What differentiates ISO 27001 from SOC 2 certification?
ISO 27001 certification and SOC 2 attestation are two of the most popular information security and risk management frameworks. ISO 27001 and SOC 2 have many similarities and a lot of the areas within the framework overlap, especially in the areas of security controls including the processes, policies and technologies designed to protect sensitive data. In fact, some comparisons have suggested that up to 96% of the security controls in both standards are the same. Knowing this, how would you choose which framework is right for you? Let’s start by looking at the key compliance components of both in more detail.
SOC 2 and ISO27001 are similar in that they are designed to portray trustworthiness in your organisation insomuch that you are attesting to the fact that you will protect the information and systems relating to your customers.
First, looking at the overriding principles of each standard. They both entrench the principles of securing information in terms of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. The differences lie in which security controls you implement. Both ISO 27001 and SOC 2 state that organisations need only adopt a control if it applies to them, but the approach to implementation is slightly different for each.
The primary difference between SOC2 and ISO27001 is that SOC 2 mainly focuses on you proving the security controls that protect your customer data have been implemented. ISO27001, in addition to this, also demands that you to prove you have an operational Information Security Management System (ISMS) in place to continuously manage your InfoSec programme, and there are several controls around proving your management systems are in place and regularly reviewed to conform to auditing schedules.
To achieve ISO27001 compliance, you must conduct a risk assessment, identify, and implement security controls, then review their effectiveness on a regular basis to remain certified. In contrast, SOC2 offers greater flexibility and comprises of five Trust Services Principles: Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality and Privacy, but only the Security principle is mandatory. Organisations can implement internal controls for each of the other principles if they desire, but this is not required to obtain certification.
ISO27001 and SOC2 are both reputable security certifications, accepted around the world as proof that you have adequate information security controls in place. If you conduct business with organisations in the United States, they will likely accept either as attestation to your InfoSec programme, as SOC2 is well known and widely used in America. In Australia (and elsewhere around the world) ISO27001 is much more widely accepted by customers and many will not have heard of SOC2.
You must complete an external audit to certify against both frameworks. The main difference is in how this process works and who conducts the audit. For ISO27001, a recognised ISO 27001 - accredited certification body must complete the certification. When an organisation passes the ISO27001 audit they will receive a certificate of compliance. A certificate accompanies this certification.
For SOC2, a licensed CPA (Certified Public Accountant) performs the audit for certification, the SOC 2 compliance is documented with a formal attestation.
These certifications have a similar open cost in terms of your internal resources implementing security controls and gathering the required evidence to prove conformity with SOC 2 or ISO27001.
While pricing will vary across the industry, depending on the scope of your certification project. ISO27001 is externally audited so that additional external validation is the next level of assurance, but does have a cost overhead.
It is customary for both SOC 2 and ISO27001 certifications to be renewed periodically to remain valid. For ISO27001, this needs to be reviewed every 3 years and for SOC2 this needs to be reviewed annually.
The certification process is similar for ISO 27001 and SOC 2, each has three stages to complete.
- Gap Analysis - Conducting a gap analysis is imperative, you need to define which areas of the framework that are already compliant and the areas where you need improvements. Whilst conducting the gap analysis it is advisable to define your security objectives and the areas of your business that will be included.
- Security Controls - Identify which security controls are appropriate for your organisation and take the necessary steps to start implementation. Document your practices and procedures and establish a method for reviewing and improving the processes.
- Audit - The final step is the audit. It is advisable to do an internal audit before the accredited body conducts its audit, if you have the capacity to do this. This allows you to correct any errors before the external audit. When you are confident that your compliance practices are in place, contact a certification body to arrange the external audit.
How long this process takes really depends on how much work you need to bring your practices up to the framework standards. On average it usually takes approximately two or three months to implement SOC 2, and three to six months to implement ISO 27001.
We hope this article has made your decision making a little easier. SOC2 is by far the easier of the two framework standards. The flip side is that SOC2 is less rigorous.
ISO 27001 involves more work, but it offers greater protection and a more complete management solution for counteracting information security threats, which in turn gives your customers more confidence and trust in that you are providing them with adequate protection. The upside of this investment is that it should give your business the edge over your competitors, especially when tendering for work.
CXO Security’s expert team are happy to discuss either of these security frameworks with you in detail and assist you in making the decision of which path is right for your organisation. We specialise in IT governance, risk management and compliance services, with a particular focus on cyber resilience, data protection, cyber security and business continuity, audits, and risk management, as well as penetration testing and vulnerability assessments.
If you found this ISO 27001 vs SOC2 comparison useful and would like to discuss how you can get certification for your own business, get in touch by Contacting Us today