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SOC 2 Trust Services Criteria

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Securing your SOC 2 compliance badge is no small feat, and at the core lies the Trust Services Criteria (TSC). These criteria apply to your organization’s Infrastructure, Software, People, Procedures, and Data.  

Our goal is for you to understand the criteria and choose the most suitable one(s) for your business's audit. By the end of this blog post, you will fully grasp the details of these criteria and also learn how to select them. 

 

What Are the Trust Services Criteria? 

The Trust Services Criteria (TSC) form the foundation of SOC 2 compliance. These five standards ensure robust compliance practices and understanding them is key to navigating the intricacies of a SOC 2 attestation. Security is a non-negotiable must or the SOC 2 audit.

Think of this TSC as the main band that attracts your clients to buy “tickets to the show” – or buy your organization’s services and products. The interesting part is, while Security stands as the solo headlining act, your SOC 2 audit allows for the option of an additional criterion beyond Security. Consider it as the opener, complementing the main band and enhancing the overall audit, "concert experience."  
So, you have the flexibility to choose either a solo performance with Security or to add another TSC for your compliance "show." 

The other TSC — availability, confidentiality, privacy, or processing integrity— are optional, as we’ve established. They’re based on the services your company offers your customers and what you want to showcase and have evaluated by auditors. But we will see how to make that decision after we’ve defined each TSC first.  Let's take a closer look at them:  

trust services criteria
soc 2 security criteria
soc 2 integrity criteria
soc 2 availability criteria
soc 2 confidentiality criteria
soc 2 privacy criteria

 

Security:

Auditors delve into your security policies, risk assessments, and controls to ensure your systems are not only Fort Knox secure, but also guarded against unauthorized access and potential risks.  

For instance, if you're a cloud-based service provider, the audit would scrutinize access controls, encryption protocols, and incident response plans to fortify the security of customer data. Remember: This is the only required  TSC! 

Processing Integrity:

The focus here is on accuracy and completeness of data processing and prevention of data manipulation or fraud/error.  

Imagine you're a financial institution handling millions of transactions daily. Processing integrity ensures that each transaction is accurately recorded. This means that when a customer transfers funds or executes any financial transaction, the system reliably captures, processes, and records the transaction details without discrepancies.  

Controls like transaction reconciliation, validation checks, and real-time monitoring contribute to maintaining processing integrity in financial transactions. 

Availability:

This criterion evaluates your disaster recovery plans, performance monitoring, and business continuity strategies. How well do you minimize downtime for critical systems and ensure timely access to services?

Imagine an e-commerce platform; availability is critical all year round, but, especially during holiday seasons, their platform needs to properly handle sudden traffic spikes, guaranteeing customers can access the website, browse products, make seamless transactions, and ultimately have a positive experience with the brand. 

Confidentiality:

Beyond security measures, it involves proving that you can responsibly manage sensitive data throughout its lifecycle. Auditors concentrate on how you identify, protect, and destroy confidential information.  

In a legal firm, maintaining confidentiality is a legal and ethical obligation. Client information, case details, and legal strategies are treated as highly confidential. Access to sensitive documents is restricted through secure login credentials.

And document encryption is applied to protect information during transmission and storage. Additionally, strict confidentiality agreements with employees and collaborators help reinforce the commitment to keeping client information confidential.  

Privacy:

This criterion safeguards personally identifiable information (PII) through encryption, access controls, and data retention policies. In the context of a healthcare app, users must be provided with transparent privacy policies and consent mechanisms, to ensure they have control over how their health information is used and shared. 
  

 

Which Trust Service Criteria Should I Choose for My SOC 2 Audit? 

Great question! Now that you have more clarity on what each criteria encompasses, we can break them down even further and help you on your decision-making journey. 

If you're grappling with the decision of which criteria to focus on in your initial audit, remember that security is the only required TSC! Although we find that many customers also value confidentiality, so beginning with these two is a solid foundation.  

However, don’t get us wrong, it should be clear that the final choice shouldn’t be random. Since it’s influenced by a series of factors, like legal regulations and what enterprise buyers demand, the other TSC you evaluate have to align with your company objectives. Adjusting your compliance performance with the expectations of your business audience is key.  

soc 2 trust services criteria

Industry’s Nature: Depending on what you specialize in, some TSC are more relevant. For example, if you compare the finance and trade industries, the first might value availability the most and the second, data privacy. 

Internal Policies: Question yourself what are your existing controls and policies, what are the gaps in them and where do you want to be in the near future, what do you want to be known for in terms of security? By evaluating your current procedures and the categories that align with your objectives, you’ll have greater clarity to choose a TSC. 

Legal Compliance: Consider the legal landscape that governs your industry and business operations. Different sectors have varying regulatory requirements and standards. The tech sector, for example, may emphasize criteria addressing data privacy to align with data protection laws. 

Customer’s Expectation: If you know that your customers prioritize handling private information, consider tackling the privacy category. Think of it like selecting an opening act that resonates with your audience—it's about tailoring the performance to meet your specific needs. Just as you wouldn't choose a heavy metal group as an opener for a pop music crowd, ensuring your criteria match your context is essential. 

 

Wrap up! 

You know your customers, your industry, and your business best, but in case you are having second thoughts or would like further guidance, we have your back! That’s why the BEMO SOC 2 expert assigned to your case will engage in a collaborative discussion with you to determine any other appropriate TSCs that align with your organization’s objectives. 

Speak With a Compliance Expert

Remember, don’t approach the SOC 2 audit as a mere compliance checklist; it's truly about composing a cybersecurity narrative that resonates with your audience's expectations and evolves with the rhythm of your business's growth. 

To get even more ready for the audit, dive into our other blog posts on SOC 2. They're packed with insights to help you prepare and succeed in this cybersecurity journey: 

 

 

 

 

 

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