ISO 27001 vs SOC 2: What are the key differences?

Across the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, organisations often ask us about the differences, advantages and applicability of ISO 27001 and SOC (Service Organization Control) 2.

Both are important in establishing trust with stakeholders. To help you understand which is right for your organisation, we have summarised ISO 27001 and SOC 2 below.

What is ISO 27001?

ISO 27001 is the international standard that provides the specification for a best-practice ISMS (information security management system).

Achieving accredited certification demonstrates your organisation is following information security best practice and managing information security in line with business objectives. It also helps you:

  • Avoid penalties and financial losses due to data breaches;
  • Meet increasing client demands for greater data security;
  • Protect and enhance your reputation; and
  • Meet local and global security laws, such as the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Implementing an ISO 27001-compliant ISMS involves several elements, including:

  • Scoping the project;
  • Securing management commitment and budget;
  • Conducting a risk assessment;
  • Implementing controls;
  • Developing management system documentation; and
  • Conducting staff awareness training.

Find out more about ISO 27001 >>

What is SOC 2?

Developed by the AIPCA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants), SOC 2 is an industry recognised, third-party assurance standard for service organisations.

Obtaining a SOC 2 report builds trust with your stakeholders and provides assurance about the suitability of the design and effectiveness of the service organisation’s controls to its clients, management and user entities.

Organisations must select which of the AICPA TSPs (Trust Service Principles) are required to mitigate risks to the service/system that the organisation provides:

  • Security: The system is protected against unauthorised access (both physical and logical).
  • Availability: The system is available for operational use as committed or agreed.
  • Processing integrity: System processing is complete, accurate, timely and authorised.
  • Confidentiality: Confidential information is protected as committed or agreed.
  • Privacy: Personal information is collected, used, retained and destroyed in conformity with the privacy notice and privacy principles issued by the AICPA.

A SOC 2 audit report will include:

  • An opinion letter;
  • Management assertion;
  • A detailed description of the system or service;
  • Details of the TSPs selected;
  • Tests of controls and results of testing; and
  • Optional additional information.

How to choose between ISO 27001 and SOC 2?

ISO 27001 and SOC 2 have many similarities, including an overlap in the TSP criteria and the controls in Annex A, as well as the fact that both provide independent assurance that implemented controls meet the necessary criteria.

When choosing between ISO 27001 certification or a SOC 2, organisations need to consider:

  • Do you need to comply with any regulatory requirements?
  • What type of customers do you (want to) work with?
  • Are customers requesting any particular assessments?
  • What assessments are your competitors carrying out?

Many audits conducted by service organisations are driven by contractual obligations, so you may find that ISO 27001 is a better option if you have a significant international customer base. More and more organisations are beginning to understand the value of the Standard; in the past year, ISO 27001 certification has grown by 20% worldwide, and in the Middle East has risen by 33% (ISO Survey).

For more information on implementing an ISO 27001-compliant ISMS, download your free copy of our green paper Implementing an ISMS – The nine-step approach, which introduces the Standard and IT Governance’s tried-and-tested implementation approach that will save you time and money.

Download your free copy >>

How IT Governance can help GCC organisations

For assistance with deciding, assessing or achieving compliance to ISO 27001 or SOC 2, please request a callback from one of our experts or call +971 56696 7974.


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