January 2, 2024

Understanding ISO 27001 and SOC 2 as Pillars of Global Data Security

George Bernard Shaw was quoted in 1942 as saying, "England and America are two countries separated by the same language." Much the same can be said about standards.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) created ISO 216, an international standard for paper sizes, used around the world except in North America and parts of Latin America. The standard defines the "A", "B", and "C" series of paper sizes, including A4, the most commonly available paper size worldwide. Anyone who has worked in printing or print technology will know the frustration of creating systems that meet two standards.

Paper is not the only place where American exceptionalism (or, for the historically minded, its 'manifest destiny') can cause problems. ISO 27001 provides a framework for how organisations should manage their data and provides a framework and guidelines for establishing, implementing, and managing an information security management system.

In the USA, SOC is the preferred standard. Developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), SOC 2 (Systems and Organisation Controls) requirements indicate that an organisation maintains a high level of information security. Strict compliance requirements (tested through on-site audits) help ensure sensitive information is handled responsibly.

There are several key differences between ISO 27001 and SOC 2, but the main difference is in scope. ISO 27001 provides a framework for how organisations should manage their data and prove they have an entire working information security management system (ISMS) in place.

In contrast, SOC 2 focuses more narrowly on proving that an organisation has implemented essential data security controls. ISO 27001 is about developing and maintaining an ISMS, while SOC 2 audits the current security controls.

ISO 27001, therefore, requires more extensive compliance measures to achieve certification.

ISO 27001 is a formal international security certification standard, and SOC 2 is a set of audit reports performed by an independent Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or accountancy organisation.

Unlike SOC 2, ISO 27001 certification uses universal standards for every industry and geographic location. However, SOC 2 is more flexible and customisable to the specific organisation based on individual industry standards and needs.

The result of a SOC 2 audit is an attestation report confirming an organisation meets SOC 2 standards. SOC 2 is not a certification.

There is a very considerable crossover between the two standards, and in many cases, they are interchangeable. But for firms working in the US, especially those working with public bodies and large corporations, it may be necessary to have both systems in place.

If you want to discuss this further, please contact Mark Stoddart at mark.stoddart@finativ.co.uk

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