The goal of a SOC 2 audit is to evaluate and verify how a service provider, whether an IT provider, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, or other outsourced solution, handles sensitive customer data. Companies are pursuing SOC 2 certification because it is an industry-recognized way to show customers that their security program is worthy of their trust.

When thinking about how to prepare for a SOC 2 audit, cyber risk assessment and penetration testing should be on your list. Penetration testing as part of your SOC 2 audit preparation helps you identify vulnerabilities and check that your existing policies are being followed before going in to the audit, setting you up to earn a clean report.

3 Challenges of SOC 2 Audit Preparation

Customers expect SOC 2 certification, and proper SOC 2 audit preparation is critical to meeting that expectation. However, it is not a quick and easy box to check, and companies often run into the following challenges:

  • Getting (and Keeping) Your House in Order
    SOC 2 certification is expensive and time-consuming, especially when you are preparing to go through the process the first time. Further, audits are not a one-off occurrence: Because customers require a current SOC 2 report, you will be audited regularly. SOC 2 certification requires you to get your security house in order before the first audit and keep it in order going forward. Thorough preparation from the beginning can make sure your business does it right the first time.
  • Understanding the Scope of an Audit, You Also Need to Know Your Soc 2 Scope
    Does your entire business need to be audited, or the infrastructure around a specific product? You need to know what is being audited and be able to respond to the questions that will come up.
  • Making Sure Your Existing Security Policies Are Being Followed
    Once the audit starts, your business is on the clock. You are not going to have time to build new security policies and make them effective. You have to provide evidence that your security policies fit the common criteria and your business is following its own defined policies and procedures. For example, if your policies say you are penetration testing a particular system once a year or performing continuous pen testing as part of Agile development sprints on a software product, you have to show in the audit that you are actually doing it. If not, it will be a finding on the audit report.

The Role of Penetration Testing in SOC 2 Audit Preparation

Penetration testing is a way of learning the real-world impact of vulnerabilities in IT systems and software. Depending on your intended SOC 2 scope, you can tailor penetration testing appropriately (e.g., to a software product or to your entire organization). Furthermore, penetration tests can help you overcome issues that could lead to having to go through the audit process again due to a failed first try. Experienced penetration testers can help guide you through the mitigation and correction of findings.

Though penetration testing is not explicitly required for SOC 2 audit preparation, it is highly unlikely that a company with IT systems or a SaaS provider would go to the SOC 2 stage without a penetration test. Penetration testing is crucial to assessing those systems and products, and determining adherence to a security policy is an integral part of SOC 2 auditing.

Working with a penetration tester who gets to know your business and tailors their penetration testing appropriately to it can make this part of auditing easier, since they can focus the penetration testing on your needs and goals and help you attain both business and auditing goals.

Furthermore, penetration testing can uncover parts of your security program that are not being followed—or show the parts that are being followed. For example, if you have a patching program defined in your security policies, a penetration test of your IT infrastructure will identify software that is not actually being patched pursuant to that policy. On the other hand, a progression of testing can show that issues are being found and remediated in the proper period of time, as defined in policies.

Be Prepared for SOC 2

Penetration testing is an important part of both securing your business and being ready for your SOC 2 audit. Working with a penetration tester who gets to know your business and your compliance goals can help make sure that your penetration test is well tailored to both your SOC 2 needs and your industry’s threat landscape. Kroll’s collaborative way of working ensures that expectations are developed properly and the engagement remains focused on your goals.

Learn more about penetration testing with Kroll, and find out how our experience and our approach can help you meet your SOC 2 needs and strengthen your security posture.

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