How can your Third Party Vendor help or hurt your SOC 2 status?

Are you tracking the moving target of your third party vendors’ privacy and security practices? You may want to get on that. If you’re one of the many organizations about to tackle the SOC 2 assessment process, familiarize yourself with the AICPA’s 2017 Trust Service Criteria document (formerly Trust Service Principles). You’ll quickly notice the underlying theme is organizational risk management where vendor risk management figures prominently.

The updated criteria delves into the many joys of maintaining and assuring “commitment” and “competency.” Under the evolving TSPs (yes, still called TSPs), “system and organization controls” expand to include cybersecurity risks, such as those that come with third party vendors.

In fact, nearly every mention of risk profile components includes vendors. Their reliability, the need to assess external threats, the ongoing relationship. So how do you begin to manage the risk they bring to your organization?

Vet them at the outset as part of due diligence prior to contract. Well, of course, you say. Wait for it: vet again, and again, at timely intervals.

All too often, we see the opposite. When going through a proposal process, organizations may be all over the potential vendor partner with a microscope. Once the contract is complete, crickets. As long as the service is fairly smooth, vendor privacy and security audits are rare, if they happen at all.

However, an organization that’s considering any certification (HITRUST, ISO) or a successful SOC report won’t have that option. And increasingly, to be competitive, you need to make the extra effort to demonstrate your data privacy and information security competency. So what’s the plan?

Tips for Third Party Vendor Risk Management

  1. Vet vendors early and often. Because it bears repeating, make due diligence a repetitive activity. Regular re-assessment of your vendor’s privacy and security practices could be the action that saves your organization from an embarrassing and costly breach.
  2. Make them prove that they train their workforce on issues you think are important. Isn’t your third party partner part of your operations? Don’t they affect your ability to conduct business successfully? Think about how you can identify your most important training issues and push them to include them in their training. That speaks to assuring competency, by the way. A TSP.
  3. Mitigate risks immediately. You’ll inevitably identify privacy and security risks during everyday business oversight. When they’re to do with a vendor, take action immediately. The more quickly you address any vulnerability, the less likely it can grow from a manageable security incident to a major security breach.

For those of you who are happy SOC 2 Report achievers, keep up to par on those TSPs. Remember, the AICPA is only one organization honing in on vendor risk management. Whether you’re going for a certification or simply trying to stay on top of regulatory requirements, the risk is real.

Are you considering a certification or readying for an assessment? Chris Apgar and Julia Huddleston have helped numerous clients prep for a successful assessment to achieve certification or a SOC 2 report. Call Apgar and Associates today to learn more: 503-384-2538.


Informational source includes: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Inc. “Trust Service Criteria.” Issued by the AICPA Assurance Services Executive Committee (ASEC). Copyright © 2017. Available at