Maximizing the Efficiency of your SOC Examination



Are you preparing for a SOC Examination, or do you know you will need one in the not-so-distant future? If so, you will want to make the most of the process. Here are a few ways to maximize the efficiency and enhance the effectiveness of your SOC exam.

  • Define the scope of the audit. SOC 1. SOC2/SOC 3, and SOC for Cybersecurity audits differ in scope. Before the process begins, determine your organization’s needs. For example, SOC 1/SSAE 18 exams provide assurance of adequate controls related to customers’ financial reporting. SOC 2 exams address security, availability, confidentiality, processing integrity, and privacy in accordance with AICPA Trust Services Criteria (TSC). SOC 3 reports are an extension of SOC 2 reports and can be distributed for public access to your SOC reporting status. (SOC 3 reports can only be provided for SOC 2 reports issued with no qualified opinion and subservice organizations) SOC for Cybersecurity reports provide a description of your cybersecurity risk management program and a set of evaluation benchmarks


  • Understand your clients. Delivering a quality SOC report to your clients or customers requires you to first understand the needs of your clients as it relates to the SOC. Your SOC examiner should be able to assist you in determining the needs of your clients and the requirements for your SOC report.


  • Understand compliance obligations. Depending on your industry, you will have applicable local, state, and federal policies and regulations, including HIPAA/HITECH, FedRamp/NIST, PCI DSS, GDPR, CCPA, and NERC CIP. Make sure you understand regulations and remain compliant with any relevant policies before the audit process begins.


  • Review policies and procedures. Your existing policies and procedures will serve as the baseline for the results of the audit, so be sure to review them ahead of time. If policies and procedures are not already formally documented, your SOC examiner can assist in determining the specific policies you should have in place. The SOC examiner cannot (and should not) develop and/or document your policies and procedures. However, they can provide leading practice policies that should be in place as well as templates of policy samples to facilitate your completion of required policies. Written policies are important for employees to understand compliance expectations and consequences for non-compliance. When reviewing your procedures, make sure you can easily make changes and update as needed.


  • Review staff training. While you are updating your policies and procedures, take some time to review and provide information on any training sessions offered to employees and managers and indicate how well the policies have been followed. This is especially important for a SOC 2 examination where the emphasis is on data security and user awareness training. Review whether all staff attended, understood the materials, had questions or concerns, and any errors that may have been made due to a misunderstanding or lapse in training.


  • Conduct a risk assessment. Before your audit begins, you should identify risks that may exist in your control environment. For a SOC 1, understand the risks that could impact the completeness and accuracy associated with processing customer transactions including risks within the general computer control environment. Your SOC examiner should be able to provide insight on ways to complete your assessment and ensure that you have considered all relevant risks. A formal risk assessment will need to be documented prior to completing the SOC examination. This will assist in targeting the specific risks and controls needed to complete the SOC examination in the most efficient manner possible.


  • Examine vendors. Closely examine all your vendor relationships and how you manage them. Complete a vendor risk assessment to ensure due diligence and ongoing oversight is in place to address and minimize vendor-associated risks.


  • Evaluate your organization’s controls. Finally, review your own logical and physical security controls in place to assess potential issues, threats, or risks to your and your clients’ data. Review all processes in your logical and physical environments, treatment of sensitive information and how you respond to security incidents and disasters.


Examining each of these areas before the SOC exam begins will help you identify potential issues in advance to facilitate the process and allow your business to minimize disruptions and maximize its benefit from the resulting report.


If you have questions or still feel overwhelmed, contact the experts at GrayCPA. We can guide you through the process from beginning to end. Our unique approach will help maximize your results and provide more confidence to your clients and illustrate the competency of your organization.