A Full Guide to Achieving SOC 2 Certification for Startups

Navigating the SOC 2 Audit

Welcome to SOC 2 compliance, a crucial certification for safeguarding data security and trustworthiness in today’s digital landscape. This comprehensive guide, presented by Centraleyes, will walk you through the intricacies of SOC 2 certification, from understanding the audit process to achieving compliance.

SOC 2, short for System and Organization Controls 2, is an independent audit and certification that evaluates an organization’s information systems security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy controls. It’s not just about SOC 2 compliance for startups; it’s about demonstrating to your clients and stakeholders that you take data security seriously.

A Full Guide to Achieving SOC 2 Certification for Startups

How Does a SOC 2 Play Out?

Imagine the SOC 2 audit for startups as a journey with several key stages:

  1. Planning: This phase kicks off with selecting an audit scope, defining the Trust Services Principles (TSPs) relevant to your organization, and outlining the objectives of the audit.
  2. Assessment: Auditors will dive deep into your controls, policies, and procedures. They’ll want to see evidence that your organization adheres to the TSPs.
  3. Remediation: Based on the startup auditor’s findings, you’ll need to remediate any control deficiencies or gaps in your security practices.
  4. Testing: Auditors perform various tests to verify the effectiveness of your controls. This may include reviewing documentation, conducting interviews, and observing processes.
  5. Reporting: At the conclusion of the audit, you’ll receive a report that outlines the auditor’s findings. This report is typically confidential and shared only with select stakeholders.
  6. Certification: If your organization meets all the necessary criteria, you’ll be awarded SOC 2 certification, demonstrating your data security commitment.

What to Expect During a SOC 2 Audit?

Auditors will scrutinize your organization’s internal control environment. This involves an evaluation of policies, procedures, and operational practices. They will also assess your physical and logical security measures, data handling processes, and privacy policies.

Which Controls or Features are Necessary?

To achieve SOC 2 certification, you must comply with the specific Trust Services Principles (TSPs) that apply to your organization. The five SOC 2 categories of TSPs include:

  • Security: Ensuring your systems are protected against unauthorized access, both physically and logically.
  • Availability: Guaranteeing your systems are available for operation as agreed upon with your clients.
  • Processing Integrity: Ensuring your system processes are accurate, timely, and authorized.
  • Confidentiality: Protecting sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure.
  • Privacy: Managing personal information in line with privacy principles defined by relevant authorities.

Who Developed SOC 2 and Why?

SOC 2, or System and Organization Controls 2, was developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The AICPA is a professional organization of certified public accountants in the United States, and it is responsible for creating and maintaining the SOC framework, including SOC 2.

The primary reason behind the development of SOC 2 was to address the need for a standardized framework to assess and report on the controls relevant to the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of data and systems in service organizations. These controls are crucial in today’s digital landscape, where organizations often rely on third-party service providers to handle their data and perform essential functions.

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Unpacking the SOC 2 Framework: A Guide for Startups

We’ve curated an essential SOC 2 audit checklist tailored to startups like yours to guide you through the SOC 2 process year after year.

1. Assemble a Dedicated Team

✅ Team Selection: Handpick the right individuals within your organization to create a dedicated team solely focused on the SOC 2 audit. Their commitment will be pivotal in successfully navigating the audit. Since your daily business operations must continue, consider assigning team members to the audit while lightening their regular workloads to ensure practical results.

2. Define Your Organizational Systems & Structure

✅ Organizational Insight: Take a comprehensive view of your startup as a whole. Now is the moment to identify the constituents of your systems and processes, pinpointing which areas necessitate SOC 2 certification. Visualizing an “inventory” of your systems, processes, and equipment through network and process maps can offer invaluable insights into data handling. Additionally, it’s the right time to determine which SOC 2 Trust Service Principles align with your startup’s objectives. Don’t hesitate to seek expert advice to ensure you’re on the right track for the audit.

3. Secure Top-Down Support

✅ Executive Alignment: A SOC 2 compliance audit should rank high on your startup’s priority list, starting from the top echelons of leadership. Ensure your executives are aware of the audit and fully comprehend its significance. Engage the entire organization to foster a collective approach to SOC 2 compliance for your startup.

4. Streamline Your Audit Scope

✅ Scope Refinement: Identify and carefully select the systems to include in your audit. While it might seem diligent to encompass every system within your organization, this can lead to unnecessary complexity and an increased workload. A focused approach is often more effective. Avoid redundant efforts for services provided by third parties already certified with SOC 2. By narrowing your audit scope, you enhance manageability and concentration.

5. Prioritize the Risk Assessment

✅ Risk Assessment: Among the most pivotal steps in your SOC 2 journey is conducting a thorough risk assessment. It’s not merely a compliance requirement but a powerful tool to uncover and address issues proactively before the audit commences. Analyze the results and take decisive actions to remediate identified gaps.

6. Harness the Power of Automated Tools

✅ Automate for Efficiency: Think of the SOC 2 audit as a marathon; you’ll want to make it as efficient as possible. Invest in an automated compliance platform, saving you countless hours and resources. Look for these key features:

  • User-Friendly Interface: Opt for an intuitive visual software that’s easy to deploy and navigate. Modern platforms streamline onboarding with smart questionnaires, making data collection more manageable.
  • Automation: A top-tier compliance platform automates various processes, from data collection and analysis to providing insightful remediation steps and progress tracking. Automated scanning, monitoring, and alerts reduce manual labor and simplify audit management.
  • Robust Reporting: Ensure your chosen platform offers automated reporting capabilities for compiling data into audit reports and tracking progress. Customizable reports help maintain alignment within your team.
  • Preloaded SOC 2 Framework & Smart Mapping: Platforms with preloaded frameworks provide a comprehensive SOC 2 controls list, minimizing the risk of overlooking critical elements. Smart mapping effortlessly applies compliance controls to your systems, endpoints, and processes.

BONUS TIP: An automated compliance platform with smart mapping can extend its benefits to other compliance frameworks, saving time if you need to meet additional standards like ISO 27001 or HIPAA.

7. Take Immediate Remedial Action

✅ Remediate and Mitigate: Don’t wait for the audit to uncover non-compliance. Leverage the results from your risk assessment to address issues, close gaps, make necessary changes, and ensure your policies and procedures are aligned and up-to-date well before your audit date.

8. Policies and Procedures

✅ Policy Precision: Policies outline what you do, while procedures govern how you do it. Thoroughly review your policies to ensure they encompass all necessary aspects. Verify that your procedures align seamlessly with your company policies. Although specific policies may vary depending on your organization, here are some to consider:

  • Information Security Policy
  • Access Control Policy
  • Password Policy
  • Privacy Policy (for the company)
  • Privacy Notice (for your customers)
  • Change Management Policy
  • Acceptable Use Policy
  • Logging and Monitoring Policy
  • Vendor Management Policy
  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation Policy
  • Incident Response Policy
  • Data Classification Policy
  • Backup Policy for Information, Software, and Systems
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans

Success Lies in Preparation

The checklist above lays the groundwork for a successful SOC 2 audit journey. Simplify your SOC 2 preparation with a compliance automation platform like Centraleyes. 

About Centraleyes

At Centraleyes, we’re not just another advisory firm but your partner in achieving unparalleled security, privacy, and compliance. Our mission is to provide you with an unmatched level of service, setting the bar high in our industry. With a relentless commitment to craftsmanship, we serve clients across the United States and globally, ensuring quality certification and compliance.

Ready to embark on your SOC 2 compliance journey? Let’s get started together.

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

Looking to learn more about SOC 2 Certification for Startups?
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