12.12.19

Achieving SOC 2 Compliance

By Mauricio Ashimine
Achieving #SOC2Compliance

Information security is even more important nowadays with more and more companies operating in the cloud than ever before. While there are a lot of security measures that can be deployed to better protect data stored in the cloud, there is no specific guidance on how to achieve maximum security; increasing (and ever-changing) cyberattacks are partly to blame for this too.

While there is no one definitive guide to follow, there are best practices and standards to comply with. Service Organization Controls or SOC (version 2) is one of those standards. Developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), SOC 2 focuses primarily on how to manage customer data and define trust service principles in an easy-to-implement way.

SOC 2 Type I vs. Type II

Before we get into the details on how SOC 2 can help boost information security and cloud availability, it is important to understand the two types of SOC 2 reports. In general, the SOC 2 audit reviews a series of factors and key elements to determine whether reasonable protection and assurance are in place. Predetermined Trust Service Criteria are used to perform the audit in a comprehensive way.

Type I of the SOC 2 audit focuses on a specific point in time. All service criteria are measured at the time of the audit, without the previous and future states being taken into consideration. Type I audit is more useful for determining whether sufficient standards and security measures are implemented properly.

Type II of the SOC 2 audit, on the other hand, focuses on how the controls are implemented over a period of time. It doesn’t just look to answer implementation-related questions, but also provide a clearer overview of whether the controls are effective enough.

Both types of audit are useful. Type I is usually performed when an organization first adopts the SOC 2 standard. It is handy for measuring compliance and reviewing the implementation success level. Type II, on the other hand, is usually performed periodically to measure the effectiveness of the SOC 2 service criteria over time; it allows for review and refinement as well.

The SOC 2 Requirements

SOC 2, just like many other information security standards, has an extensive array of requirements that need to be met. If you are pursuing SOC 2 compliance, there are several elements that must be present in your cloud ecosystem. The elements are further divided into five main categories, which are:

  1. Security: Deals with aspects such as network and application firewalls, two-factor authentication, and intrusion detection.
  2. Availability: Focuses more on performance monitoring and disaster recovery, along with optimizing the handling of security incidents.
  3. Privacy: Handles access control, protection of sensitive information, and utilizes data encryption.
  4. Confidentiality: Covers aspects like access control, network firewalls, and encryption.
  5. Process integrity: Includes quality assurance and process monitoring.

Each category is designed to guide you through the process of complying with the SOC 2 requirements. When handling security, for instance, you can utilize tools such as web application firewalls and intrusion detection to make sure that all security issues are detected and prevented.

Availability takes care of cloud resource availability. It basically governs how systems must remain accessible even when parts of the cloud cluster are suffering from errors. It also dictates how failovers and incident handling need to be part of your cloud policies.

Process integrity basically guides organizations towards establishing an effective data management process. It requires data to be delivered at the right time, to the right requester, and at the right price. Process integrity touches on subjects such as operational efficiency.

Confidentiality provides a series of elements that help protect sensitive information such as business plans and mission-critical files. For maximum confidentiality, encryption and other security measures must be put in place.

To complete the set, the SOC 2 requirements also mention privacy. It incorporates Generally Accepted Privacy Policy (GAPP) as the bare minimum, but it also works with higher privacy standards – including GDPR – with little to no modification.

SOC 2 and DevOps

Keep in mind that SOC 2 compliance isn’t mandatory, but it does have its benefits; substantial benefits. In fact, complying with the SOC 2 requirements means ensuring maximum data and privacy protection, allowing for SaaS providers to offer their customers the best cloud environment while boosting their credibility at the same time.

However, SOC 2 compliance is not without its challenges. In a CI/CD workflow, it is not uncommon for DevOps to face difficulties in maintaining the highest security standards. There is a simple solution to this challenge: make security part of the CI/CD pipeline.

Instead of waiting until right before deployment, security standards must be implemented across the entire pipeline. This means the SOC 2 requirements must be met at every part of the development cycle. At the same time, code standards and application security requirements can also be used as guidelines during development and testing.

The result is a way to remain agile while maintaining the highest security standard. DevOps can still manage infrastructure in a robust way.

AWS to the Rescue

If you are wondering whether AWS complies with SOC 2 at this point, you are not alone. AWS as a cloud environment is designed to comply with SOC 2 requirements; at the very least, the ecosystem offers tools that make compliance easy.

SOC 2 compliance is something that AWS takes seriously. In fact, AWS keeps the location of data centers confidential to ensure maximum security. It also offers high resilience with multiple redundancies and automated disaster recovery measures.

Through AWS Artifact, you can gain access to all SOC reports, including SOC 2 Security, Availability, and Confidentiality Reports generated by AWS. All controls are provided and you have the complete services in scope list for maximum compliance.

AWS has an extensive set of tools for maintaining controls and ensuring compliance. Amazon CloudWatch is a good example of a comprehensive monitoring tool that you can use across the AWS ecosystem. The same is true for AWS CloudTrail and Amazon GuardDuty. You also have AWS Shield offering security measures that are ready to deploy. 

Achieving SOC 2 compliance on an Amazon cluster is not difficult. You already have the complete SOC 2 reports as your starting point. Customizing the rest of your cloud environment to ensure compliance is a matter of integrating the right security tools and setting up data privacy correctly. 


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