SOC 2 Password Requirements: AICPA Guidelines & Best Practices
Nov 13, 2023
As the cost of credential theft increased by 65% in 2020 alone, passwords are like a virtual fortress that protects sensitive data. The SOC 2 framework establishes a number of guidelines that help service orgs bolster their security posture. One of these guidelines include abiding by the SOC 2 password requirements.
This article covers the SOC 2 password guidelines, how to implement them, and best practices to abide by the SOC password requirements.
SOC 2 password requirements: what does AICPA say?
SOC 2 has five trust service criteria – security, privacy, availability, confidentiality, and processing integrity. Businesses have the flexibility to choose the criteria applicable to them depending on the type of service it offers.
For example, if you offer financial services, availability and processing integrity is relevant for you, while confidentiality and privacy is relevant for healthcare businesses.
Nevertheless, the security principle is critical and compulsory no matter the type of service you offer.
The security principle covers three sections detailing how companies can meet their SOC 2 compliance password requirements:
The entity implements logical access security software, infrastructure, and architectures over protected information assets to protect them from security events to meet the entity’s objectives.
- Limit logical access to information assets like software, data, APIs, endpoint devices, and servers using access control systems and configuration hardening processes
- Identify authenticated users and systems located remotely and on-site and protect information assets using techniques like multifactor authentication
- Restrict access to confidential and personal information to authorized personnel only
Prior to issuing system credentials and granting system access, the entity registers and authorizes new internal and external users whose access is administered by the entity. For those users whose access is administered by the entity, user system credentials are removed when user access is no longer authorized. Create credentials to protect information assets for employees, contractors, vendors, business partners, systems, and more.
- Remove access to credentials that are no longer in use or valid. For example, change the passwords for all systems an employee had access to after their exit
The entity authorizes, modifies, or removes access to data, software, functions, and other protected information assets based on roles, responsibilities, or the system design and changes, giving consideration to the concepts of least privilege and segregation of duties, to meet the entity’s objectives.
- Implement processes to modify access to protected information based on authorization
- Implement processes to revoke access to protected information when no longer in use
- Implement access control structures like role-based access controls to limit privileges and separate unrated functions
Sprinto helps you set up role-based access control to restrict access to networks based on individual roles within the enterprise. By defining who access what, when, and how, you can meet SOC audit requirements.
Also check: SOC 2 Auditors and Service Providers
- Describe how to protect login using Sprinto’s login mechanism strengthening tools
- Set up ticket-based access control to manage exceptions
- Get a granular view of org-wide accounts and access, including status history
SOC 2 password requirements
Based on the AICPA regulations, you can implement the following practices to meet SOC 2 password guidelines:
Based on the AICPA regulations, here are the 5 best practices you need to follow to meet SOC 2 password guidelines:
Ever came across the instruction “password must contain at least eight characters” while trying to create a new account? This is because the length of your password impacts the security level.
Hackers can easily crack short passwords using guesswork or brute force attacks. Multiple attempts to crack passwords will lock unauthorized users from logging in and this is possible when passwords are strong.
“Your password must contain at least one uppercase character, one lowercase character, one number, and one special symbol” – we all came across this message while trying to set a password and frankly it’s a headache.
So why do web services put us through the trouble? The answer is security – similar to length, the variety in characters in a password adds to its complexity. The goal is to make it difficult for malicious hackers to crack it. For example, “password” is much easier to crack than “P@$$w0rd”. That said, P@$$w0rd is also used commonly, so don’t use that.
No matter the length and complexity, malicious actors may succeed in cracking it with continuous attempts.
To circumvent this, set up a system that automatically triggers the need to reset the password at certain intervals – like three months, six months, and so on. Password rotation helps to reduce the chances of compromise, especially for accounts with sensitive information.
Malicious hackers often try to break in using multiple attempts. Sometimes, they might succeed and password-cracking tools certainly don’t make it easier. You can combat this by setting a limit to the number of times the system accepts wrong input before locking out the user.
Account lockouts are inconvenient from a user’s perspective as it can lock authentic users out of their accounts if they forget the password. Moreover, creating new passwords that meet all requirements is tedious. Using password generators or password savers simplify these processes.
Device loss or theft is a common factor that results in compromise. Mobile devices falling in the wrong hands can end up in unauthorized entry attempts.
MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) techniques add an additional layer of security by requiring the user to authenticate their identity via a time-sensitive code sent to another authenticated device. It helps to reduce the chance of successful breach attempts as the unauthorized user is unlikely to have physical access to both devices.
Sprinto’ built-in checks get activated when you add a critical system to ensure that MFA is enabled. It shows the status as “failing” on the dashboard until the user activates it.
Want to automate your way to compliance? Leverage the top rated compliance automation tool.
Tips to make sure you meet SOC 2 password requirements
Meeting SOC 2 password requirements involves combining people, processes, and technology. Now that you know the requirements, follow these recommendations to meet them:
Also check: SOC 2 Compliance Requirements – Complete Guide
Use a password manager
IT infrastructures are complex patchworks of people, tools, and devices. To add to the complexity, not all employees use the same tool or device, creating a system consisting of a permutation of passwords for these entities.
Outdated tools like excel sheets are no longer cutting it due to the dependency on manual processes, especially for large infrastructures. This underscores the need for automated password management systems.
Insider attacks can be intentional or accidental. Most insider attacks belong to the latter category – a study by Proofpoint found that almost two-thirds of attacks are caused by negligence or misinformed employees.
Another survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute reveals that breaches, where the initial attack vector was a malicious insider, are the costliest to contain.
These reports highlight the importance of conducting training and awareness programs for new and existing employees to implement security best practices.
Sprinto’s employee training module to help you meet compliance training requirements. Customize the module as per your needs, add additional training modules, check the status of completion, mark exceptions, and collect evidence of training completion.
Implement access control
Access control works on the principle of least privilege; a concept that helps to reduce accidental data leak or damage. It works by giving users the minimum amount of access to systems, files, or applications required to carry their functional tasks seamlessly.
For example, you don’t need access to code repositories as a salesman. Similarly, access to sales reports is unnecessary if you are an engineer.
Screen lock out
Remote work environments have added a new type of vulnerability to devices – physical unauthorized access. If users leave their devices unattended, anyone can view or edit sensitive data present in it.
A preventive measure against physical unauthorized access is by setting up an auto timer that locks the device screen if it is inactive for a certain period. To access the system, authorized users have to enter a passcode.
Sprinto’s employee management tool scans system settings to scan for non-compliant configurations like no assigned value for screen lockout and no password when the system starts. It automatically alerts system administrators to issue a notice to the concerned user.
Change system provided passwords
Whenever you set up a new tool or system, change the system default password provided by the manufacturer. These passwords are easier to crack since manufacturers use a common set of values for all devices or solutions.
Some solutions come pre-built with this requirement, but many don’t. If the system does not automatically trigger a notification to change the preset password, go to settings and change it.
Sprinto is a SOC 2 compliance automation tool that monitors your security controls to ensure continuous compliance so you breeze through your SOC 2 audits.
It integrates with your setup easily to help you manage access controls, implement MFS across systems, and scan user endpoints for non-compliant activities. It trains your employees against best security practices, and manages all user access from a single dashboard.
Still not sure? Talk to our experts to see how we help.
How can I set a strong password policy to comply with SOC password complexity requirements?
To meet SOC requirements, use complex passwords that have a combination of lowercase letters, special characters, numbers, and set the minimum password character requirement to at least eight characters. Moreover, You can implement a two-factor authentication system, ensure periodic password changes, and use password vaults to secure passwords.
What does AICPA say about SOC password requirements?
AICPA covers topics related to password management and access control in three sections – CC6.1, CC6.2, and CC6.3. These sections highlight the importance of access control, encryption, and credential revoking. Additionally, these use, disclosure, and disposal should be in keeping with the Generally Accepted Privacy Principles (GAPP) of AICPA.
Does SOC 2 require encryption?
SOC 2 requires entities to use encryption techniques to protect data at rest, during processing, or in transmission in cases where it is appropriate based on the risk mitigation strategy.
What is the significance of the master password in SOC 2 password requirements, and how does it relate to the design of controls and internal controls?
The master password helps to grant access to privileged accounts. As a key element in the design of controls, it ensures security. Internal controls govern the policies and procedures for password management, to maintain compliance and protect data.
Anwita is a cybersecurity enthusiast and veteran blogger all rolled into one. Her love for everything cybersecurity started her journey into the world compliance. With multiple certifications on cybersecurity under her belt, she aims to simplify complex security related topics for all audiences. She loves to read nonfiction, listen to progressive rock, and watches sitcoms on the weekends.
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