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ISO 27001 vs SOC 2 - Which One is Right For You? | anecdotes

Batya Steinherz
February 25, 2024
Explore with anecdotes ISO 27001 vs SOC 2

If you're part of a startup, or just starting along your Compliance journey, you probably have a lot of questions. You’re likely thinking: 

  • “Is Compliance something we have to worry about?” 
  • “Which frameworks are required and which are just nice-to-have?”
  • “Why is this so dang frustrating?”  

One question we hear a lot is “Do I need to be ISO 27001-certified or do we need a SOC 2 report?”. (Though to be quite honest, most companies just starting to think about Compliance do not yet know the difference between assurances vs attestations vs audits.)

This is a great question. In this post, drawing on anecdotes’ experience as the Compliance experts, I’ll explain the similarities, the differences, and whether you should go for ISO 27001 vs SOC 2. 

ISO 27001 vs SOC

To start, let’s get one thing straight; SOC 2 and ISO 27k are both really important InfoSec Compliance frameworks. Both provide organizations with a strong degree of assurance that their partners and vendors have attained a standardized level of commitment to security — and if a business doesn't have at least one of them, they will inevitably lose deals and customer confidence. However, although they have some common themes, there are differences between SOC 2 and ISO 27001 and they should not be viewed as interchangeable.

What is ISO 27001?

ISO 27001, first established in 2005 by the International Organization for Standardization, aims to create a systematic standard for security across all industries. Showing a methodology for security is a core element of ISO 27001 and this is accomplished by reviewing the Information Security Management System. This is referred to as the ISMS, which are the company’s policies and procedures, roles and responsibilities, management involvement in information security activities, budget approval, scope, etc., which reflect ISO 27001’s objectives. The ISO 27001 update was rolled out to improve information security posture and maturity.

What is SOC 2?

SOC 2 was established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AIPCA), and covers 5 Trust Service Criteria (TSC):; Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy. Although organizations can choose the criteria they want to be audited for, the Security Criteria, also called the Common Criteria, is mandatory. Once an audit has been completed successfully, the auditor will present the audited organization with a SOC 2 Type 1 or SOC 2 Type 2 report, which can and should be given to prospective partners.

Similarities between ISO 27001 vs SOC 2

In both frameworks - SOC 2 Type 2 vs ISO 27001 - after some preparation time, an auditor will go through the organization’s evidence (i.e. data shown to auditors to prove they are indeed compliant with requirements) and decide if the evidence shown indicates that they meet requirements. If it does, they will be issued a certificate in the case of ISO 27k, or a report in the case of SOC 2. If they do not, they will be given an opportunity to close gaps or fix mistakes.

The frameworks are clearly similar in goal; SOC 2 and ISO 27k both signal to potential customers and partners that the business is committed to meeting and maintaining rigorous security standards. Both take a lot of effort, and both can be used globally, with some exceptions (more on that below).

So, what is the difference between SOC 2 and ISO 27001?

But even though they have many similarities, don't assume they are the same; Let's explore SOC vs ISO:

  • ISO places greater focus on the continual upkeep of the ISMS, to ensure the organization upholds its information security management practices going forward. The assumption is that if management is properly involved, then the organization really does take Compliance seriously. Thus, the auditor expects to see an information security charter, organizational policy, written procedures, and minutes of meetings of the steering committee or management, discussing information security budget, program, etc. SOC 2, in contrast, is focused on ensuring that proper and complete information security management practices were upheld during a previous period of time based on an agreed control environment, which is compared with the Trust Service Criteria.
  • Successfully obtaining a SOC 2 report is based on the CPA’s opinion of whether the proper controls are in place and are being met properly. ISO 27001 vs SOC is more concerned with the management’s involvement and accountability.
  • Audits for ISO 27001 vs SOC 2 are performed by an accredited ISO 27k auditing body. SOC 2 is audited by an American CPA.
  • SOC 2 Compliance vs ISO 27001 is typically the more expensive and time-intensive framework, but you may wind up consuming more resources on ISO 27k if you're just establishing your ISMS from scratch.

In the US, SOC 2 is thought of as more credible, and many organizations based in the States will not accept ISO 27k alone. On the other hand, outside the US, many organizations do not recognize SOC 2. This means that your assessment of which one is better for your organization should be based on where your main customer base is, and if you do business both within the US and internationally, it would be wise to have both.ISO 27001 vs SOC 2: why not go for both?

The good news is that if you meet one framework, you are not all that far off from meeting the other. Integrating SOC 2 or ISO 27001 automation will help organizations to easily meet both ISO 27k and SOC 2 because they cover a ton of the same security controls and cross-map evidence via automation from one framework to the other.

Batya Steinherz
Veteran explainer of complicated stuff. Loves all things coffee and cyber security-related (yes, even Compliance). Content Marketing Manager at anecdotes.