Cybersecurity Attestation: What You Should Know

Cybersecurity Attestation: What You Should Know

Cybersecurity breaches have increased in both frequency and impact. Because of this increase, organizations have to manage continuous cyber threats, and leaders in these organizations must communicate their internal control capability to stakeholders for building trust in their ability to demonstrate effective controls. In this article, we will dive into the (Service Organization Control) SOC for Cybersecurity report that provides cyber attestation in your ability to detect a breach, respond appropriately, remediate the issue, and recover your data and operations when a cyber-attack inevitably occurs. 

What Is Cyber Attestation?

A cyber attestation is an independent review and confirmation that an organization’s cybersecurity risk management program meets the standards and requirements set out by a governing body. Since the need for consistent and effective cybersecurity internal controls is necessary for organizations to operate and conduct business, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has developed a cyber attestation reporting framework to facilitate the review of the internal controls around an organization’s cybersecurity risk management program. The AICPA’s cybersecurity attestation is much more than a traditional security risk assessment process. Past assessments were checklist-style questions meant to establish a minimum level of control. The cyber attestation allows much more flexibility. In the cyber attestation, an independent CPA firm performs an objective review of the organization’s entity-wide cybersecurity risk management program. The independent auditor is then able to provide an opinion about internal control effectiveness surrounding the cybersecurity risk management program. Having the cyber attestation in place provides a higher level of assurance that other stakeholders can trust. 

What Is the Purpose of Attestation? 

Simply put, building trust is the purpose of attestation. Regardless of your business model, your customers need to know if the internal controls surrounding your entity-wide cybersecurity risk management program are sufficient. They need to trust that your data is secure enough for you to stay in business, and they need to know that you will not compromise any shared data. By obtaining a cybersecurity attestation, you are able to reassure your stakeholders that your internal controls and cybersecurity risk management program are up to the task. The report can be reviewed internally as well to assist with internal education about cybersecurity. Including your internal team in a review of the attestation report will increase their comfort level when customers ask about cybersecurity controls. The attestation shows your commitment to transparency with your partners, which shows your efforts related to cybersecurity. 

What Is SOC for Cybersecurity?

SSOC for Cybersecurity is the latest addition from the American Institute of CPAs. According to the AICPA, “the SOC for Cybersecurity examination provides an independent, entity-wide assessment of your organization’s cybersecurity risk management program.” The SOC for Cybersecurity is designed for all organizations including public, private, and nonprofits. Like the other SOC reporting (SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3), the end goal for the SOC for Cybersecurity assessment is the assurance report that organizations can share with others. The assessment is generally performed by external audit or CPA consulting firms that specialize in cybersecurity. These assessors have the body of knowledge required to understand the risks and controls well enough to perform a quality assessment.

In the report, there is an explanation of the security management framework or control framework the organization has chosen to implement. This option allows organizations to use the best framework for their organization in their industry. For some, it may be the Trust Services Criteria (TSC) from the AICPA, but for others, it may be NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF),  COBIT, PCI DSS, or ISO. The evaluator will take management’s framework into consideration and assess based on that criteria. The objective of the assessment is to decide if the controls in the organization’s program are effective in achieving its cybersecurity risk management objectives. 

The SOC for Cybersecurity attestation is not a replacement for the SOC 1, 2, or 3 Reports. The SOC for Cybersecurity report is in addition, as the scope and focus of the assessment are specific to the internal control over the cybersecurity risk management program and allows for an additional focus on cybersecurity breaches. The report will cover high-level categories like: 

  • Data breach prevention
  • Data breach detection
  • Management response to the breach
  • Communication to stakeholders
  • Breach remediation
  • Data recovery
  • Operational recovery 

One of the benefits of the SOC for Cybersecurity is the flexibility to choose your own framework, but this can also lead to gaps. The cybersecurity landscape changes continuously, and management’s control environment must be adaptive to the changes. By working from the high-level categories such as those listed above, assessors have the ability to apply current expectations at the time of the test.

Further Understanding Cybersecurity Attestation 

As cybersecurity attacks evolve and continue to target organizations, this topic is undeniably top of mind for the audit industry. Below are some key Cybersecurity Attestation takeaways that should be on your radar:

  • The AICPA issued a reporting framework in response to cybersecurity risk. The AICPA Cybersecurity Risk Management Reporting Framework allows for both internal and external reporting.
  • Merger and Acquisition activities are now looking at cybersecurity much more critically as part of their due diligence.
  • As the world becomes more interconnected, regulations around privacy, security, and personal data are increasing. These new rules include:
    • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union
    • China’s Cyber Laws
    • New York Department of Financial Services Cyber Requirements
  • Lost operations due to IT outages and hacks can severely impact your bottom line. The threat environment is evolving rapidly, and it is imperative to assess and adjust to mitigate as much risk as possible.
  • Cybersecurity breaches affecting manufacturing, healthcare, and retail companies point out that any industry is susceptible, not just finance and banking. If a threat has successfully impacted one of your competitors, it won’t be long before your company may be compromised as well.
  • The list of stakeholders affected by cybersecurity risk is growing more extensive to include the Board, CFOs, CAEs, CTOs, CROs, CCOs, and emerging stakeholders. One unexpected emerging stakeholder is the CMO, looking to utilize personal data that needs to stay private and protected.
  • SOC 1, SOC 2/3, and SOC for Cybersecurity  have been growing in demand. However, Cybersecurity attestation is not a replacement for SOC, 2 or 3 (although there is overlap).

The Importance of a Strong Cybersecurity Defense 

As Cybercrime continues to evolve in sophistication, the importance of a robust cybersecurity defense should not go overlooked. Building trust in an effective cybersecurity strategy, risk management program, and implementing The AICPA Cybersecurity Risk Management Reporting Framework can be pretty time-consuming, but being proactive about cybersecurity compliance is an excellent safeguard for protecting your bottom line.

Here are some ways that AuditBoard’s compliance management software can help:

  • AuditBoard can import the various frameworks that your organization utilizes as part of your cybersecurity risk management program, including, but not limited to, NIST, SOC, PCI DSS, and AICPA Cybersecurity frameworks so you can begin assessments immediately.
  • Manage all of your frameworks, test procedures and reporting in one centralized platform, where you can get instant visibility into your status at any time, across any location or department.
  • AuditBoard’s issue tracking software allows you to quickly identify and create issues identified as part of your compliance program in real-time and manage remediation action items with process owners in any department and location.
  • AuditBoard offers unlimited user access and role-based security, so your entire organization can be involved in proactively managing your cybersecurity program.
  • Our intuitive risk assessment module can help you build a consistent and repeatable risk assessment process with real-time updates, empowering your company to perform more self-assessments frequently, consistently, and efficiently.

With our industry-leading implementation time, we can help you implement the software necessary to manage your cybersecurity program in a matter of weeks. Our implementation and product team members bring years of audit experience, ensuring a smooth and quick onboarding process while providing meaningful recommendations for building a robust compliance program.