at how you can achieve SOC 2 cloud compliance using Chef.
Chef provides a list of controls for AWS, Azure and GCP, respectively, that must be adhered to achieve SOC 2 compliance.
Let us look at an example of running a SOC 2 audit on your AWS environment.
Before executing a SOC 2 audit on an AWS instance, we need to set the AWS instance credentials either as
1. environment variables in a .envrc file or export them in your shell
2. in configuration files ~/.aws/config and ~/.aws/credentials
3. Now, we can run the InSpec exec command while targeting the AWS account with the SOC 2 InSpec profile
inspec exec /profiles/soc2-aws -t aws://
4. As you can see in the report, the control that ensures RDS instances are not launched into the public cloud has failed due to 3 of the tests failing.
Executing the SOC 2 audit on your targets using InSpec will yield detailed reports that can be exported to any visualization tool or viewed in Chef Automate. SOC 2 InSpec profiles and resources are currently supported for AWS, Azure and GCP cloud providers.
As technology continues to evolve, automation will play an increasingly vital role in SOC 2 compliance for cloud environments. Organizations should stay informed about the latest developments in cloud security, regulatory requirements, and automation tools to adapt their compliance strategies effectively.
By embracing automation and leveraging the power of cloud computing, organizations can achieve SOC 2 compliance more efficiently, strengthen their security posture, and build trust with customers and partners. Find out more about how Chef Cloud Security can help you achieve compliance for your cloud estate.
To learn more about automating SOC 2 compliance for your cloud and container environments, contact us today!