In DevOps, Achieving SOC 2 Compliance is a Challenge. Why?
For a scaling tech business, DevOps is the only alternative going forward to satisfy the needs for faster deployment and bug fixes. While it already is challenging to implement DevOps in your organization, the SOC 2 compliance requirements make it even more challenging. Let’s understand how DevOps pose hardships in achieving SOC 2 compliance.
Table of Contents
What is DevOps
DevOps is more a cultural and philosophical model than being a tool for faster software development. As the requirement for faster development cycles emerged, the traditional practices have started to become obsolete. DevOps is the alternative approach to the software development cycle that promotes a faster building, testing, and feedback cycle.
A faster and more integrated development cycle is beneficial for both customers and the organization. The customers now can report bugs and see them get fixed in a minimum time, and the organization can utilize its resources more efficiently.
The benefits of DevOps include:
- Faster Product Release
- Simplified Feedback Cycle
- Automated Testing
- Minimal production cost
- Improved productivity
What is SOC 2 Compliance
Service organizational control (SOC), developed by the AICPA, is a non-mandatory standard for businesses that provide a variety of services to their customers.
SOC 2 summarizes how a company should retain and handle consumer information. Especially the companies that outsource operations to third-party vendors (e.g., SaaS) should get audited for SOC 2 compliance by a certified public accounting (CPA) firm.
The SOC 2 compliance audits are tweaked for each organization depending on their business type. But the core compliance standards of security, privacy, availability, integrity, and confidentiality are maintained.
In DevOps, achieving SOC 2 compliance is quite challenging due to the fundamental nature of the practice itself. But that’s not all. Let’s understand the hardship DevOps face when trying to get the nod.
DevOps thrives on collaboration. The fundamental point of ditching traditional development cycles and embracing DevOps is dynamic collaboration.
All the employees in a DevOps team are responsible for any issues in the development or the feedback cycle. Not only technical collaboration, but the teams are also trained to talk, meet, and brief each other on all the latest developments regarding the application they are working on.
Effective SOC 2 compliance audits face challenges from dynamic collaboration while making it faster and easier to develop and fix an application
As the compliance manual focuses on data privacy and security, if a product is reliant on data, the whole team needs to have access to it. Even if they don’t need it for the time being. The data may be used to test the application or develop better machine learning algorithms.
The whole team having access to data increases the risks associated with retention and disposal. Thus, you need to ensure that the data policies are enforced throughout the organization and your employees are trained to handle the data.
Without automation testing, your DevOps projects are not going to fare as efficiently as you want them to. Automation testing is the use of predefined frameworks that are used to test certain aspects of the application.
Feedback cycles are where manual testing fails to perform. Testing a parameter, generating reports, and forwarding that to the developer team can be time and resource-consuming.
Automation testing algorithms can break the application into units and test them with the available data to generate reports faster. As the reports are more detailed and yielded faster, the developers can take care of the issues right away.
Complying with SOC 2 norms can become challenging with automation tools in use. Not only the testing automation, but business automation, IT automation, and robotic automation can also present hurdles between you and the SOC certificate.
As most automation tools aren’t developed in-house, there are significant risks associated with using customer data to train the algorithms. If the third-party vendor doesn’t comply with the SOC 2 manual, you’ll find it challenging to convince the auditors.
Although unlikely, the third-party vendors, if not SOC 2 certified, can sell your customer data to other parties without your knowledge.
Microservices are the heart of DevOps. They offer extensive benefits over monolithic architecture. Single point of failure (SPOF) can be removed by using microservices to develop cloud-based applications. The microservice-based approach ensures that different parts of the application don’t get affected due to an issue in one service.
DevOps teams make use of the microservices as building blocks to develop larger systems. Functionalities of individual microservices can also be extended without affecting other parts of the application. Whenever a bug is discovered, the development team can fix the bug without disrupting the operations of other services.
Developers mostly use REST APIs to communicate with each microservice container. And as the microservices are mostly deployed to manage multi-cloud environments, the risk of data breach looms over. The different cloud services don’t work quite well with each other due to the difference in technology and architecture used.
Thus, increased risk of control and visibility of the application is always present–jeopardizing customer data privacy.
Continuous integration (CI) and continuous development (CD) is the practice of committing to a shared repository whenever a change is issued. Version control programs like Git are used for this purpose. The main difference between the traditional approach and DevOps in CI/CD is in the architecture.
The developers used to work for an extended period of time to work on huge applications and commit to the repo. But, with microservices and DevOps, they can commit small changes to the repo continuously. With small changes, integration and testing become easier and faster.
But, with the shared repository approach, the application and user data are always at risk. Again it’s a general issue with collaboration. You can’t just keep changing access control every time someone needs to access something.
However, you can set an access lifetime to prevent employees from getting prolonged access. You can review their status after every cycle to comply with SOC 2.
The Bottom Line
Faster problem solving requires that you fall back on DevOps. But as a tech organization, complying with SOC 2 requires you to keep your customer data safe. But, due to the dynamic development and collaborative nature of DevOps, it can become challenging. It’s advised that you consult the CPAs before jumping into integrating DevOps culture into your organization