SOC 2, which was developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), is specifically designed for service providers storing customer data in the cloud, which means that it applies to nearly every SaaS company operating today.
So, what is SOC 2 exactly? While the framework is a technical audit, it goes above and beyond this to require that companies establish and follow strict information security policies and procedures. The criteria for developing these policies and procedures is based on five “trust service principles” to ensure:
- Processing integrity
- Privacy of customer data
Compliance can be evaluated by independent auditors who assess a company’s ability to comply with these five principles.
SOC 2 is one of the more common requirements that SaaS companies must meet, but that doesn’t make compliance any simpler or dealing with an audit any less exacting. In this post we have laid out the most important requirements and the steps you should take to become compliant quickly in order to stay out of trouble with auditors and compete in a crowded SaaS market.
Establish a Baseline & Monitor for the Unknown
Achieving the required level of oversight to meet SOC 2 compliance at your SaaS organization means you must monitor for unusual system activity, authorized and unauthorized system configuration changes, and user access levels. It’s necessary to monitor not only for known malicious activity, such as common phishing schemes and obviously inappropriate access, but also for unknowns, including zero-day threats or new types of misuse.
Establishing a baseline of what’s normal is the first step in being able to recognize these unknowns. A continuous security monitoring platform that detects potential threats from both internal and external sources will allow you to see exactly what’s happening within your cloud infrastructure and to recognize when an action deviates from your baseline, creating cause for concern.
Set Up Fine-Tuned Security Alerts
Once you’ve established the proper monitoring practices, you’ll need a way to receive information about threats in a timely manner. SOC 2 requires that you put in place sufficient alerting procedures and demonstrate the ability to respond and take corrective action whenever a security incident occurs. According to SOC 2, your SaaS company must receive alerts about any activity that results in unauthorized:
- Exposure or modification of data, controls, or configurations
- File transfer activities
- Privileged file system, account, or login access
The one caveat here is that too many alerts can flood you with false positives, resulting in alert fatigue and a real risk that important alerts will go unnoticed. An effective alert process, however, will filter out noise by sounding the alarm only when activity deviates from the norm within your unique environment. Once you determine which activities pose a true threat, you can ensure that you only receive relevant alerts that allow you to respond quickly to prevent data from being compromised.
Create Audit Trails
To identify the root cause of an attack, you’ll need deep, contextual audit trails. These can provide you with insight into:
- Modification, addition, or removal of key system components
- Unauthorized modifications of data and configurations
- Breadth of attack impact and the point of origin
Only once you have the necessary cloud context around a security incident and understand the who, what, when, where, and why of a threat can you begin remediating the issue. Audit trails become especially pertinent when you’re dealing with an active threat because they give you the information you need to respond swiftly and effectively.
Having the right monitoring tools, alert processes, and audit trails in place is all well and good, but unless you can take corrective action before critical customer data is compromised or exposed, you’ve lost the battle. Actionable insights enable a clear view and a rapid response, key factors in your SaaS company’s ability to comply with SOC 2.
The actionable data necessary to make informed security decisions is available thanks to host-based monitoring, which gives you visibility into:
- An attack’s point of origin
- Its path of travel
- Its impact on various parts of your system
- What its next move may be
Armed with this forensic detail, it’s possible to act on threats before they impact your SaaS customers, mitigating their damage, avoiding data loss, and preventing similar security events from resurfacing in the future.
With SOC 2 being such a hot topic among SaaS companies, it will likely come up in conversations with prospects and customers. Achieving compliance through outside auditing will not only assure these groups of your security as a SaaS organization, thereby boosting sales and customer loyalty; it will also drive greater control over your cloud infrastructure, ensuring secure workflows, tools, and integrations.