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6 SOC 2 Audit Challenges Your Business Should Watch Out For

Compliance

Preparing for a System and Organization Control 2 (SOC 2) audit can be nerve-wracking. That’s understandable since your organization’s reputation is on the line. Failing to get certified will hurt your credibility, which can turn potential clients away.

That’s a significant responsibility. And if you’re reading this now, you might be the person assigned to see the audit through. If that’s the case, knowing the obstacles you’ll be facing is vital. That way, you can prepare for them before the audit team arrives.

Intelligent Technical Solutions (ITS) has years of experience helping countless businesses prepare for compliance assessments and audits. In this article, we’ll go over:

  • Steps of a SOC 2 audit process 
  • SOC 2 audit problems and how to solve them

RELATED: What is SOC 2 Compliance, and What Does It Mean for Businesses? 

11 Steps of a SOC 2 Audit Process 

Magnifying glass focusing on AUDIT text, symbolizing the detailed scrutiny in SOC 2 audits

To get a better understanding of the challenges you will face during the SOC 2 audit, you should understand how it’s conducted. Here are the steps you will have to go through during your audit: 

Step 1: Preparation 

The company undergoing the audit gathers relevant information about its systems, policies, and procedures.

Step 2: Selection of Trust Services Criteria 

The company and the auditor agree on which Trust Services Criteria (TSC) will be evaluated during the audit. These criteria cover the following areas: 

  • Security – Established by restricting access to information through user authorization.   
  • Availability – Established by ensuring parties who own information have access to it. 
  • Processing integrity – Established by minimizing flaws in all cybersecurity architecture.   
  • Confidentiality – Established by taking extra measures to protect unique kinds of data.   
  • Privacy – Established by paying particular attention to personally identifiable information or PII.

Step 3: Documentation Review 

The auditor examines policies, procedures, and system configurations to understand how the company manages its information security risks.

Step 4: Testing Controls 

The auditor tests the effectiveness of controls in place to ensure they meet the selected Trust Services Criteria. This may involve examining security measures, reviewing access logs, or observing how data is handled.

Step 5: Interviews 

The auditor interviews key personnel to understand the company's processes better and verify that controls are being implemented effectively.

Step 6: Evidence Collection 

Throughout the audit, the auditor collects evidence to support their findings. This evidence may include documents, screenshots, and recorded interviews.

Step 7: Report Preparation 

Based on their findings, the auditor prepares a report detailing the company's compliance with the selected Trust Services Criteria. This report includes observations, recommendations, and any identified deficiencies.

Step 8: Review and Approval 

The company reviews the draft report to ensure accuracy and completeness. Once satisfied, they approve the report for distribution.

Step 9: Distribution of Report 

The final report is distributed to relevant parties, such as customers, stakeholders, or regulatory bodies, to demonstrate the company's commitment to security and compliance.

Step 10: Follow-Up 

If any deficiencies or areas for improvement are identified, the company takes corrective action to address them. The auditor may follow up to ensure these actions have been implemented effectively.

Step 11: Renewal 

SOC 2 audits are typically conducted annually to ensure ongoing compliance and to provide updated assurance to stakeholders. The process repeats each year to maintain trust and confidence in the company's security practices.

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6 SOC 2 Audit Challenges to Watch Out For 

Here are the most common reasons why a business might struggle with a SOC 2 audit, along with ways to overcome them:

1. Finding the Right Auditor

The Challenge: 

Finding the right auditor seems like a no-brainer, but it’s more complicated than you think. Finding one who knows your industry, day-to-day operations, and customer expectations is essential. Otherwise, the SOC 2 report might work against you. An auditor who doesn’t know how your business operates may be unable to produce a report that meets your customer’s expectations.

How to Tackle It: 

  • Define your needs. Consider what your potential clients are looking for. 
  • Do your research. It's important to evaluate credentials and conduct interviews with potential auditing firms. 
  • Request proposals from the auditors detailing their audit approach, scope of work, timeline, and fee structure. Compare the proposals carefully to ensure they align with your needs and budget.

2. Insufficient Audit Preparation

The Challenge: 

SOC 2 compliance requires significant time, manpower, and resources. Unfortunately, many businesses often underestimate how much is needed until it’s time for the audit. Insufficient preparation can result in delays or, worse, failed audits. That’s time, effort, and money down the drain.

How to Tackle It: 

  • Start the preparation process early and allocate sufficient time and resources for each step. 
  • Conduct a gap assessment to identify areas where additional preparation is needed. 
  • Develop a detailed roadmap with milestones and deadlines. 
  • Engage with stakeholders across the organization to build awareness and support for the compliance initiative. 
  • Consider hiring external consultants or experts to provide guidance and support throughout the preparation process. They can help ensure a more thorough and effective approach to achieving SOC 2 certification.

3. Difficulty in Understanding Requirements

The Challenge: 

One of the biggest problems with SOC 2 is that it doesn't have a simple list of controls for organizations to implement. Instead, it uses the TSC, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. That makes understanding the specific control requirements for SOC 2 a complex undertaking. If your team fails to fully grasp the concept, it could lead to confusion that negatively impacts your audit.

How to Tackle It: 

  • Seek guidance from experts or consultants with experience in SOC 2 compliance. They can help interpret control requirements and translate them into actionable steps. 
  • Leverage industry resources such as SOC 2 implementation guides and best practices documents. Those will give you insights into commonly accepted control measures. 
  • Break down complex requirements into smaller, more manageable tasks. 
  • Lastly, prioritize your implementation based on a risk assessment.

4. Incomplete or Inaccurate Documentation

The Challenge: 

Businesses must document their processes and controls thoroughly for a SOC 2 audit. Your documents must be comprehensive and demonstrate how your organization meets its criteria.

It’s a time-consuming task but a critical one. Failing to do it properly can lead to consequences once the auditor comes. At best, it could hinder the examination process. At worst, it could raise concerns about your company’s commitment to meeting their requirements.

How to Tackle It: 

  • Conduct a thorough review of existing documentation and fill in any gaps or inaccuracies. 
  • Establish a centralized repository for all relevant documents 
  • Ensure the documents are regularly updated and accessible to auditors

5. Failing to Define the Scope

The Challenge: 

If you still haven’t set the scope for a SOC 2 audit, you should consider doing it before the auditor comes. Defining the scope is one of the most crucial steps toward certification. That’s because it helps you set clear boundaries with the audit team. The clearer you are about how your production setup fits into the audit's focus, the better your conversations with the audit team will be. This understanding also prevents auditors from investigating areas that aren't relevant.

How to Tackle It: 

  • Clarify the scope with the auditing firm early in the process. That will ensure a shared understanding of what will be assessed. 
  • Review the Trust Services Criteria (TSC) and discuss any areas of ambiguity or concern with the auditors. 
  • Engage in open communication to address any misunderstandings and align expectations accordingly.

6. Audit Fatigue

The Challenge: 

SOC 2 audits can be time and labor-intensive endeavors. That can cause audit fatigue, which refers to the weariness and frustration that individuals or organizations feel due to frequent audits. It usually happens when team members are repeatedly pulled away from their core work to help satisfy an assessment. It could significantly affect team morale if left unchecked, making them feel indifferent toward your goals. That could also lead to gaps during the audit process.

How to Tackle It: 

  • Prioritize projects based on urgency and importance. 
  • Consider hiring additional help or using tools to automate some of the audit processes. 
  • Outsource to an experienced managed service provider (MSP) to reduce the burden on your team. 

Business professionals analyzing financial data on a tablet during a SOC 2 audit preparation meeting

Ready to Tackle the Challenges of a SOC 2 Audit? 

The road toward a fruitful SOC 2 audit is filled with obstacles. Whether it’s finding the right auditor or dealing with audit fatigue, finding a strategic plan to overcome them is essential to your success. Thankfully, this article helps you identify these challenges so you can plan for them.

You can also read through our other compliance articles in the ITS Learning Center:

If you still need help preparing for a SOC 2 audit, we can help. Our team at ITS has years of experience handling SOC 2 compliance. We can guide you through the complexities and difficulties of getting your certification. Schedule a meeting to find out what we can do for you. 

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