Compliance 101

ISO 27001 Certification vs. SOC 2 Compliance

Laika

Reading time ~ 3 minutes

ISO 27001 vs SOC 2

If you’re being asked about your information security, you need to get compliant with SOC 2 or ISO 27001. If your customer or employee base is international, ISO 27001 is for you. We recommend that businesses pursue an ISO 27001 certification when it’s impacting their credibility and reputation, or when you’re going after deals internationally. It’s likely your customers will ask you to get certified, and it’s best to get ahead of the game.

If your business is overlooking the relevance and responsibility of information security, you’ll almost certainly fall behind your competitors. Certifications in ISO 27001 have risen by 450% in the past 10 years.

But chances are, you’re already considering getting certified. Maybe a client has asked for a report on your information security, or the lack of certification is blocking your sales funnel.

Do I need to be ISO 27001 certified?

This international standard is generally applicable to all organizations, regardless of size, type, or industry. That’s because it simply provides the framework for securing your data effectively, instead of specifying exactly what or who needs to be secure.

To get more specific, answer these questions:

  • Does your organization operate outside of the US?
  • Do you transmit, store, or receive sensitive information?

If you answered yes to both, ISO 27001 is for you.

What is ISO 27001?

First things first, ISO/IEC 27001 provides specifications for creating and operating an effective Information Security Management System (ISMS). It is part of the ISO 27000 series, which provides international standards for information security management.

ISO/IEC 27001 was a joint effort developed by the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission. They published the ISO series in 2005, and revised 27001 in 2013, further reviewing it in 2019; so the current version is “27001:13”.

Learn more about SOC 2 compliance here.

ISO 27001 vs. SOC 2

While ISO 27001 and SOC 2 frameworks have significant overlap, there are some important distinctions between the two standards. However, ISO 27001 requirements are far more precise than SOC 2.

Unlike SOC 2, ISO 27001 requirements are largely non-negotiable. While businesses can choose TSCs based on the business needs for SOC 2, ISO 27001 asks to complete more specific controls and processes to achieve certification. For example, there’s no process to compensate for weaknesses with other controls, like leaning on RBAC for user access controls with SOC 2.

This makes it even more important to strategically implement stage-appropriate controls to scale with your business. ISO 27001 is less malleable than SOC 2, a longer audit process and cycle, and requires more internal team knowledge. Let’s dive into some other differences.

Customer Location

We see our customers racing to achieve SOC 2 compliance after their prospective clients or investors ask to see a report. While this is similar to ISO 27001, the location of the business and their clients can determine whether they need a SOC 2 or ISO 27001.

SOC 2 applies to businesses operating in North America or doing business in North America, largely within the US.

ISO 27001 is an international standard, usually required by businesses in the European Union and UK.

Report vs. Certification

Both SOC 2 and ISO 27001 require formal audit processes, but the end results differ.

At the completion of your SOC 2 audit, auditors will provide businesses with an in-depth report to share with customers, partners, and investors. This report includes a description of the system and controls to protect the data that is held or transferred through it. Most importantly, auditors will include a rating of the system’s information security posture.

In contrast, certified ISO 27001 auditors issue a 2-page certification. This includes the scope of the business’ ISMS, date of issuance and expiration, and locations of the business’ systems in-scope.

This certification does not include an in-depth analysis of the system like SOC 2; however, internal reports can be used to improve information security for future audits.

Scope and Timeline

Fortunately, SOC 2 and ISO 27001 walkthrough the same type of process to get compliant. From gap analysis, to control implementation, risk assessment, and audit, the two frameworks are fairly similar–and require many of the same types of controls.

ISO 27001 requires a formal internal audit, and the recertification process is once every two years instead of the annual SOC 2 process.

Implementing SOC 2 generally requires about 3 months of labor, while ISO 27001 is 6 months of designing an ISMS and implementing it.

Cost

ISO 27001 certifications are becoming increasingly prevalent. It’s a lengthy process that requires specific auditors to execute and issue the certification. The timing of the audit can get expensive, particularly if you have to hire two independent auditors for the internal audit and the formal certification audit. Expect ISO 27001 to be slightly more expensive than a SOC 2 report.

Each business is unique, and your compliance posture should be, too. Considering SOC 2 or ISO 27001? Take our compliance quiz to see which one is right for your business.

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