SOC 2 Background Checks: Your Complete Guide


Woman working in IT showing importance of SOC 2 background checks

In this blog post we cover everything you need to know about SOC 2 background checks. Learn how background checks play a significant role in meeting SOC 2 Trust Service Criteria and how to choose a reputable and reliable vendor for your SOC 2 background checks to safeguard the integrity and security of your data.

What is SOC?

In the field of cybersecurity, a security operations centre (SOC) is a centralized unit within an organization that’s responsible for monitoring, detecting, and responding to security threats and incidents. A SOC program refers to the overall framework, processes, and tools used by the organization to establish and operate the SOC, including the deployment of security technologies, incident response procedures, threat intelligence gathering, and security monitoring.

A SOC program typically encompasses the following:

People: A SOC program requires a team of skilled cybersecurity professionals, such as security analysts, incident responders, threat hunters, and SOC managers, to perform the various functions within the SOC.

Processes: Well-defined processes and procedures are foundational to any SOC program to handle security threats and incidents effectively. This includes incident response plans, escalation protocols, incident triage, investigation procedures, and communication protocols.

Technology: A SOC program relies on a range of security technologies and tools to collect, analyze, and correlate security event data from various sources. These may include security information and event management (SIEM) systems, intrusion detection/prevention systems, log management systems, threat intelligence platforms, and other security monitoring and analytics tools.

Monitoring and Detection: Continuous monitoring and detection are vital aspects of a SOC program. This includes real-time monitoring of network traffic, log files, security events, and system alerts to identify potential security incidents or anomalies that could indicate a breach or malicious activity

Incident Response: A SOC program includes incident response capabilities to swiftly and effectively respond to security incidents. This involves containment, eradication, and recovery procedures to mitigate the impact of an incident and prevent further damage.

Threat Intelligence: SOC programs incorporate threat intelligence gathering and analysis to stay informed about the latest threats, vulnerabilities, and attack techniques. This information helps the SOC team in proactive threat hunting and enhancing their security controls.

Reporting and Analysis: SOC programs generate reports and conduct analysis to provide insights into the organization’s security posture, trends in security incidents, and recommendations for improving security measures and incident response effectiveness.

By implementing a SOC program, organizations can enhance their ability to detect and respond to cybersecurity threats, improve incident response times, and strengthen their overall security defences.

Employee monitoring company cybersecurity with SOC 2 background checks

What Is a SOC 2 Certification

The SOC certification program is a framework and standard by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for evaluating and reporting on the controls and processes implemented by a service organization to ensure the security, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of customer data. 

The SOC 2 auditing framework is particularly relevant for service organizations that handle customer data or provide services such as cloud computing, data hosting, software as a service (SaaS), and/or other outsourced services. It’s rooted in five trust principles: security, privacy, confidentiality, processing integrity, and availability, with an emphasis on security. Given the internal controls needed to generate a clean SOC 2 audit report, by achieving SOC 2 compliance, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to data security and privacy to their customers, stakeholders, partners, and investors.

SOC 1 vs SOC 2

The two most popular SOC reports are SOC 1 and SOC 2. The primary difference is that SOC 1 focuses on internal controls related to financial reporting whereas SOC 2 focuses primarily on the Trust Services Criteria (TSC). 

The TSC principles in the SOC 2 framework are the principles against which the organization’s controls and processes are evaluated. The TSC include the following:

1️⃣ Security: The organization’s systems are protected against unauthorized access, unauthorized disclosure of information, and damage.

2️⃣ Availability: The organization’s systems are available for operation and use as agreed upon or specified to meet customer requirements.

3️⃣ Processing Integrity: The organization’s processing is complete, accurate, timely, and authorized.

4️⃣ Confidentiality: Information designated as confidential is protected as agreed upon or specified to meet customer requirements.

5️⃣ Privacy: Personal information is collected, used, retained, disclosed, and disposed of in accordance with the organization’s privacy notice and criteria set forth in the Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP).

SOC 2 Audit

To achieve SOC 2 compliance, service organizations undergo a comprehensive audit conducted by an independent certified public accountant (CPA) or a certified auditing firm. The audit examines the organization’s controls and processes related to the TSC and assesses their design and operating effectiveness.

Once the audit is complete, the service organization receives a SOC 2 report, which includes a description of the organization’s systems and controls, the auditor’s evaluation on the effectiveness of these controls, and any identified control deficiencies or areas for improvement. 

SOC 2 compliance is an ongoing process, as organizations must continuously monitor and improve their controls to maintain compliance and address any identified deficiencies or risks. It provides assurance to customers that the service organization has implemented robust security and privacy measures to protect their data and meets industry-recognized standards for data security and privacy.

These reports aren’t just for larger companies, but also small and mid-sized businesses that collect customer data and/or provide cloud services.

Employee monitoring company cybersecurity with SOC 2 background checks

SOC 2 Background Check

Background checks are an essential component of a SOC 2. While background checks themselves aren’t explicitly required by the SOC 2 framework, they play a significant role in meeting the Trust and Security criteria.

SOC 2 audits evaluate the design and effectiveness of an organization’s internal controls and processes. Background checks are often conducted as part of the personnel security controls to ensure that individuals with access to sensitive data or critical systems meet the necessary standards of trustworthiness and reliability. By conducting checks, organizations can reduce the risk of insider threats, unauthorized access, and other security breaches.

We’ve covered how background checks help achieve SOC 2 compliance, but here are a few ways background checks fit into a SOC 2 program:

Trust Services Criteria: SOC 2 audits are based on the Trust Services Criteria (TSC), which includes the criterion of “Security.” As described above, this criterion evaluates the organization’s ability to protect its systems, data, and facilities against unauthorized access, disclosure, or damage. Background checks contribute to fulfilling this criterion by ensuring that employees, contractors, and third-party personnel are trustworthy and do not pose a security risk.

Personnel Screening: SOC 2 requires service organizations to establish and maintain appropriate controls over the selection and retention of personnel. Background checks are conducted to verify the identities, employment history, and criminal records of individuals before they are granted access to sensitive information or critical systems.

Access Controls: Background checks are closely tied to access controls within the SOC 2 framework. They help organizations validate the appropriateness of granting individuals access to specific systems, data, or facilities based on their background, qualifications, and job responsibilities. These checks are particularly important for individuals with elevated privileges or access to sensitive information.

Compliance with Legal and Regulatory Requirements: Background checks may also be necessary to comply with legal or industry-specific regulations. SOC 2 audits often require organizations to demonstrate adherence to relevant laws, regulations, and contractual obligations. Conducting checks on employees can help fulfill these requirements, especially in industries such as healthcare, finance, or government, where specific security and compliance standards exist.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements and practices regarding background checks can vary based on the organization’s size, industry, and risk appetite. Therefore, organizations should establish their own policies and procedures for conducting checks in alignment with the SOC 2 requirements and their specific risk management objectives.

Choosing a SOC 2 Background Check Vendor

When selecting a SOC 2 background check vendor, it’s essential to consider several factors to ensure you choose a reputable and reliable provider.

Here are 10 steps to guide you in choosing a suitable SOC 2 background check vendor:

  1. Identify Your Requirements – First, determine your specific requirements and the scope of the checks you need for SOC 2 compliance. Consider factors such as the types of checks needed, the frequency of checks, the jurisdictions involved, and any additional industry-specific regulations or standards that apply. Depending on how many employees you onboard at a time or in a year, you might want to check whether and/or how quickly the vendor can process the volume of checks you need.
  2. Research Vendor Options Conduct thorough research to identify potential vendors that specialize in SOC 2 compliance. Look for vendors with a strong reputation, experience in providing background checks for SOC 2 purposes, and a track record of compliance with relevant regulations. Here’s what to ask when choosing the right background check vendor.
  3. Evaluate Compliance Expertise – SOC 2 compliance requires an understanding of security, confidentiality, privacy, and other relevant controls. Assess the vendor’s knowledge and expertise in these areas, ensuring they have experience in conducting checks aligned with SOC 2 requirements.
  4. Assess Data Security Measures – As background checks involve handling sensitive personal information, it’s crucial to ensure the vendor has robust data security measures in place. Evaluate their data protection protocols, encryption methods, secure transmission practices, and storage policies to ensure compliance with relevant data protection regulations.
  5. Review Screening Processes – Examine the vendor’s screening processes and methodologies. Look for comprehensive checks that include identity verification, employment history, criminal record searches, education verification, and other relevant checks based on your requirements.
  6. Consider Turnaround Time – Evaluate the vendor’s turnaround time for conducting background checks. Timeliness is crucial, as delays in the screening process can impact your hiring or onboarding timelines. Ensure the vendor can provide efficient and prompt services without compromising the quality and accuracy of the checks.
  7. Check Compliance Reporting – SOC 2 compliance requires clear documentation and reporting. Inquire about the vendor’s reporting capabilities and the format in which they provide results. Ensure the reports are comprehensive, well-documented, and suitable for meeting your SOC 2 compliance obligations.
  8. Read References and Reviews – Seek references and reviews from other organizations that have used the vendor’s services. This can provide insights into their customer satisfaction, reliability, and overall performance. Certn is a leader in background checks according to G2.com, the world’s largest and most trusted software marketplace.
  9. Request Proposals and Contracts – Request proposals from shortlisted vendors, detailing the scope of services, pricing structures, service-level agreements, and any additional terms or conditions. Review the contracts carefully and seek legal counsel if necessary before making a final decision.
  10. Conduct Due Diligence – Before finalizing your selection, conduct due diligence by reviewing the vendor’s certifications, accreditations, and compliance with relevant industry standards. Assess their financial stability and their ability to scale their services to meet your organization’s needs.

By following these steps, you can identify and select a SOC 2 background check vendor that meets your specific requirements, ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and maintaining the integrity and security of your organization’s data.

SOC 2 and Background Checks

In summary, implementing a SOC program is crucial for organizations to enhance their ability to detect and respond to cybersecurity threats effectively. A well-rounded SOC program encompasses skilled cybersecurity professionals, well-defined processes and procedures, a range of security technologies, continuous monitoring and detection, incident response capabilities, threat intelligence gathering, and reporting and analysis. Additionally, achieving SOC 2 compliance, which focuses on the TSC and involves comprehensive audits, is vital for service organizations that handle customer data or provide outsourced services. Background checks play a significant role in meeting the TSC’s Security criterion by ensuring the trustworthiness and reliability of personnel with access to sensitive data or critical systems. 

When selecting a SOC 2 background check vendor, organizations should consider factors such as their requirements, compliance expertise, data security measures, screening processes, turnaround time, compliance reporting, references and reviews, proposals and contracts, and due diligence. By following these steps, organizations can choose a reputable and reliable vendor that aligns with their specific needs and maintains the integrity and security of their data.

Certn is revolutionizing background checks by delivering fast, online results without compromising on compliance. With our streamlined processes, we ensure that organizations can obtain comprehensive SOC 2 background checks efficiently and securely. 

Book a demo to talk to one of Certn’s compliance experts today.