NIST vs SOC 2: What’s the Difference?Published February 22, 2020 • 2 min read
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Publications and Service Organization Control 2 (SOC 2) Report are opposite sides of the same coin in the United States. Both are international standards that aim to analyze an organization’s internal controls, but they do them in different ways and place emphasis on distinct areas of data security. Many confuse SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3 when it comes to which applies to a service organization.
Overall, SOC 2 enables organizations to obtain a certification of compliance, while NIST provides a voluntary framework for information security and privacy controls of a cybersecurity program and helps to establish service organization controls. NIST helps an organization develop organizational controls and risk management for an information security program.
A quick way to remember which one applies when is SOC 1 reports on internal controls related to an organization’s financials. A SOC 2 report discusses controls that affect the organization’s information security, availability, processing integrity, data confidentiality, and privacy with compliance controls outlined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports cover the same subject matter, but the difference lies in their intended audience. SOC 3 reports address a more general audience and tend to be shorter and less detailed than SOC 2 audits. They are often used to demonstrate SOC 2/3 compliance for prospective clients and for marketing.
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) consists of best practices, standards, and guidelines to manage cybersecurity risk. The voluntary framework was created through a collaboration between industry and government as a result of Executive Order (EO) 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity issued in February 2013. In addition to helping organizations manage and reduce risks, it was designed to foster risk and cybersecurity management communications amongst both internal and external organizational stakeholders. The most common publication that organizations leverage is the NIST Special Publication 800-53 rev4 as it contains the bulk of security controls. The NIST Special Publication 800-30: Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments is important for those looking to conduct risk assessments.