SOC 2 compliance checklist

The Best SOC 2 Compliance Checklist: What We Learned Passing SOC 2 Type 2

We learned so much passing SOC 2 Type 2 that we compiled it into the best SOC 2 compliance checklist! SOC 2 compliance is as unique to your business as a fingerprint, which is why there isn’t an official SOC 2 compliance checklist issued by the AICPA. But you can take our SOC 2 audit experience and customize it to meet your organization’s unique needs. What we learned about passing SOC 2 Type 2 can help you streamline your own compliance experience.

SOC 2 Checklist: Strategically Select Your SOC 2 Auditor

There are four fundamental factors to consider for selecting an auditor:

  1. Quality. Evaluate the firm and check out its success rate.
  2. Experience. Does the auditor have experience in your industry? 
  3. Cost. Like vehicles, shop around. You can learn more about the cost of SOC 2 here.
  4. Personality fit. This makes everything easier, long term.

Auditors will help you with a readiness assessment, a fundamental piece to your success. It’s a top-down overview of everything company’s current security posture and what needs to be done to become compliant. For more on selecting an auditor, check out our SOC 2 Survival Guide or part one of our SOC 2 Bootcamp.

SOC 2 Checklist: Scope Honestly and Choose Appropriate Trust Service Criteria 

Choosing the correct Trust Service Criteria (TSC) to include in a SOC 2 audit scope is an essential process for an organization. 

The five TSC’s to consider:

  1. Security
  2. Availability
  3. Processing Integrity
  4. Confidentiality
  5. Privacy

The only TSC required in every SOC 2 exam is Security. Any additional TSCs are supplementary benefits to your company. Maybe you need more than one, or multiple will increase customers’ trust in you but realistically consider the required resources.

To save time and money, make sure your scope is limited to the system your customers use. An excellent question to ask yourself is, “What do your customers care about?” Of course, security in an organization is essential, but what are you trying to demonstrate to your stakeholders? 

SOC 2 Checklist: Simplify Your Risk Assessments

Despite being the foundation for any successful information security program or security compliance audit, risk assessments are the leading cause of delays and failures in SOC 2. Yes, you can fail SOC 2 and it happens all the time. Why? Primarily due to procrastination and disorganization. Many organizations still multi-tab, color-coded spreadsheets, which can contribute but more on that later. 

You can use these four questions to simplify how you approach performing a risk assessment: 

  1. What are my business or organization objectives?
  2. What are all the potential threats to those objectives? 
  3. How much of a risk is each potential threat? 
  4. What are my mitigation strategies, also known as controls, for addressing those risks?

This four-question technique is the foundation of a solid risk assessment. There’s no need to overthink it. Don’t forget to review the first step of this SOC 2 compliance checklist to ensure your risk assessment findings align with your TSC and scoping. 

Define Your Infosec Program

A formally written and thoroughly documented set of policies and procedures is required for any security framework. And, so is have them signed off by senior management as it clearly directs employees regarding rules, expectations and consequences. 

To set yourself up for SOC 2 success, it’s essential to integrate your InfoSec program with these processes. An organic approach means less room for mistakes. For example, suppose the only reason you collect evidence is to show the auditor. In that case, chances are you will forget about it and fail the audit later on. However, if you collect evidence as part of your business as usual activities, you’ll always be audit-ready. Processes should be in place because they’re meaningful and not because you’re overcompensating to help you pass an audit.

Assign Control Owners and Clarify Responsibilities

Every step in this SOC 2 compliance checklist is crucial to streamlining and achieving SOC 2 compliance. But, assigning controls is where the project can get a little bumpy and unknowingly veer off course. To avoid this detour, assigning control owners and clarifying duties and responsibilities is very important. Not all controls require the same work, so make sure it’s clear to everyone involved what the expectation is. If one task is incomplete or missing, then the responsibility falls on the control owner.

SOC 2 Checklist: Regularly Monitor Compliance

Part of prepping for a SOC 2 audit involves performing an internal audit or assessment to measure the robustness of your organization’s security posture. Use your readiness assessment from the beginning of the SOC 2 compliance checklist as your starting point. The identified findings help you start implementing the security controls you need for your company to be SOC 2 compliant.

Make sure you set aside some time to review your InfoSec program and regularly talk to control owners. Open communication ensures everyone is on the same page. Of course, you don’t have to complete a deep dive. Still, a conversation walking through the controls once a quarter helps monitor compliance.


Develop an Employee Security Awareness Training Program

Employees are your strongest asset and your weakest link when it comes to your information security. Therefore, security awareness training at least annually is a requirement for SOC 2 attestations. But, to err is human and often, a single training session isn’t enough. Training your employees and contractors regularly about the constantly evolving cyber threats can save your organization from a costly breach. It also reinforces that your business is trustworthy. 

SOC 2 Checklist: Verify Vendor Management Procedures

This SOC 2 compliance checklist step makes continuous compliance a breeze. Vendor Risk Assessment, or a vendor risk review, is the process of identifying risks to your organization associated with a vendor’s operations and products. Next, you evaluate the potential risks or hazards associated and the inherent impact on your organization. Performing VRA’s helps you select partners aligned with your security and compliance values. 

This approach to vendor management procedure is a must-have to ensure that your vendors comply with InfoSec best practices and standards. Therefore, expectations should be evident during the contract phase. In addition, you must consider InfoSec requirements during the onboarding process and regularly assess your vendors. You can read more about that here.

Plan Your Incident Response, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan

You read that right—you want to plan your plans. SOC 2 requires you to develop and test Incident Response, Business Continuity, and Disaster Recovery Plans. This program covers all areas within the organization considered critical tools to run your business in a disruption. Your plans require annual testing and multiple departments review them and provide feedback for revisions. It’s a lot and hopefully, you’ll never need to implement them. 

But, in the case of an emergency, you’ll be glad you have everything in place, including a method to deploy the plans, so you don’t lose trust with customers during a disaster. No one wants a double disaster! Check out our Tugboat Logic Coronavirus Business Continuity Plan announcement for an example.

SOC 2 Checklist: SDLC and Change Management Processes

The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) is a fantastic place to establish a strong security culture. Security by design! Ensure that your DevOps team is aware of their responsibilities and considers security requirements when making changes!

Establish criteria relevant to identifying the need for changes. Using a controlled change management process prevents unauthorized changes. And don’t forget patch management. It’s not a glamourous task but it’s essential to preserving a sound security environment.

Bonus Tip—Automate Your SOC 2 Compliance

This SOC 2 compliance checklist is designed to help launch your compliance success. Still, it’s just a high-level overview of all the steps involved. Remember the multi-tabbed and color-coded spreadsheet in step three? With SOC 2 software, that headache can be skipped. That was one of our most significant takeaways from achieving SOC 2, and we’ve put everything we learned into our platform.

SOC 2 isn’t just about implementing controls. It’s also about providing documentation and evidence, and that’s the challenging part. Especially if you have a manual approach. Keep in mind that even with software to speed everything up, a handful of tasks will always be manual.

Also, here are some tips for selecting the right SOC 2 vendor based on unbiased research from Fractional CISO.

Tugboat Logic and SOC 2 Compliance

With our SOC 2 automation, you’ll have a clear roadmap to certification so that you can complete your SOC 2 quickly, confidently, and cost-effectively. Tugboat Logic guides you through every step of the process. It even provides prebuilt policies and controls mapped to the SOC 2 framework. It’s a central system of record to assign controls to owners across your organization and store all evidence, clearly proving all SOC 2 controls have been implemented.

So, if you’re looking for a stress-free and straightforward way to get through SOC 2, grab a free trial of our product. And if you’re ever confused or a little lost while preparing for or maintaining SOC 2, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Our team of ex-auditors and security veterans has over 100 years of combined experience working in security. We’re always here to help.