ISO 27001 vs SOC 2: The Definitive Guide

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This is the 2024 definitive guide to the difference between ISO 27001 and SOC2.

Wondering what the difference between ISO 27001 and SOC2 is? Let’s take a look.

What are ISO 27001 and SOC 2?

Let us start with what these information security frameworks are so we have a baseline understanding.

What is ISO 27001?

Published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), in partnership with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), we have ISO 27001 (ISO/IEC 27001) – a rock-solid framework for developing and maintaining an Information Security Management System (ISMS).

An ISMS is a structure of policies, procedures and controls designed to monitor and protect an organisation’s sensitive information via effective risk management.

An ISMS guarantees the confidentialityintegrity, and availability of information by identifying and mitigating security risks within organisations.

It’s all about systematically managing information security like a well-oiled machine and building a cyber-resilience like no other, based on risk management.

What is SOC 2?

SOC 2 (Service Organisation Control 2) is a more flexible auditing standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) that focuses on five Trust Services Criteria (TSCs): securityavailabilityprocessing integrityconfidentiality, and privacy.

The first one (Security) is mandatory, but the other four are up to the organisation to decide.

It is down to you as an organisation to decide what controls you have in place and want to be audited against.

ISO 27001 v SOC 2 Summary Table

The following is a high level summary of the differences between ISO 27001 and SOC 2.

ISO 27001SOC 2
What You Get A certificateA detailed report on compliance
How big is it1 Page60+ Pages
Details on what you are doing rightYes – summaryYes – detail
Details on what you are going wrongNoYes – detail
Share with public YesNo
Share with clientsYesUnder Contract
Average Time Being Audited5 days10 days
Typical Cost$10,000$30,000
Standard Set Of Controls To ImplementYesNo
Type of AuditPoint In Time AuditType 1: Point in Time
Type 2: Covers a reporting period (typically 12 months)
ExpiresAfter 3 YearsNever.
Typically people will renew every 12 months.
ISO 27001 v SOC 2 Summary Table

ISO 27001 Certification and SOC 2 Compliance

Both ISO 27001 and SOC 2 require an external audit, but they differ in who conducts them and what the end result is.

ISO 27001 results in a certificate.

SOC 2 results in an audit report on compliance.

The ISO 27001 Certificate is a one page document that states what your scope is and whether or not you are certified to ISO 27001. It is a summary document containing no further details.

SOC 2 results in a detailed audit report of the level of controls that you have defined and whether you meet them or not. The report will include where you did not meet the controls. It is a detailed, warts and all report. The report will be 10’s of pages long and typically around 60 to 100 pages of audit findings.

ISO 27001 certification process

For ISO 27001, an accredited certification body must carry out the audit.

Here’s the summary of the ISO 27001 Certification process: 

  1. Identify the information assets that need protection and the processes that need to be included in the Information Security Management System (ISMS).
  2. Identify the risks to the information assets and evaluate their impact. This helps to prioritise which risks to address first and what controls to implement.
  3. Once the controls have been identified, the organisation needs to implement them.
  4. Conduct internal audits to make sure that the ISMS is operating properly and meets the ISO 27001 standard.
  5. Conduct a management review of the ISMS to make sure it’s meeting the organisation’s goals and objectives.
  6. An external certification body will perform an audit to determine whether the ISMS meets the ISO 27001 standard. If it does, ISO 27001 certificate granted. Done and dusted.

The SOC2 compliance process

For SOC 2, a licensed Certified Public Accountant must perform the audit.

Before you start the process, you need to decide what type of SOC 2 attestation report your organisation requires:

  • SOC 2 Type I: This type of audit checks the design and implementation of a company’s controls at a specific point in time. It’s about determining whether the controls are adequately designed and in place to meet the Trust Services Criteria.
  • SOC 2 Type II: A type 2 audit is a more comprehensive assessment that checks not just the design of the controls, but how effective they are over a period of time of 6 months or more.

Here’s a breakdown of how to achieve SOC 2 attestation:

  1. Understand the Trust Services Criteria that define SOC 2 compliance. These criteria focus on securityavailabilityprocessing integrityconfidentiality, and privacy of data.
  2. Clarify the scope and identify the systems, processes, and data that are part of your compliance efforts. Establish what services you provide and the infrastructure involved.
  3. Conduct a risk assessment and assess potential vulnerabilities in your systems and processes. This will help you prioritise controls to reduce those risks.
  4. Create policies and procedures that are clear, well-documented, and address the Trust Services Criteria. These should cover data management, system availability, access controls, incident response, and employee training.
  5. Implement security controls to protect data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. This includes access controls, encryption, network security, secure coding practices, and incident response plans.
  6. If you work with third-party vendors, manage them to ensure that they meet SOC 2 requirements. Assess their compliance, review contracts, and monitor their performance.
  7. Perform regular audits and assessments. Hire an independent auditing firm to assess your controls and provide an opinion on your compliance. Regular audits are necessary to maintain SOC 2 compliance.
  8. Address issues, fix any deficiencies or gaps identified during audits or assessments, and put plans in place to ensure you meet all requirements.
  9. Keep an eye on your systems and processes, update policies as needed, and regularly review and strengthen your security controls to continuously monitor and improve.
  10. Get your attestation, and away you go! 

As you can see, the certification process for each framework is similar. In fact, they share 96% of the same security controls if you use ISO 27001 as your baseline.

ISO 27001 and SOC 2: so what’s the difference really?

The main difference between the structures is scope. ISO 27001’s aim is to provide a framework for how companies should manage their data with an Information Security Management System (ISMS) in place, risk management and controls chosen and implemented to a level based on risk.

Whereas SOC 2 is more about ensuring that the company has the right information security controls and that they are operating effectively based on the controls that they have chosen to implement.

ISO 27001 or SOC 2: which should I choose?

Ah, the million-dollar question!  

They’re two of most popular information security and risk management frameworks in the world, and each has its advantages. But the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. With all great races, it’s not just about speed – it’s about doing it right, and that will completely depend on your business need.

The number 1 tip is to choose the one that your clients are asking you to have.

Here’s a roundup of pros and cons to help you decide…

Advantages of SOC 2

  • Complying with all five TSCs gives organisations a competitive edge, especially in industries with higher compliance standards, BUT not all of them are required to achieve certification

Disadvantages of SOC 2

  • SOC 2 is a demanding process
  • A SOC 2 audit can only perform an audit on the security controls already in place
  • In terms of market applicability, SOC 2 is mainly associated with North America
  • SOC 2 attestation is slower to achieve
  • SOC 2 attestation is more expensive

Advantages of ISO 27001

  • ISO 27001 offers greater protection against security threats and cyber attacks
  • In terms of market applicability, ISO 27001 is an internationally recognised standard
  • ISO 27001 offers data integrityconfidentiality and availability
  • ISO 27001 offers company-wide protection
  • ISO 27001 is less documentation intensive
  • ISO 27001 can be quicker to get certified and prove less expensive

Disadvantages of ISO 27001

  • It is a risk based system so it does not guarantee security, only that risks have been identified and managed.
  • It is a one page certificate summary so there are no details on the level of controls or any deficiencies.

Both are effective, but it depends on your organisation’s requirements, resources, and goals.

Is it worth having ISO 27001 and SOC 2? 

Why not double the protection, you ask? You absolutely can! With ISO 27001 certification and SOC 2 attestation under your belt, your organisation will be an unstoppable information security powerhouse. You’ll ensure regulatory compliance across borders and make your clients feel extra secure.

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If you’re not sure whether you need to implement ISO 27001, SOC 2, or both, book your free ISO 27001 strategy session and I’ll help you work it out.