In years past, management of the information technology (IT) wing of many companies was simple, entailing little more than any other personnel group. But as the technology that businesses run and rely on has grown increasingly more complex, effective IT management has become essential. To that end, managed security for SOC compliance is one of the most important elements of IT management practices.
Depending on what industries they operate within, various companies are beholden to certain standards for security and best practices. One such standard is SOC Compliance, mandated by the AICPA. Using managed security services is one of the best ways to ensure compliance with SOC guidelines, for a number of reasons.
If you’re wondering why use managed security for SOC compliance? This guide is your answer.
Why Use Managed Security for SOC Compliance?
Because outsourced security services allow you to access premium cyberdefense practices and mechanisms regardless of your internal infrastructure.
By outsourcing security controls to an external managed security service provider (MSSP), you free up your internal IT to focus on matters directly related to your business model.
Plus, using an MSSP often allows you to maintain compliance and other security protocols at a fraction of the cost it would entail for fully internal processes.
In the sections that follow, we’ll break down what managed security services are and what SOC compliance is, as well as what it entails. Then, once that’s established, we’ll dive into the various benefits of using managed security to ensure SOC compliance.
But first, let’s go over why you need to consider SOC compliance in the first place…
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Why SOC Compliance Matters
SOC Compliance matters for peace of mind, both for your personnel and clientele. You need to ensure your customers know that they can entrust you with safe storage and processing of their data.
SOC compliance entails the following benefits:
- Security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy
- Robust and actionable understanding of vulnerabilities
- Customer satisfaction and trust
- Enhanced data protection
As we’ll discuss in further detail below, SOC compliance is necessary for any company that uses outside providers for software as a service (SaaS). That includes many of the basic functionalities that all companies rely on, such as data hosting, processing, cloud services, and colocation. If you use any of these services, as most companies do, SOC compliance is a must.
Now, let’s get into what managed security is.
What are Managed Security Services?
Managed security services are all-in-one security solutions provided by an external company.
Cybersecurity is an extremely complex area of management for a company of any size, and many companies’ own IT resources can be overburdened when tasked with handling both productivity goals and cybersecurity responsibilities.
So, many companies opt to outsource their IT security management to external providers like us here at RSI Security.
Managed security services are often optimized and targeted toward compliance. MSSPs typically offer advanced practices and guidance to meet and exceed norms required by regulatory bodies. But compliance is far from the only thing managed security can accomplish.
Managed security can also entail ongoing analysis of a company’s cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses, as well as detailed construction and implementation of new security infrastructure.
Service Organization Control 101
The Service Organization Control standards are administered by the American Institute of CPAs, also known as AICPA. The organization, which has been around since 1887—long predating internet technology—strives to ensure safety and uniformity in all accounting matters.
Part of that focus involves making sure that accounting data stored and processed by companies is completely secure from the threat of theft, fraud, and other forms of cybercrime.
Enter the Service Organization Controls.
The SOC controls seek to authenticate the security of a company’s sensitive accounting data. Specifically, these controls ensure the data’s safety in the event that the company outsources any of its IT management to an outside company, as noted above.
There are three levels of SOC compliance:
- SOC 1 for Service Organizations: Internal Control over Financial Reporting (ICFR)
- SOC 2 for Service Organizations: Trust Services Criteria
- SOC 3 for Service Organizations: Trust Services Criteria for General Use Report
Within these three, there are various forms of reporting required to ensure compliance. And of these three, the most important for most businesses is SOC 2.
However, there are key differences and similarities between the three.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
SOC 1: Internal Control Over Financial Reporting
This level of compliance is measured in a report that examines control over financial reporting.
According to AICPA, the SOC 1 report’s expanded title is “Report on Controls at a Service Organization Relevant to User Entities’ Internal Control over Financial Reporting (ICFR).”
It corresponds to a company’s adherence to attestation standards set out in AT-C 320, and the report generated is not public. Instead, it’s intended only for sharing between the auditor and the service organization.
SOC 1 also breaks down into two types of reports:
- SOC 1 type 1 – This report is concerned with the overall fairness of management’s presented description(s) of the service organization’s system on one specific date and at a specified time. It also concerns how well-suited the systems are, respective to the stated goals of the system’s controls.
- SOC 1 type 2 – Like SOC 1 type 1, this report is also focused on the fairness and suitability of an organization’s description and services, respectively. However, unlike type 1, type 2 is concerned with these properties over a duration of time.
Across these two types, SOC 1 ensures fidelity in the relationship between user entities and the service organizations that process their financial data.
SOC 2 builds on SOC 1 and broadens the scope of compliance.
SOC 2: Trust Services Criteria
This is the most important level of SOC compliance for most businesses. It entails the overall trust that a user can reasonably expect out of a service organization. As such, it is the most comprehensive of the three SOC levels—and the most consequential.
According to AICPA, the extended title for SOC 2 is “Report on Controls at a Service Organization Relevant to Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality or Privacy.”
As this extended name suggests, a SOC 2 report essentially measures an institution’s commitment to and demonstrable properties of:
- Security – This principle concerns restriction of access to authorized parties. The most important elements include:
- Network and perimeter protections
- Intrusion detection and mitigation
- Availability – This principle measures the accessibility of resources respective to the specific contract agreed upon between the service organization and its clients. Key measurable elements include:
- Incident management and recovery
- Performance monitoring
- Processing Integrity – Irrespective of data integrity, this principle simply measures the extent to which processes are valid, complete, and timely. Relevant markers include:
- Process logs
- Quality assurance
- Confidentiality – This principle is concerned with the identification and maintenance of any data deemed confidential. Maintaining the integrity of such data entails several measures, including but not limited to:
- Privacy – Finally, this principle concerns the collection, processing, storage, and transfer of personal data. Specifically, it concerns personal identifiable information (name, address, biological details) and financial information. Measurable factors include:
These key principles are at the core of an institution’s cyber security and general IT management. Per AICPA, they are essential to every element of a business’s relationship with clients, from oversight to corporate governance to vendor and risk management.
Similarly to SOC 1 reporting, an SOC 2 report is not public knowledge. It is commonly shared amongst more stakeholders than SOC 1, but information related to SOC 2 is generally protected by a non-disclosure agreement between all entitled parties.
And, also like SOC 1, SOC 2 entails two types of report:
- SOC 2 type 1 – This type is concerned with an organization’s services—design and description thereof— relative to the five principles detailed above. It’s focused on the trust expected at a fixed point in time.
- SOC 2 type 2 – Like type 1, type 2 is also focused on the description and design of services per the five principles. However, it measures the efficacy of the services and the ongoing trust that can be expected over a prolonged period of time.
Across these two types of reports, an organization’s overall trust is measured both at a given moment in time and over a given period of time. This provides a comprehensive view of ideal and actual trust in the company’s cybersecurity.
While its name is similar to that of SOC 2, SOC 3 is starkly different in focus and purpose.
SOC 3: Trust Services Criteria for General Use Report
At this level, the focus shifts from internal documentation to public reporting.
SOC 3 entails the highest possible level of security and operational excellence that AICPA can bestow upon a service organization. Unlike the prior two SOC levels, a SOC 3 report is made publicly available to anyone with an interest in learning about the company in question.
An auditor preparing a SOC 3 report will be concerned with the same general criteria detailed for SOC 2 above. SOC 3 reports are still assessing a company’s:
- Processing Integrity
However, a crucial difference is that the final report on the company’s five principles is made accessible to the lay viewer. Anyone can read and learn from a SOC 3 report, even if they don’t possess the technical knowledge to understand the details of a SOC 2 report.
In fact, SOC 3 reports are commonly used in marketing materials for a company.
Attaining level 3 SOC compliance is a point of pride that makes a company attractive relative to its competitors. Unlike the previous two SOC levels, SOC 3 does not have alternate types. Instead, all SOC 3 reports take on the longitudinal form of the type 2 reports detailed above.
Now, let’s return to managed security and review how and why using an MSSP for SOC compliance can prove beneficial.
Benefits of Using MSSP for SOC Compliance
Firstly, using an MSSP is a reason you would need to be SOC compliant—so using the MSSP for that compliance closes the loop. As noted above, SOC compliance is incredibly important for businesses that are outsourcing any of their IT to an external company.
In an ideal situation, that same IT provider should be equipped to ensure compliance with SOC.
SOC is unique as far as controls go, since the standards are not uniform (as with PCI DSS, for example). Instead, the required practices differ based on the specific topography of your company. That uniqueness can make SOC compliance especially challenging.
A great MSSP will meet the challenge, learning your systems inside and out to keep you compliant no matter what your infrastructure is. Plus, that same MSSP will generally be able to ensure compliance across a number of other regulatory guidelines (HIPAA, etc.).
When using managed security services, SOC compliance is rolled into a complete cybersecurity package, optimizing efficiency across all compliance and cyberdefense measures.
That’s especially true when using a premium MSSP, such as RSI Security.
Professionalize Your Cyberdefenses
At RSI Security, we’re committed to making cybersecurity simple for our clients—we believe businesses of all sizes and scopes should have access to premium cyberdefense at affordable prices. Among the many services we offer, our compliance suites and managed security services offer incredible value, packaging various services together to lower costs for you.
We offer custom-tailored MSSP SOC services encompassing both type one and type two testing for immediate results and longer-term analysis. In addition, we can assist with any and all regulatory guidelines your company must comply with (HIPAA, PCI DSS, etc.)
And our broader managed security services packages comprise various other features, including but not limited to:
- Antivirus and malware remediation
- Comprehensive infrastructure management
- Security information and event management (SIEM)
- Vulnerability assessment and penetration (pen) testing
With over a decade of experience providing managed security and other solutions to companies across various industries, we’re your first and best option when it comes to cyberdefense.
To see what managed security can do for you, contact RSI Security today.
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