HITRUST and SOC 2 are two widely recognized compliance frameworks that companies can use to build trust and demonstrate their commitment to information security. Both frameworks share similar goals and requirements but have a few significant differences.
If your organization is weighing which framework meets your business needs better, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make a smart decision.
SOC 2 and HITRUST Essentials
SOC 2 (Service Organization Control 2) is an auditing framework developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for evaluating a company’s internal controls related to five trust services criteria (TSC): security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Through a SOC 2 report prepared by an independent auditor, the framework provides a detailed assessment of how well a company safeguards customer data.
The HITRUST CSF (Common Security Framework) is a unified set of standards originally developed by healthcare organizations and security experts to harmonize the compliance needs of the healthcare industry. It has since been expanded to cover all industries by integrating other regulations, frameworks, and best practices. Now functioning as a cross-industry brand, the term HITRUST was originally the acronym for Health Information Trust Alliance.
Both the SOC 2 and HITRUST framework are used to assess and improve the security of an organization’s information systems. But these are the factors where they differ:
- Engagement output. The main difference between SOC 2 and HITRUST lies in their final output document. A SOC 2 engagement results in an attestation report containing an independent auditor’s opinion. On the other hand, a HITRUST engagement results in a certification issued by a HITRUST-authorized assessor. Typically, HITRUST certifications remain valid for two years while SOC 2 reports need to be refreshed every year. A certification is a more potent form of assurance than an independent attestation (opinion).
- Number of control requirements. SOC 2 focuses on controls related to five trust services criteria. HITRUST covers SOC 2 controls plus additional requirements and standards from other frameworks such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework, COBIT (Control objectives for Information Technologies), and International Standards Organization (ISO) 27001. As a result, HITRUST sets far more controls compared to SOC 2 and is the more rigorous compliance framework.
- Related Costs. HITRUST certification typically costs more compared to obtaining a SOC 2 report.
- Timeline. The HITRUST compliance cycle typically takes longer to complete compared to SOC 2.
- Complexity/Ease of compliance. SOC 2 reports are relatively easier to obtain compared to HITRUST in terms of timeline, budget, and challenge level.
- Industry acceptance and recognition. SOC 2 is a well-established framework more widely recognized by businesses and their customers. HITRUST originally focused on the healthcare sector but has since covered all industries. While SOC 2 is more popular, HITRUST is the preferred assurance framework in high-risk sectors such as finance and healthcare.
- Alignment and correspondence with other frameworks. By design, HITRUST aligns well and more comprehensively with other frameworks and regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compared to SOC 2.
Factors to Consider
Based on the key differences cited above, here are some ballpark conclusions you can make:
- SOC 2 is a good option for companies that prefer a relatively simpler, faster, and more affordable method of providing assurance to internal and external stakeholders.
- HITRUST is a valuable option for companies in highly regulated industries, and for organizations that require a more strident approach to compliance.
- While SOC 2 is the older and more widely recognized framework, HITRUST is gaining in popularity.
Can you have both?
Yes. Experienced and duly accredited assessors can deliver the holy grail: SOC 2 + HITRUST CSF.
For companies that proactively set higher standards of data protection and privacy, combining the two frameworks in one audit engagement can be a valuable option. Such engagements yield significant time efficiencies and cost savings, and this is made possible due to the high level of correspondence between HITRUST’s Common Security Framework AICPA’s Trust Services Criteria.
The only caveat is that you carefully choose which assessor to work with. Ensure the external auditor is authorized by HITRUST and accredited by AICPA.
SOC 2 and HITRUST are both valuable frameworks for building trust in your brand and protecting your customers’ data. Determining which framework works best for you depends on your company’s line of business, commitment to information security, and the specific requirements of your internal and external stakeholders.
Implementing either framework requires careful planning, prudent resource allocation, and a smart approach to maintaining compliance. Engaging experts and specialists early on can help you make informed decisions.
Whichever option you consider, it is crucial to work with a highly experienced audit team. Experienced assessors provide practical insights that can accelerate the compliance cycle, reduce costs, and improve business outcomes.
Talk to an expert for a free consultation.