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Understanding Which Vendor “SOC” You Received This Holiday

3 min read
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Santa’s on the way, and well… it looks like all you may be getting this year are “SOCs.” Oh boy. Well, at least it’s better than coal. All jokes aside, SOC reports can be confusing business. As you may be aware, SOC reports are independent audit reports defined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and are performed by a certified public accountant (CPA). So, now that you have one on your desk, how do you know what kind of SOC report it is? You’ll often see a SOC 1, SOC 2 or SOC 3. There are other SOC types, such as the SOC for Cybersecurity and SOC for Supply Chain, but those haven’t taken off yet, so they’ll be rare to see.  Let’s discuss further and see if we can’t help you out.

SOC Overview: The Difference Between SOC 1, 2 and 3 Reports

A SOC 1 is designed to review a vendor’s internal controls as they relate to financial reporting. SOC 1 audit reports are what you’ll be looking for when it comes to non-information system-based products and services. A SOC 1 report is considered confidential and must be requested from the vendor.

A SOC 2, which is also considered confidential with slight differences in intended audience, must also be requested from the vendor as they’re not meant to be available to the public. It’s an examination on the company’s controls over one or more of the following five Trust Services Criteria (TSC):

  1. Security: The system is protected against unauthorized access, use or modification
  2. Availability: The system is available for operation and use as committed or agreed
  3. Processing Integrity: System processing is complete, valid, accurate, timely and authorized
  4. Confidentiality: Information designated as confidential is protected as committed or agreed
  5. Privacy: The system’s collection, use, retention, disclosure, and disposal of personal information are in conformity with the commitments in the service organization’s privacy notice and with criteria set forth in the Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP) issued by the AICPA.

A SOC 3 report is a high-level report that is publicly available and doesn’t contain any confidential information. It’s essentially a summary of the SOC 2 report. A SOC 3 does not contain the listing of control activities or results of the testing performed.

To add to the confusion, both a SOC 1 and SOC 2, can be a Type I or a Type II. The main difference is that a Type I report is an official testimonial stating that the controls at a service organization exist at a specific point in time, versus a Type II report, which provides proof of controls at a service organization over a period of time, typically 6-12 months.

A Closer Look at Type I and Type II

A Type I report covers audit controls as of a specific date. They’re often done prior to a Type II for evidence that a control environment is in place.

A Type II report covers controls that were in place and operating over a period of time. These reports include a description of any significant changes to the system during that span of time and is typically a more rigorous assessment which focuses on operational effectiveness over a longer haul.

SOC Reporting Importance

Peace of mind is priceless, and SOC reports function to add increased trust and transparency. Risk management is an enterprise-wide concern, and SOC reports provide an additional layer of assurance around your vendor’s operational soundness.

Here are a few other ways SOC reports create value:

  • Verifies the vendor has controls in place to protect their system 
  • Confirms the controls in place are operating effectively and if there are any control exceptions (Type II)
  • Ensures independent testing of controls has been completed  
  • Provides an overview of the product or service being provided to your organization
  • Assists greatly with the ongoing monitoring phase of the vendor lifecycle and helps guarantee compliance with regulatory expectations  

Reviewing your third-party’s SOC report should be a key part of your vendor due diligence and helps identify and close gaps before they become a bigger issue. When in doubt, engage with a qualified expert who can help review and analyze the report. 

Dive deeper into how to review and analyze your vendor's SOC reports. View this interactive guide to help. 

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