Companies are increasingly turning to software-as-a-service (SaaS); IDG predicts that organizations' share of SaaS apps will rise to 36% by the end of 2021, up from 24% in mid-2020.
This growth reflects the advantages organizations see in SaaS. For example, businesses can use SaaS to achieve faster deployment times than they can with on-premises software. In addition, SaaS solutions can run with a Web browser on any type of device, and operational management is minimal. There are no lengthy installation processes or equipment updates. There aren't even upfront hardware costs; organizations can use pay-as-you-go plans to scale their SaaS solutions, including investments in security technology and expertise.
Many employees are using the cloud to access business applications remotely, and organizations want to make sure their data remains safe in the process. A 2020 survey found that 52% of companies were using cloud services that had experienced a breach involving user data. The last thing businesses want is to work with a cloud service provider with a record of user data stolen in a breach.
This raises an important question: How can SaaS vendors demonstrate proof of their commitment to taking their customers' data security seriously?
SOC 2: An Overview
One way SaaS vendors can demonstrate this is by achieving attestation with SOC 2. According to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), SOC 2 is a means for SaaS vendors and other organizations to obtain reports that provide detailed information and assurance about the systems they use to process users' data. It does so by using criteria from five categories:
- Security: This attests that an organization's systems are protected against instances of unauthorized access and unauthorized information disclosure. It also serves as proof that organizations have taken steps to protect their systems against damage that could compromise the availability, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of their stored information along with systems that play an essential part in meeting their objectives.
- Availability: This confirms that attested organizations' information and systems are available as a means of meeting their respective objectives.
- Processing integrity: This validates that an organization's system-processing capabilities are complete and accurate.
- Confidentiality: This demonstrates that organizations keep their confidential information protected so that it doesn't end up in the wrong hands and prevent them from reaching their business goals.
- Privacy: This shows an attested organization's lifecycle for managing personal information, including processes for properly retaining, disclosing, and disposing of information.
SOC 2 attestation helps SaaS vendors demonstrate that digital security is a primary focus. Many large organizations require vendors to provide a SOC 2 report and submit an SOC 2 attestation audit annually.
But the security impact of SOC 2 is even broader than that. For example, SaaS vendors must minimize the risk of a data breach to obtain a clean report. This requires vendors to implement foundational security controls such as multifactor authentication (MFA) and incorporate security into every business process (including DevOps). These efforts help SaaS organizations strengthen their systems' security and make them more valuable to potential customers of all sizes.
Where This Leaves SaaS Vendors
Given the benefits of SOC 2 attestation, SaaS companies need to take the appropriate steps to make attestation flow as smoothly as possible. One of the first things they need to do is consider attestation early so that they can create a strategy for implementing security controls and investing in their security awareness training program. This proactive approach will help them foster security by design without wasting time and resources.
Up next is to tailor their security plans, budgets, and schedules for SOC 2. Related to this, they need to foster cross-department dialogue by asking IT personnel to engage other segments of the organization using non-technical language. What's needed is a business language that highlights the importance of security companywide and emphasizes how each employee is individually responsible for contributing to and shaping the employer's overall level of security.