It’s the time of year that sends a chill down the spines of security analysts and third-party risk managers everywhere—annual vendor audit time (cue the “dun dun duuuuuun” orchestra hits).
Okay, so taking a closer look at your most high-risk and business-critical vendors isn’t an apocalypse-level event. But it is certainly a boring, tedious process that can take hours or even days depending on the needs and requirements of your business.
Why are vendor audits such a pain?
A big reason the process feels so arduous is it relies on analyzing the copious detail included in SOC 2 reports. These documents can run hundreds of pages. Someone on your team (is it you?) must sift through this entire document—one “Ctrl+F” at a time—for the gems of insight you actually need. And all this for just a percentage of your existing vendors, to say nothing of any new vendors you might want or need to assess.
Luckily, Whistic Assess has a new AI-powered feature that makes these irritations a thing of the past: SOC 2 summarization. In this article, we’re discussing all the annoying aspects of vendor risk management (VRM) that SOC 2 summarization solves (cue the uplifting orchestra swoon and flying doves).
First Things First: What is a SOC 2 Report?
Simply put, a SOC 2 report is a third-party deep dive into the security posture of an organization. SOC stands for “Service Organization Control,” and while there are 3 types of SOC audit, type 2 is designed for service providers and looks closely at their treatment of third-party data (like yours).
SOC 2 reports can vary by auditor or by the need of the business that commissions them, but the scope of controls they test against is organized into five categories, known as trust services criteria. These include:
- Security—Tests the protection of data across all stages of its lifecycle, from collection and usage to storage. This is the only required criteria for SOC 2 compliance.
- Availability—Looks at controls related to performance and event response, setting expectations for customer access to services. This criteria is especially important for systemically critical industries like Finance or Insurance.
- Confidentiality—Assesses the treatment of highly sensitive data deemed confidential, including how such data is destroyed after services are terminated.
- Privacy—Concerns the treatment of personal identifiable information (PII) by the third party. This criteria may be part of a SOC 2 report for businesses that face a great deal of privacy regulation requirements (like GDPR) or handle data that crosses regions governed by multiple regulations.
- Processing Integrity—Details the controls for dealing with processing errors, including how long such issues should take to resolve. It also includes protocol for the safe storage and maintenance of data.
Why are SOC 2 Reports Important?
We started things off by commiserating about how tedious it can be to pore over SOC 2 reports as a part of a vendor audit or security assessment. But they serve a critical purpose that cannot be overlooked (making them what you might call a “necessary evil. At least until Whistic’s SOC 2 summarization tool, but more on that in a minute).
Here are just a handful of reasons a SOC 2 report is an essential tool in your risk management arsenal:
- Highly detailed and thorough—A few CISOs might add “to a fault” to the end of that, but the level of detail included in these reports make them a potent weapon for understanding, identifying, and mitigating risk.
- Drive decision-making—Whether you’re renewing a contract, buying new software, or trying to appropriately allocate resources for risk management, these reports give you the data you need to make smart, informed decisions.
- Validated by an objective party—Because SOC 2s are built by third-party auditors, they help to validate the security claims of your vendors, increasing trust.
- Relevant to your auditors—Many of the controls in a SOC 2 are the same controls your own auditors will look at when it comes to assessing your third-party security posture, so it’s important to account for them in your vendor ecosystem.
- Might be all you get—Particularly when it comes to assessing new or prospective vendors, you may not get immediate or helpful responses to your custom security questionnaires. But a SOC 2 summary can still allow you to make a confident assessment (with the right tools, of course).
AI-Powered SOC 2 Summarization Tackles the Top VRM Annoyers
As you can see, there are huge benefits to taking SOC 2 audits and reports very seriously. That doesn’t make them or the VRM process any less irritating to deal with, though. But Whistic’s AI-powered SOC 2 summarization does. Summarization distills hundred-page reports down to five pages, organized according to your needs and requirements.
Here’s the irritants in the overall VRM process, and how this latest AI game-changer neutralizes them.
Annoyer #1: Devil in the details
We were somewhat surprised to learn from our customers that it can be the smallest aspect of a SOC 2 that can get under the skin. Your risk team or security analyst needs to know they are auditing the right vendor, the right product, and that the report is valid for the right time frame. This can be buried under pages of legalese in a full report.
With SOC 2 Summarization: Angels of organization
Summarized reports include all relevant identifiers at the very top of the report, so it’s easy to verify at a glance. Plus, since we know that your VRM team isn’t always the end user for a vendor, we also include a brief synopsis of the tool, what it does, and how it is likely to appear in your environment.
Annoyer #2: Sheer volume
The detail included in a SOC 2 report is a double-edged sword: it’s important that the auditor doesn’t cut corners (and thoroughness might be legally useful to the vendor, to boot), but that often makes it a line-by-line challenge to find the criteria that are most important to your risk team. Ctrl+F can help, but it lacks the sophistication to understand the context of your search, so you’re often stuck reading huge sections of the report, anyway.
With SOC2 summarization: Assess what matters
Our latest feature takes the reams of detail included in a full report and distills them down to approximately five pages of essential information. Whistic’s AI engine ensures that the ensuing summary is context-rich and relevant to your specific needs by allowing you to organize by:
- Control: Not every control for every vendor may be relevant to your security and risk team. Rather than hunting through the entire document for the most important controls, summarized reports prioritize the controls that matter.
- Exception: These are flagged areas where your vendor may have fallen out of SOC 2 compliance. Unfortunately, “exception” is a word that Ctrl+F can’t really help you with (if you want to do less work, I mean). Summarization allows you to focus exclusively on exceptions by extracting them, with the added context of the auditor’s opinion, the vendor response, and citation from the SOC 2.
Annoyer #3: Unanswered and incomplete security assessments
Many of the vendors you’d like to work with simply don’t respond to questionnaire requests, while others won’t take the time to answer your custom questions or provide follow-up info after a cursory response. Even if they do, the waiting and back-and-forth can add days, weeks, or even (gulp) months to the process.
With SOC 2 Summarization: Streamline your assessment requests
SOC 2 Summarization allows you to quickly and easily conduct a thorough vendor assessment with only a SOC 2 report. The response rate for SOC 2 requests is much higher than for a customized security questionnaire request, and it’s much easier for vendors to send along a SOC 2 (even when NDAs are necessary).
With the SOC 2, you can use AI to find answers to many of the questions included in your assessment questionnaires. Even if you don’t find every necessary answer to move forward with a vendor, you can winnow your questionnaire down to a handful of questions, making it much easier to finish and dramatically increasing your response rates.
Annoyer #4: Inability to assess or reassess the number of vendors you want to
Because SOC 2 analysis can be tedious, time-consuming work, many companies simply don’t have the resources to thoroughly assess as many vendors in this way as they might like. While focusing on high-risk or critical vendors makes sense with resource constraints, the ability to apply a more thorough assessment to more vendors could increase overall security.
With SOC 2 Summarization: Richer assessments with the same resources
Because AI reduces the time necessary to assess a report, you no longer have to be so choosy about which vendors get the full SOC 2 treatment. You can organize report summaries by your most important controls and apply them to a larger portion of your vendor ecosystem, increasing your overall security reach and impact—without neglecting other essential tasks or adding headcount.
Bonus Annoyer #5 (for vendors!): Too much time responding to security questionnaires
Endless security assessment requests and customized questionnaires got ya down? We sympathize with the time, energy, and resources that go into responding to every request. It can be a hang up for your InfoSec team, slow down the sales process, or even cost you deals if you can’t respond. So you’re asking, “Whistic, isn’t there some way your AI-powered SOC 2 Summarization can help us, too?”
With SOC 2 Summarization: Make responding easier (and your customers happier)
Whistic’s answer to that vendor question? Yes! SOC 2 Summarization can help you, too. You can use our summary tool on your own SOC 2 report based on their required controls and exceptions. It makes it simple and safe to send the most important information your customers need (and without violating any NDA you might have with your auditor). This will increase your response rate, improve customer trust, and help you close deals faster.
(Want even more AI tools for vendors? Check out what Smart Response can do for you!)
Let Whistic Wash Away Irritation with SOC 2 Summarization
Hey, that rhymes! Pretty good meter, too. But that’s not all!
AI-powered SOC 2 summarization allows Whistic Assess customers to extract salient details out of reports and present them in a way that makes vital information easy to find, understand, and use. It’s just one of the many AI capabilities that’s making life easier, less annoying, and safer for customers and their vendors.
We can’t promise fewer headaches, but we CAN promise that dealing with hundreds of pages of SOC 2 reports won’t be the cause of them. Of course, we’d love for you to take a look at SOC 2 Summarization in action. It only takes 30 minutes with our dedicated team to show you how to save countless hours. Sign up for a time to meet with us for a guided tour today!