Are You Cyber Secure and Who Wants to Know?

This is an update to the original INSIGHT article Are You Cyber Secure?, which was published in July 2017.

System and Organization Controls 1 or SOC 1 (SOC) report provides assurance over controls at a service organization which are relevant to user entities' internal control over financial reporting. Obtaining a SOC for Cybersecurity report can prove that a cybersecurity risk management program is designed and functioning effectively. It can also reassure everyone a member of a board of directors to a potential customer that information with which your company has been entrusted is being handled in accordance with cybersecurity best practices.

No matter your business or industry, cybersecurity is a concern. If you operate in cyberspace – and what business doesn’t? – you are vulnerable. To guard against the many risks ranging from exposure of confidential information to loss of business reputation, every organization should have a cybersecurity risk management program. However, conveying the maturity of your risk management program to stakeholders is a challenge that needs overcome.

To meet that need the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the certification and standards organization governing the practice of accounting, has introduced Systems and Organization Controls (SOC) for Cybersecurity. Building upon the profession’s experience in auditing system and organization controls, SOC for Cybersecurity enables CPAs to examine and report on an organization’s cybersecurity risk management program.

HBK CPAs & Consultants (HBK) has been performing SOC 1 and SOC 2 attestations since they replaced the SAS 70 report in 2010. In the area of SOC for Cybersecuity, we offer management two types of assurance services, advisory and attestation.

In an advisory role, we perform a readiness assessment, which helps businesses assess their cybersecurity program against the industry’s leading frameworks, and more appropriately, against the AICPA Cybersecurity criteria. We assist with identifying gaps in the framework and remediating those gaps to further develop or implement an effective cybersecurity program. For more established programs, we help organizations formally align the existing program with the three criteria as established by the AICPA:

Security – The system is protected, both logically and physically, against unauthorized access.

Availability – The system is available for operation and use

Confidentiality – Information designated as confidential is protected as committed or agreed

In an attestation engagement, we examine your cybersecurity program and provide an opinion on whether it is effective. We map your controls to ensure your program complies with the AICPA-established criteria. We review your description of how those criteria are accommodated, then test and validate the effectiveness of these controls and issue a report.

A cybersecurity risk management examination report includes the following three key components:

Management’s description of the entity’s cybersecurity risk management program. The first component is a management-prepared narrative description of its cybersecurity risk management program, The report provides information on how the company identifies its information assets, how it manages the cybersecurity risks that threaten it, and the policies and processes implemented and operated to protect its information assets against those risks.

Management’s assertion. The second component is an assertion provided by management that the description is presented in accordance with the description criteria and the controls within the company’s cybersecurity risk management program achieve its cybersecurity objectives.

Practitioner’s report. The third component is a practitioner’s report, which contains an opinion on whether management’s description is presented in accordance with the description criteria and the controls within the company’s cybersecurity risk management program achieve its cybersecurity objectives.

Our attestation is justification management can use to demonstrate to everyone from the board of directors to a potential customer that their cybersecurity program is in accordance with best practices. The AICPA logo of SOC Cybersecurity certification is a key differentiator for a business, assuring stakeholders the security of the information they handle.

All organizations should have a cybersecurity program in place. Having it assessed for readiness, that is, ensuring your controls are aligned with the AICPA-defined standard and criteria, will afford assurance that it is designed appropriately. Receiving official attestation demonstrates the design is functioning as it should, and only makes sense in providing a level of confidence to your stakeholders that you are a business that has implemented a robust and comprehensive cybersecurity program, that your organization is cyber secure.

About the Author(s)
Matthew Schiavone, CPA, CISA, is a Senior Manager in HBK’s Quality Control department and works primarily in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office. He specializes in risk advisory services, system and organization control (SOC) reporting, internal controls, IT audit, information security, and cyber security for all types of industries. He can be reached at mschiavone@hbkcpa.com.
Hill, Barth & King LLC has prepared this material for informational purposes only. Any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or under any state or local tax law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding the matter.