SOC 2 vs SOC for Cybersecurity: 3 Main Differences

Organizations want to ensure that the personal assets of potential and existing clients are protected. To do so, organizations can validate their controls through a variety of assessments, but choosing the right one for your organization’s specific needs can be a difficult process.

Through the new SOC for Cybersecurity examination, organizations can now demonstrate the effectiveness of their cybersecurity controls and risk management. This new assessment overlaps with the existing SOC 2 audit, however both assessments are different and should be treated so. It’s important to understand that these examinations should not be used to replace one another but should be based upon the specific needs of clients.

Read more: AICPA’s New SOC for Cybersecurity Examination

The AICPA Guide, Reporting on an Entity’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Program and Control, goes into great detail analyzing the comparison of SOC for Cybersecurity risk management examination with SOC 2 engagement and related reports.  Below, the three main differences between SOC 2 and SOC for Cybersecurity are outlined.

Purpose and Use

For the SOC 2 examination, the purpose is to provide a wide range of system users with control information related to five Trust Services Criteria (TSCs) including:

  • Security
  • Availability
  • Processing integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Privacy

This information should be used to support the user’s evaluation of their system’s internal control. The SOC 2 assessment is intended for the internal management team and specific third parties to the service organization who have adequate knowledge of the organization and its system.

The Cybersecurity Risk Management Program Objectives are defined by management. Some examples of cybersecurity objectives include:

  • Availability
  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity of Data
  • Integrity of Processing

The intended users are relevant roles to cybersecurity risk management program and all affected personnel, including management, directors, analysts, and investors.

Criteria for Engagement

While both examinations require similar control and descriptive criteria, thus making them seem interchangeable, there are still major distinctions.

For example, in a SOC 2 assessment, each criterion follows the five TSCs and each criterion has defined associated control points which are based upon policies, communications, procedures, and monitoring. Within the description criteria, service organizations are to explain the systems in use. For the evaluation criteria, organization are to assess the design and operating effectiveness of the controls.

SOC for Cybersecurity also has descriptive and control criteria; however, the criterion is focused primarily on cybersecurity. For the descriptive criteria, organizations are to provide a narrative description of current cybersecurity risk management program to measure effectiveness of controls within the program. As for the control criteria, organizations will use pre-existing standards, such as NIST Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Framework and ISO 27001/27002, to measure the cybersecurity controls being evaluated.

Assessment Reports

Since both examinations are performed under different criteria, the reports will contain different content.

The SOC 2 reports include:

  • A written assertion completed by management which describes the system.
  • The auditor’s opinion of the fairness of presentation of management’s description in the written assertion as well as an opinion as to the design and operating effectiveness of controls as they apply to the Trust Services Criteria.
  • In a SOC 2 Type 2 report, there is a summary and results of the auditor’s tests of controls.

Typically, SOC 2 reports contain sensitive organizational information and are only shared with necessary parties.

The SOC for Cybersecurity report has three different content components:

  • The management’s written description of the entity’s cybersecurity risk management program.
  • The effectiveness of the controls within that program in achieving the entity’s cybersecurity objectives.
  • The practitioner’s opinion on whether management’s written description is presented in accordance with the description criteria and whether the controls were effective in achieving the entity’s cybersecurity objectives.

Choosing Your Assessment

Given the outlined major differences of SOC 2 vs SOC for Cybersecurity, organizations can now begin to determine which assessment is most beneficial. Nevertheless, both audits can help organizations improve and demonstrate their controls to gain a competitive edge by communicating their security efforts to provide their clients with peace of mind.

As a licensed CPA firm, A-LIGN can conduct both SOC 2 and SOC for Cybersecurity audits for your company so our primary focus is to select the right audit for your needs.

For more information regarding these audits, contact us at [email protected] or call 1-888-702-5446 to have an experienced assessor answer your questions.