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ISO 27001 and SOC 2 Compliance: Can you spot the differences?

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If you’ve ever wondered what the difference was between ISO 27001 vs SOC 2, you are not alone.

ISO 27001 and SOC 2 are two compliance frameworks that many SaaS companies encounter, especially as they grow and begin working with medium-sized to enterprise clients. Granted, with the influx of cyber attacks happening across the world, even smaller organizations need to implement a cybersecurity standard. T-Mobile, a US-based mobile phone and data provider, is just the latest example in a long list of highly publicized data breaches at the time of writing this blog post.

Because of this, regulatory bodies have taken up the mantle to provide companies guidance on how to help companies shore up their Information Security Management programs (ISMS). Both ISO 27001 and SOC 2 compliance are just two of dozens of certifications touted as the gold standard for cybersecurity compliance. But what are they, and what’s the difference?

What is ISO 27001 (also known as ISO/IEC 27001)?

ISO 27001 is defined by ISO.org as “providing requirements for an information security management system (ISMS)” with “more than a dozen standards in the ISO/IEC 27000 family.” It’s generally seen as the international gold standard for an ISMS, and a company must have it in place to demonstrate its commitment to securing its customer’s sensitive data. 

What is SOC 2?

SOC 2 (and yes, there is a SOC 1 and SOC 3 accreditation process) checks to see if your IT providers are storing client data in secure environments with strict internal policies. Like ISO 27001, it aims to protect the interests of your customers and “customer’s customers” data. It’s a minimum requirement for most SaaS providers doing business in the USA and holds some relevance outside of the country but is lesser known abroad. We’ll get to that piece in a minute.

What is the difference between ISO 27001 and SOC 2?

Let’s start with a company that wants to get ISO 27001 certification in place. ISO 27001 certification is provided by a “recognized ISO 27001-accredited certification body,” which means the certification body needs to meet a rigid set of standards put in place by the International Standards Organization, or the “ISO” in “ISO 27001”. If your company passes the audit, it receives formal certification.

SOC 2, however, is a set of standards overseen by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. This is why SOC 2 is less known abroad and quite often only known by American companies with overseas operations.

How is ISO 27001 similar to SOC 2?

As mentioned, both aim to provide guidance around cybersecurity. So much so that itgovernance.eu reports less than 4% variance between the ISO 27001 and SOC 2 compliance frameworks. That is a lot of overlap! But if you really think about it, a clean desk policy is a clean desk policy. The same goes for other areas that need to be secured, including:

  • Data encryption at rest and in transit
  • Blocking ports and protocols
  • Performing regular risk assessments
  • Maintaining asset inventory
  • Screening employees and background checks
  • Limiting physical access to secure areas

The list goes on and on because experts think these to be the baseline for any compliance program.

Another similarity is that both frameworks only require a company to have control in place if it is applicable. That may sound like a loophole, but note that both frameworks require a certifying body to audit your controls and make recommendations prior to certification.

Can my company benefit from the overlap?

Yes! If your company is looking to get either certification, that overlap is your ticket to completing an audit once and using that work in the other. Free resources online are risky because they quickly fall out of date as new threats arise and new protocols are added to these frameworks. Most companies either hire a consultant to guide them through the process or obtain ISO 27001 compliance software to help identify the similarities to SOC 2. This allows companies to just focus on that small difference between the two, where applicable.

Want to go further?

Take the work you’ve already invested in answering the ISO 27001 and easily map the responses to other frameworks, such as NIST CSF, CMMC, SOC 2, and more. ControlMap guides you each step of the way, making it fast, easy, and efficient.

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About ControlMap

ControlMap was founded in 2019 to simplify cybersecurity audits. Its online platform automates and streamlines the otherwise complex process, reducing the time needed to prepare and manage audits. Its software supports multiple frameworks and covers all aspects of audit readiness and compliance management.

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