The rudimentary differences between an ISO 27001 Certification and a SOC2 Certification

November 16, 2023


In today’s ever-evolving cyber and risk landscape, information security has come to the forefront to combat the sophistication of cyberattacks and the constantly changing technology framework. Two widely recognized information security standards stand out in this arena: ISO 27001 and SOC 2.

Both ISO 27001 and SOC2 provide companies with strategic frameworks and standards to measure their security controls and systems against. While both aim to fortify an organization's information security posture, they differ in their approach and applicability. Let's unravel the intricate details of these standards and decipher which one suits your organization's unique needs.

ISO 27001: A universal structured approach to Information Security Management System (ISMS)

ISO 27001 is an international standard that provides a framework for managing information security risks. It is a prescriptive standard, meaning that it outlines specific controls that organizations must implement to achieve certification. ISO 27001 is a comprehensive standard that covers a wide range of topics, including physical security, access control, data security, and incident management. The ISO standard is developed and regularly updated by the International Standards Organization.

Scope and Focus: ISO 27001 takes a holistic approach to information security. It's about understanding, managing, and mitigating risks associated with information assets, encompassing everything from data protection to physical security.

Applicability: ISO 27001 adheres to a globally recognized set of standards. Its flexibility allows organizations to adapt and implement controls that suit their specific needs while following a structured framework. Versatility is the name of the game with ISO 27001. From tech startups to healthcare institutions, any organization can harness its power to safeguard sensitive information.

Certification Process:   ISO 27001 certification requires an annual audit conducted by an accredited certification body. ISO 27001 certification involves a rigorous process that culminates in a certificate validating an organization's compliance with the standard. Auditors from accredited certification bodies examine the entire system for its effectiveness in managing risks.

Requirements: ISO requires some mandatory documents for certification, the requirements are mentioned in the standard document and will be requested by the auditor during the audit. They are as listed below:

  • ISMS Manual
  • Monthly Review Meeting
  • IS Policies along with supporting policies
  • Risk Assessment register and tracker and Risk Treatment Methodology 
  • Statement of Applicability with justification for inclusion and exclusion of controls
  • Definition of security roles and responsibilities
  • Inventory of Assets 
  • Master list of all documents
  • Legal, regulatory and contractual requirements identified by the organization
  • Procedures documents
  • Competency Matrix 
  • Training and awareness deck

Reporting: The end result is a tangible ISO 27001 certificate, that will be given with an assessment report which will have the auditor’s findings based on the audit conducted.

Validity/Renewal: ISO 27001 certification is valid for three years, with surveillance audits conducted annually.

SOC2: A shield for Service Providers

SOC 2 is a set of auditing procedures that are developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). SOC 2 reports are designed to provide assurance to customers that an organization has implemented effective controls to protect their data. SOC 2 is a more flexible standard than ISO 27001, and it allows organizations to tailor their controls to their specific risks and needs. There are two types of SOC2 Audits, SOC Type 1 and SOC2 Type2:

SOC 2 Type 1 and SOC 2 Type 2 differ in the assessment and monitoring period of the internal controls. SOC 2 Type 1 evaluates the design of the security controls at a point in time, whereas SOC 2 Type 2 reviews the design and operating effectiveness of the controls over a period of 3-12 months.

While ISO 27001 is the jack-of-all-trades, SOC 2 Type 2 is specifically tailored to assess an organization's controls related to the five principles. This certification focuses on specific Trust Services Criteria—security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

Scope and Focus: SOC 2 Type 2 zeroes in on the trustworthiness and reliability of a service organization's systems. It ensures that customer data is secure, available, and confidential.

Framework and Standards: AICPA's Trust Services Criteria provides the foundation for SOC 2 Type 2. It's more industry-specific, tailor-made for service organizations dealing with sensitive customer information.

Applicability: This certification is the go-to for service providers, including cloud service companies, data centres, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. It speaks directly to the concerns of customers entrusting their data to third parties.

Certification Process: The SOC 2 Type 2 certification process is unique, with independent CPA firms conducting audits. These audits evaluate controls over a defined period, usually six months or longer, ensuring they meet the Trust Services Criteria.

Reporting: The crown jewel of SOC 2 Type 2 is the comprehensive SOC 2 report. This report, issued by the CPA firm, outlines their findings, conclusions, and recommendations related to the controls in place.

Validity/Renewal: SOC 2 attestation reports are valid for one year, requiring annual re-attestation.

Key Differences between the two Standards:

FeatureISO 27001SOC 2
DefinitionA standard that sets the requirements for an ISMSSet of audit reports to evidence the level of conformity to a set of defined criteria (TSC)
FocusInformation security management system (ISMS)Data security controls
ApplicabilityDesigned to be used by any organization of any size or any industryOrganizations in the Service Industry across all industries
ComplianceCertification issued by ISO Certification BodyAttestation by a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
AuditAnnual (Surveillance)Annual
RenewalEvery 3 yearsEvery year

Major differences in the report

ISO 27001

The ISO 27001 report is a detailed document that outlines the organization's ISMS. It includes information about the organization's information security policies, procedures, and controls. The report also includes the results of the audit, which will identify any areas where the organization needs to improve its information security.

The ISO 27001 report typically includes the following sections:

  • Introduction: This section provides an overview of the organization and its ISMS.
  • Scope: This section identifies the scope of the ISMS, including the systems, assets, and processes that are covered.
  • Information security policy: This section outlines the organization's information security policy, which states its commitment to information security.
  • Information security objectives: This section identifies the organization's information security objectives, which are the goals it has set for itself in order to achieve information security.
  • Information security risks: This section identifies the organization's information security risks, which are the potential threats and vulnerabilities that could harm its information.
  • Information security controls: This section outlines the organization's information security controls, which are the measures it has taken to mitigate its information security risks.
  • Statement of applicability: This section identifies the controls that the organization has implemented and the reasons for not implementing any controls that are required by the standard.
  • Audit results: This section summarizes the results of the audit, including any findings and recommendations.


The SOC 2 report is a detailed document that outlines the organization's controls for one or more of the following Trust Services Criteria (TSC):

  • Security: This TSC focuses on protecting the confidentiality and integrity of systems and data.
  • Availability: This TSC focuses on ensuring that systems and data are accessible to authorized users.
  • Processing integrity: This TSC focuses on ensuring that systems process data accurately and completely.
  • Confidentiality: This TSC focuses on protecting sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure.
  • Privacy: This TSC focuses on protecting the privacy of individuals.

The SOC 2 report typically includes the following sections:

  • Introduction: This section provides an overview of the organization and its controls.
  • Service organization's description: This section provides a description of the organization's services and the systems and data that are relevant to the TSC.
  • Controls: This section outlines the organization's controls for the TSC.
  • Testing: This section describes the testing that was performed on the controls.
  • Opinion: This section provides the auditor's opinion on whether the controls are effective.

Choosing which standard to go with:

When it comes to ISO 27001 versus SOC 2 Type 2, the choice depends on your organization's nature and specific requirements. ISO 27001 is your passport to universal information security, applicable to diverse industries, while SOC 2 Type 2 is the trusted guardian of customer data for service providers.

The best report for your organization will depend on your specific needs and risks. If you are looking for a comprehensive report that outlines all of your organization's information security controls, then the ISO 27001 report may be a good option. If you are more concerned with providing assurance to your customers about your controls for a specific TSC, then the SOC 2 report may be a better choice.

The decision between ISO 27001 and SOC 2 hinges on your organization's specific needs and priorities:

  • Regulatory Requirements: If your industry or customer base mandates compliance with a particular standard, that choice is clear.
  • Industry Standards: Consider the prevailing information security standards within your industry. Aligning with industry norms can enhance your reputation and demonstrate your commitment to data protection.
  • Customer Requirements: If your customers require assurance about your data security practices, SOC 2's focus on data security controls may be more pertinent.
  • Organizational Resources: Assess the resources available within your organization. ISO 27001 implementation may require more resources than SOC 2 attestation.
  • Budgetary Considerations: Factor in the costs associated with certification or attestation. ISO 27001 certification typically incurs higher costs compared to SOC 2 attestation.

How can COMPASS help?

COMPASS, a specialized lightweight platform, enhances your Internal Audit and external audit processes and user experience. Some of the benefits of using COMPASS include:

  • In built Standards and Control Libraries with over 30+ International and Domestic Standards
  • Ability to create and upload your own Standards and perform assessments based on those standards.
  • Modules for Risk Assessment and Standard Assessment.
  • Centralized data and documentation for easier access and review.
  • Enhanced communication and collaboration between auditors and auditees.
  • Streamlined reporting, with instant audit report generation.
  • Tracking of issues and exceptions for all issues identified during the audit.
  • Continuous monitoring and real-time visibility into security risks and compliance status.
  • Dashboards and analytics supporting data-driven decision-making.
  • Gives an auditor’s perspective to users and helps understand the process of audits better.


Whether you choose ISO 27001's structured framework or SOC 2's tailored approach, both standards offer valuable guidance in fortifying your organization's information security posture. Remember, the journey to information security excellence is an ongoing process, not a destination. By continuously evaluating, refining, and adapting your information security practices, you can safeguard your organization's sensitive data and maintain the trust of your customers.

Article Written by
Sankarushana Rangarajan
COMPASS provides complete visibility into your security controls, a clear understanding of your compliance posture, and actionable recommendations to remediate issues, without any clutter.
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