SOC 2 vs ISO 27001: What’s The Difference?

Navigating the ins and outs of two of the most popular compliance frameworks.

When it comes to vendor due diligence, many companies are raising the bar. This article will help you weigh the difference on SOC 2 vs ISO 27001. 

In addition to evaluating vendor revenue, growth, and skills, security is becoming an important focus of client reviews. With almost half of security breaches occurring because of vendors, it’s no wonder that security attestations and certifications such as SOC 2 and ISO 27001 are now conversation points during the sales cycle.

SOC 2 and ISO 27001 tackle a similar problem, but from different perspectives. So, if a prospect is asking for you to achieve a security certification or attestation, how do you choose between SOC 2 and ISO 27001?

In the next post of this series, we discuss how to identify the best framework for your security program. Before this, we must first understand the key differences between SOC 2 and ISO 27001.

SOC 2 vs ISO 27001: Design

SOC 2 is a reporting framework that describes a specific system and its associated controls. It is governed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

The controls in a SOC 2 report are designed based on existing processes to conform to and meet all requirements of the Trust Services Criteria (TSC). Within the final SOC 2 report, the system description provides an overview of the solution being audited and is based on the AICPA’s requirements for a system description (DC-200).

A SOC 2 Type I report will generally be conducted first and is a “point-in-time” report. This report describes the controls that are in place but does not address their operating effectiveness.

A Type II report covers a specified period of time and examines how controls performed throughout the examination period.

ISO 27001 is a management framework that is governed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The primary focus of the framework is to establish a management system to oversee information security (the Information Security Management System, or ISMS).

Requirements for the ISMS are found in Clauses 4-10 of the ISO 27001 standard. ISO 27001 also requires an annual internal audit against a control set. Annex A of the ISO 27001 standard contains 114 controls that are used as a baseline control set.

SOC 2 vs ISO 27001: Process

It’s important to understand where the processes of getting a SOC 2 report and obtaining ISO 27001 certification differ.

At a high level, the steps for obtaining your first SOC 2 report include:

  • Initial gap assessment
  • Design of controls based on the TSC
  • Remediation of identified gaps
  • Development of the system description in accordance with DC-200
  • Completion of the Type I audit
  • Completion of the Type II audit after the examination period has passed

Every ISO 27001 implementation is unique, but in general, the steps to certification are:

  • Completion of the internal audit against the ISO 27001 standard
  • Remediation of internal audit findings
  • Establishment of ISO 27001-specific policies and management structure
  • Completion of the risk assessment
  • Stage 1 of the external audit
  • Stage 2 of the external audit

SOC 2 vs ISO 27001: End Result

With a SOC 2 examination, the end result will be a prospect/client-ready report. This report contains a description of the product or service as well as the controls that support them and the environment in which it is created. The report is issued with an opinion from the auditor, or attestation.

That is to say, the report may be clean, clean with some exceptions, or adverse.

ISO 27001 is more binary in nature. The goal is to obtain ISO 27001 certification.

This certification will demonstrate to prospects and clients that your organization has established an Information Security Management System (ISMS). This ISMS involves members of top-level management. The goal of the ISMS is to govern and drive continuous improvement of information security within the organization.

Conclusion

One must consider many factors when choosing the right path for a security program. We explore some of these factors in the next post of this series, “SOC 2 vs ISO 27001: Choosing a Compliance Framework.

Need help deciding what the best approach is for your security program? Reach out to our team of experts here and we will be happy to help!

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