Towards SOC Compliance

Towards SOC Compliance

Continuous business value creation while handling customers’ data in a secure way is a must for SaaS (Software as a Service) providers to survive in today’s rapidly changing, highly coupled and deadly competitive business environment. Even though the organizations follow their own techniques and processes, customers expect some kind of mutually recognized guarantee to ensure that their data is handled in a secure manner. Achieving Service Organization Control(SOC) compliance is one such guarantee. Hence, SaaS providers may at least achieve SOC 2 Compliance to ensure their customers that their services meet data security requirements.

Being a Technology Solution company who wants to get emotionally touched with their clients (SaaS providers), it is important to implement some reports and adhere to some procedures to make sure our clients achieve SOC2 Compliance certificate. However, the reports that are needed (Eg: User Snapshot Report, Change Client Report, Failed Login Report … ) and processes to follow (Eg: Selected Sensitive Fields Encryption, Employee Deletion & Obfuscation with GDPR, scrubbing data, decommissioning canceled clients, maintain audit logs) will be decided by the service providers based on their specific business practices to comply with selected trust service principles out of five trust service principles.

Pic 1 : FiveTrust Service Principles

(Note: SOC related trust service principles are security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy. For SOC2 compliance it is not a must to have all of them in place)

Readiness Testing

Even Though SOC2 audit is done by an independent CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or accountancy organization, we (QA engineers) also can do a basic readiness testing by verifying the newly created reports/scripts/logs, sensitive data encryption etc… These small actions will provide significant confidence to SaaS providers to move forward with SOC2 audit as it reduces the risk of exceptions and failures. Furthermore, QA team needs to make sure the newly added changes do not affect the functionality and the performance of the application.

Validating Sensitive Fields Encryption

Encrypting all the identified sensitive fields is an easy way to achieve two trusted principles, privacy and confidentiality. Data can be encrypted as required after proper identification of all the tables (in both systemDB and clientDB) which include the identified sensitive fields. Then those tables/fields can be validated by querying as expected to check whether the ciphertext is shown in the required fields, instead of actual data. If you still want to check whether the correct data is stored as ciphertext, that can be easily done using SSMS 2017. A certificate will be created on the database server when identified fields are encrypted using ‘Always Encrypted’. Then by exporting that certificate, and import it to your machine can help you to view both exact data and ciphertext based on the mode selected.

Validating Intrusion Detection and Prevention

Intrusion detection and prevention can be done via network and application firewalls, custom rules and implementing two-way authentication to achieve security. Implementing two-factor authentication requires users to provide two ways of verification when logging into an account, such as a password and one-time passcode (OTP) sent to a mobile device. It strengthens intrusion prevention by adding an extra layer of protection to the application’s sensitive data. Verification can be done using an application that supports time-based one-time password token generation (TOTP token Generators). Permission structure, UI validations, reset password flow, enabling and disabling 2FA, are few areas that need to be taken into consideration when testing 2FA.

Maintaining a Failed Login Report will also help to keep track of all the failed login attempts. This information can be used to investigate and make quick and informed decisions about detected intrusions.

As QA engineers we need to make sure that failed login report includes accurate and relevant information related to all failed login attempts for all types of user accounts regardless of active/inactive status. Related data can be stored in the Eventlog table. Related xml can be viewed by querying as needed.

Pic 2 : Sample xml related to failed logon report

Testing Audit Logs

To achieve SOC compliance, monitoring authorized and unauthorized system configuration changes, and user access levels changes is essential. Adding/ Editing permissions of user access levels, changing already defined permission structures are few activities that need attention. QA team can validate the related xml and its content by performing such activities.

Pic 3 : Sample xml related to changing report permissions

Validating Decommissioning Cancelled Client Process

Decommission inactive/canceled clients from the application and remove all historical data is essential to satisfy security requirements around data retention policies. The development team can come up with a script to remove the data from the system database. This script can be given to SaaS providers so that they can execute it when they need to decommission the canceled or inactivated clients.

Following steps can be used to validate the Decommissioning Cancelled Client Process,

  1. Inactive / cancel the client (via application /using their license)
  2. Execute the script to remove the historical data
  3. Verify no record is there in the systemDB after decommissioning (You can basically check deleted clientID do not exist in systemDB )

Apart from just validating reports/xmls, as proactive QA engineers we need to follow up on modifying the scrubbing scripts, sensitive data encryption, event logs and audit logs with their xml with the schema modification. These actions will help to increase our value significantly.

Moreover, if we want our clients to achieve SOC 2 compliance, we need to adhere to the agreed process, because in SOC audit even the process is validated. Below mentioned few examples for such agreed rules/process in terms of quality assurance.

  • All the production candidates should be QA verified to do a production release.
  • All the changes should be approved by an authorized party.
  • QA sign off should be given as a document not via email and that document should be attached to the production release ticket.

Performing end to end SOC compliance testing cannot be done by QA engineers, especially the offshore QA team. However, they can test the newly implemented two-factor authentication, sensitive fields encryption, audit logs, scrubbing scripts, decommissioning canceled clients scripts and few other reports related to intrusion detection, disaster recovery and security incident handling.

These small actions will provide great value addition for the customers by increasing significance confidence to proceed with SOC2 audit. So why not proceed with these few step

These small actions will provide great value addition for the customers by increasing significance confidence to proceed with SOC2 audit. So why not proceed with these few steps.


Nuwani Navodya

Associate Lead QA Engineer

Nuwani Navodya

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