In today’s digital landscape, cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) have become integral for businesses of all sizes. As organizations increasingly rely on third-party providers to store and process sensitive customer data, there is a heightened need to validate these vendors’ security practices and controls. This is where SOC 2 compliance comes in.
SOC 2, which stands for System and Organization Controls 2, is an auditing standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for service organizations. It ensures that a service provider has sufficient policies and procedures in place to protect the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customers’ data and systems. Organizations can become SOC 2 compliant by undergoing independent audits and obtaining certification reports.
There are two main types of SOC 2 compliance reports – Type 1 and Type 2. While both report on controls relevant to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy, there are some key differences between the two that organizations should understand when determining which is right for them. This article will delve into the distinctions between SOC 2 Type 1 and Type 2 reports and provide guidance on choosing the optimal report for your service provider needs.
SOC 2 Type 1
A SOC 2 Type 1 report is a point-in-time audit that examines the design and implementation of an organization’s controls, policies, and procedures that impact the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of a system. The purpose of a Type 1 assessment is to validate whether an organization’s controls have been implemented and designed properly according to the applicable Trust Services Criteria.
Some key things to know about SOC 2 Type 1 reports:
- Assesses the design of an organization’s controls at a specific point in time, like a snapshot. Does not measure the operating effectiveness of controls over a period of time.
- Trust Services Criteria used for evaluation are set by the AICPA and based on principles outlined in TSP section 100, 2017 Trust Services Criteria for Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy.
- Typically takes 1-2 months to complete a Type 1 assessment.
- The final report will contain a detailed description of the organization’s system, management’s assertion on whether their controls achieve the criteria, and the auditor’s opinion.
- Receiving a SOC 2 Type 1 report signifies that an organization’s controls have been implemented and formally designed to meet the Trust Services Criteria as of the specific date of assessment.
The main benefits of a SOC 2 Type 1 report include:
- Validation that critical customer information security controls have been designed properly at a point in time.
- Assurance to customers that security policies and procedures adhere to industry standards.
- Increased credibility and trust in your brand’s ability to protect sensitive data.
- Identification of any control gaps or opportunities to optimize controls.
While a SOC 2 Type 1 report does not evaluate the operating effectiveness of controls over an extended time, it is a good starting point for organizations to confirm their controls and policies are designed correctly before undergoing the more rigorous Type 2 audit.
SOC 2 Type 2
A SOC 2 Type 2 report takes the assessment one step further by examining the ongoing operational effectiveness of an organization’s controls over a predefined period of time.
Whereas a Type 1 report evaluates if controls have been implemented as designed, a Type 2 report evaluates how well those controls operated over a minimum of six months.
Key details on SOC 2 Type 2 reports:
- Assesses both the design and operating effectiveness of an organization’s controls over a minimum six-month period.
- Required timeframe is typically 6-12 months of control testing.
- Final report contains the same components as a Type 1, as well as detailed testing results of control operating effectiveness over time.
- Most organizations aim to undergo annual Type 2 assessments for updated results.
- Signifies that an organization’s systems achieved the Trust Services Criteria over the full testing period.
The main benefits of a SOC 2 Type 2 report:
- Provides assurance that controls are working as intended beyond just point in time.
- Demonstrates that operational and security processes are effective on an ongoing basis.
- Meets many third-party annual compliance requirements.
- Offers actionable insights to improve any underperforming control areas.
- Maximizes trust and credibility for customers and prospects.
For organizations that store and process substantial customer data, a SOC 2 Type 2 report is often a prerequisite and minimum standard asked of service providers before partnerships. The extended testing period provides invaluable evidence that your controls work reliably and minimize risks day to day.
Key Differences Between SOC 2 Type 1 and Type 2
While both SOC 2 Type 1 and Type 2 reports are extremely valuable in demonstrating security controls to customers, there are some notable differences between the two:
- Evaluation Period: Type 1 reports examine controls at a point in time versus Type 2 evaluating controls over an extended timeframe of at least six months.
- Level of Detail: Type 2 reports provide more comprehensive detail on the operating effectiveness of controls over the testing period. A Type 1 report offers high-level design validation only.
- Audit Testing: A Type 1 audit includes inquiry and observation as testing methods. A Type 2 audit involves extensive inquiry, observation, inspection, and re-performance of controls.
- Cost: Given the longer testing period and heightened scrutiny, Type 2 audits typically cost more than Type 1.
- Timing: A Type 1 assessment can be completed in 1-2 months. A Type 2 requires a minimum 6-month testing period.
- Assertions: Type 1 evaluates design only. Type 2 evaluates design + operating effectiveness of controls.
- Reporting: The Type 2 report contains all components of a Type 1 report plus detailed testing results over time.
- Customer Needs: Type 1 meets foundational compliance needs. Type 2 meets expanded annual compliance needs and provides ongoing assurance of control environments.
In summary, while Type 1 reports validate proper control design, Type 2 reports provide the most rigorous validation of effective security over an extended timeframe.
Choosing the Right SOC 2 Report for Your Organization
When determining whether your organization should undergo SOC 2 Type 1 or Type 2 certification, there are several factors to consider:
- Do your customers and prospects expect SOC 2 compliance? Type 2 is usually minimum.
- Will SOC 2 strengthen your competitive edge? Type 2 builds more trust.
- Does your sector require ongoing control audits (annually)? Type 2 meets this need.
- Do competitors hold Type 2 certification? Keeping pace is wise.
- Do other regulations or standards ask for SOC 2 specifically? Know which type.
- Can SOC 2 testing help satisfy other mandates? Type 2 covers more bases.
- Is your customer base rapidly growing? Get ahead with Type 2.
- Are you a startup with new controls? Type 1 first to validate design.
- Do you store sensitive customer data? Type 2 provides more assurance.
- Do the benefits of credibility outweigh audit costs? Especially with Type 2.
- Does Type 2 provide return on investment? Deeper insights improve security.
By assessing your organization against these criteria, you can determine if a Type 1 or Type 2 assessment better aligns with your business goals, resources, and stage of growth. While Type 2 provides the highest level of validation, Type 1 offers foundational benefits at a lower investment.
As threats grow more sophisticated, earning customers’ trust through compliance reporting becomes progressively vital. SOC 2 defines stringent controls for data security, availability, privacy, confidentiality, and processing integrity. Undergoing either a Type 1 or Type 2 SOC 2 audit signals to customers that your organization takes precautions seriously.
While Type 1 reports verify proper security control design, Type 2 reports deliver the deepest validation of effective, ongoing due diligence. For any cloud SaaS or data service provider, compliance builds immense credibility. Evaluating your organizational needs and customer expectations will clarify which SOC 2 report suits your situation best. With controls audited and SOC 2 certification attained, organizations can confidently showcase their commitment to compliance and customer care.