SOX VS SOC – Mapping the Differences

Published on : 26 Oct 2023


SOX VS SOC

Let’s explore the critical differences between SOC and SOX compliance. In the realm of information security and financial reporting, compliance enables organizations to build trust and transparency with stakeholders.

To accomplish this, companies must adhere to specific regulations and standards. SOC and SOX represent two pivotal compliance frameworks that help maintain financial reporting integrity and data security.

In this post, we’ll outline the basics of SOC and SOX, highlight key differences between them, and provide deeper insight into these vital components of the corporate landscape.

What is SOX?

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) is a U.S. federal law passed in 2002 to protect investors from fraudulent financial activities. It was introduced after major scandals involving firms like Enron and WorldCom that manipulated earnings and embezzled funds.

SOX establishes regulations around financial reporting, mandates internal control audits, and strengthens corporate governance. It applies to all U.S. public companies and foreign entities doing business in America, making it integral to today’s Governance, Risk and Compliance environment.

Key aspects of SOX require:

  • Implementing internal controls to prevent material financial errors or fraud;
  • CEO and CFO certification of financial statement accuracy;
  • Disclosure of material weaknesses in internal controls;
  • Banning personal loans to executives and directors;
  • Enhancing criminal penalties for corporate fraud.

In summary, SOX aimed to restore investor confidence by ensuring ethical financial practices. Now let’s look at SOC compliance.

What is SOC?

The American Institute of CPAs introduced Systems and Organizational Controls (SOC) as an essential reporting framework for today’s digital world. With organizations increasingly outsourcing key functions, SOC compliance enables service providers to demonstrate their ability to protect customer data and security. The SOC framework includes multiple internal control audit reports.

While SOC 1 aligns with SOX’s financial reporting controls, SOC 2 focuses on ensuring service providers handle data securely. SOC 3 serves as a simplified SOC 2 for public communication. SOC 1 meets SOX requirements, but SOC 2 and 3 target Trust Service Principles – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy.

These principles empower service providers to actively manage and safeguard customer data. In summary, the SOC framework equips organizations to showcase rigorous data protection to clients. Now let’s examine the key differences between SOC and SOX audits.

Key Differences Between SOC and SOX

AspectSOXSOC
DefinitionCongress enacted SOX to prevent accounting and securities fraud in the United States, primarily regulating accounting practices, securities law compliance disclosures, and audits at public companies.SOC is a compliance metric established by a private, third-party organization known as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). For an organization to demonstrate its voluntary compliance with SOC standards, it must undergo an audit.
PurposeSOX outlines the necessary controls for precise financial reporting and enforces stringent data governance and security policies for financial data.SOC showcases a service provider’s implementation of comprehensive internal controls and information security practices.
ImpactFollowing the enactment of the SOX, companies have bolstered their financial management processes and capabilities, leading to significant enhancements in their corporate governance practices.SOC compliance enables companies to establish a competitive edge. It does so by proving that they have implemented the appropriate controls and processes, thereby fostering trust and confidence among their customers.
AuditingUnder Section 404 of the SOX, there is a requirement for an obligatory annual independent audit. This audit confirms the validity of management’s evaluation of their controls and reports on the effectiveness of the overall financial controls and procedures.An independent auditor assesses a company’s security stance against one or all of the Trust Services Criteria when it comes to SOC compliance.
RelevanceSOX is applicable to all public companies in the US and foreign companies or subsidiaries that do business in the US.SOC 2 compliance is relevant to any technology service provider or SaaS company that handles or stores customer data.
OutcomeThe SOX has indeed encouraged companies to implement more robust controls, improved documentation, and increased standardization. This not only protects the companies themselves but also their investors.Similarly, companies that achieve Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 compliance are able to instill trust in their customers. They do this by demonstrating that they possess the necessary infrastructure, tools, and processes to protect customer information and prevent unauthorized access to their systems.
Compliance ResponsibilityUnder SOX, companies bear responsibility for establishing and maintaining adequate internal controls.With SOC, the service provider assumes responsibility for implementing and upholding appropriate controls to safeguard client data.

What to Choose Between SOX and SOC?

Your organization’s specific needs and characteristics determine whether you should comply with SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) or SOC (Service Organization Control).

SOX, a U.S. federal law, mandates publicly traded companies to follow strict standards for accounting, auditing, and financial disclosures. If your company is or plans to be publicly traded, you must comply with SOX – it’s not just advisable, it’s a legal requirement.

SOC, however, is a voluntary compliance standard for companies handling customer data. While not legally required, achieving SOC compliance assures your customers that you have robust controls and security measures for their information.

If you’re unsure about which framework to choose, VISTA InfoSec can help. We provide guidance and support for your organization’s compliance needs. For more information, please visit our website.

Conclusion

In conclusion, SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) is a mandatory U.S. law for public companies, ensuring transparent financial reporting. Conversely, SOC (Service Organization Control) is a voluntary standard beneficial for service organizations handling customer data, focusing on information security controls.

The choice between SOX and SOC depends on your organization’s needs. Public companies must comply with SOX, while service organizations can opt for SOC to gain a competitive edge. For large public firms providing services, both SOX and SOC compliance is advised.

Understanding the unique risk areas, reporting requirements, and controls of each standard can enhance compliance strategies, mitigate risks, and build a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness.

You can watch our webinar on “SOX vs SOC”

 

Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.