The General Data Protection Regulation is a law that was enacted in 2018, it has transformed the way businesses worldwide handle and protect personal data. With stringent requirements for data privacy and security, GDPR compliance is essential for organizations that collect, process, or store personal data of individuals in the European Union (EU), also extends to data of citizens of European Union (EU) being stored in other countries.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the key aspects of GDPR compliance and provide a roadmap for ensuring your organization adheres to these regulations.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is a comprehensive data protection regulation that aims to provide individuals in the EU greater control over their personal data. It addresses how personal data should be collected, processed, stored, and protected by organizations. GDPR applies to businesses and entities located within the EU, as well as those outside the EU that handle the data of EU residents.

What is covered under GDPR?

The following domains/areas are protected under GDPR for data of the citizens of the EU:

For whom is GDPR mandatory?

GDPR is a law and is applicable to any organization that stores, processes and uses data of citizens in the EU. The following entities have to be compliant with GDPR:

  1. a company or entity which processes personal data as part of the activities of one of its branches established in the EU, regardless of where the data is processed.
  2. a company established outside the EU and is offering goods/services (paid or for free) or is monitoring the behaviour of individuals in the EU.

GDPR does not apply to companies which are service providers based outside the EU or if the company provides services to customers outside the EU.

The Key Principles of GDPR are

  1. Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency: Organizations must process personal data lawfully, fairly, and transparently, with clear consent from data subjects.
  2. Purpose Limitation: Data should only be collected for specific, legitimate purposes and not used for other unrelated activities.
  3. Data Minimization: Organizations should only collect and retain data that is necessary for the stated purpose.
  4. Accuracy: Personal data should be accurate, and steps should be taken to rectify inaccuracies.
  5. Storage Limitation: Data should be stored for only as long as necessary for the intended purpose.
  6. Integrity and Confidentiality: Data must be processed securely and protected against unauthorized access or disclosure.

Key rights of Data subjects

GDPR grants several rights to its Data subjects, some of them are as follows:

  1. Right to Access: Data subjects can request access to their personal data held by an organization.
  2. Right to Be Forgotten: Individuals can request the deletion of their data under certain circumstances.
  3. Right to Data Portability: Data subjects have the right to receive their data in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format.
  4. Right to Object: Individuals can object to the processing of their data, particularly for direct marketing purposes

Steps to GDPR Compliance

Achieving GDPR compliance involves a series of steps to ensure your organization adheres to its principles and respects the rights of data subjects.

  1. Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO):
    1. If your organization processes large amounts of personal data or processes special categories of data, you may need to appoint a DPO.
    1. If your organization is present in multiple regions, then it is necessary to have a DPO for each region separately.
  2. Conduct a Data Privacy Impact Assessment (DPIA):
    1. For high-risk processing activities, conduct a PIA to identify and mitigate potential privacy risks.
    1. A DPIA helps identify and mitigate potential risks to data subjects' rights and freedoms. It's especially important when introducing new data processing operations.
  3. Data Privacy Policies:
    1. Develop clear and concise data privacy policies and procedures. Ensure that your privacy policies are readily accessible to data subjects, providing information about data collection, processing, and the rights of individuals.
    1. Integrate data protection principles into the design and development of new products, services, and processes.
  4. Develop a mechanism to obtain consent
    1. Implement mechanisms for obtaining valid consent for data processing activities. Ensure that individuals are informed about their rights and have the option to opt out.
    1. The consent must be valid, informed, and unambiguous and must be obtained from individuals before collecting and processing their personal data.
  5. Data Security Measures:
    1. Enhance data security by implementing technical and organizational measures to protect personal data.
    1. This includes encryption, access controls, regular security assessments, and employee training.
  6. Create a Data Breach response plan
    1. Establish procedures for responding to data subject requests, including access, rectification, erasure, and data portability.
    1. It's crucial to have a process in place for handling these requests promptly.
  7. Data Processing Records:
    1. Keep transparent records of your data processing activities, including the purpose, category of data, data recipients, and data retention periods.
    1. This documentation is vital for demonstrating compliance.
    1. This would have to be displayed in a public forum relating to the organization, ideally.
  8. Train Employees:
    1. Provide regular training to employees on GDPR compliance, including data handling procedures and incident response protocols.
  9. Third Party contracts
    1. Review and update contracts with third-party data processors to ensure they comply with GDPR requirements. Data controllers are responsible for the actions of their data processors.
    1. In case of third-party vendors that may have access to PII data or EPHI data it is necessary to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with them.
  10. Establish Regular Audits, Assessments and reviews
    1. Regularly audit and assess your data processing activities, security measures, and compliance efforts as defined in your policies. This helps identify and rectify any issues or vulnerabilities.
    1. Regularly review and audit data processing practices to ensure ongoing compliance with GDPR requirements.

How can your organization be GDPR compliant?

Irrespective of the size of your organization, you can give GDPR compliance a shot by following the processes listed below:

  1. Transparency

It is essential that you know your data. Conduct audits to establish what information you have and who has access to it. Make sure you can legally justify all your data processing activities and you have a clean understanding of all the processes and can convey the same in a clear manner.

Data privacy and data security must be always the primary focus. This includes implementing appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect data. Technical measures include but is not limited to encryption. Organizational measures  include limiting the amount of personal data that is collected and deleting data that no longer serves any purpose. Encrypt or anonymize data wherever possible. Create and enforce an internal security policy for your team members. Conduct a data protection assessment and have clear processes defined to carry it out. In the event of a data breach, make sure you have well defined procedures to keep all employees informed.

Appoint someone who would be responsible for GDPR compliance over your organization. Make sure you sign data processing agreements between your organization and any third-party vendors whose services you avail. If your organization is outside the EU, appoint a representative within one of the EU member states. Appoint a DPO.

Transparency with customers is essential, at any point of time they should be able to request and receive information that you have about them. They should also be able to update or delete their information as and when they want to. They should also be able to terminate the processing of their data by your company with ease. It is up to you company to protect the rights of customers.

Following this checklist might not have you compliant with GDPR entirely, but it significantly reduces your exposure to risk and regulatory penalties.

Benefits of compliance with GDPR

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Non-compliance with GDPR can result in significant fines, which can be as high as €20 million or 4% of an organization's global annual turnover, whichever is higher. Additionally, reputational damage and potential legal action from data subjects are other consequences of failing to comply.

How can COMPASS help?

COMPASS, a specialized lightweight platform, enhances your Internal Audit and external audit processes and user experience. Some of the benefits of using COMPASS include:


GDPR compliance is not an option but a legal obligation for organizations handling personal data of EU residents. By following the steps outlined in this guide, organizations can establish a robust data protection framework that not only meets GDPR requirements but also fosters trust with customers and stakeholders. Compliance is an ongoing effort, and staying up to date with regulatory changes is essential to maintaining data privacy and security in the digital age.

In today’s ever-evolving cyber and risk landscape, information security has come to the forefront to combat the sophistication of cyberattacks and the constantly changing technology framework. Two widely recognized information security standards stand out in this arena: ISO 27001 and SOC 2.

Both ISO 27001 and SOC2 provide companies with strategic frameworks and standards to measure their security controls and systems against. While both aim to fortify an organization's information security posture, they differ in their approach and applicability. Let's unravel the intricate details of these standards and decipher which one suits your organization's unique needs.

ISO 27001 is an international standard that provides a framework for managing information security risks. It is a prescriptive standard, meaning that it outlines specific controls that organizations must implement to achieve certification. ISO 27001 is a comprehensive standard that covers a wide range of topics, including physical security, access control, data security, and incident management. The ISO standard is developed and regularly updated by the International Standards Organization.

Scope and Focus: ISO 27001 takes a holistic approach to information security. It's about understanding, managing, and mitigating risks associated with information assets, encompassing everything from data protection to physical security.

Applicability: ISO 27001 adheres to a globally recognized set of standards. Its flexibility allows organizations to adapt and implement controls that suit their specific needs while following a structured framework. Versatility is the name of the game with ISO 27001. From tech startups to healthcare institutions, any organization can harness its power to safeguard sensitive information.

Certification Process:   ISO 27001 certification requires an annual audit conducted by an accredited certification body. ISO 27001 certification involves a rigorous process that culminates in a certificate validating an organization's compliance with the standard. Auditors from accredited certification bodies examine the entire system for its effectiveness in managing risks.

Requirements: ISO requires some mandatory documents for certification, the requirements are mentioned in the standard document and will be requested by the auditor during the audit. They are as listed below:

Reporting: The end result is a tangible ISO 27001 certificate, that will be given with an assessment report which will have the auditor’s findings based on the audit conducted.

Validity/Renewal: ISO 27001 certification is valid for three years, with surveillance audits conducted annually.

SOC 2 is a set of auditing procedures that are developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). SOC 2 reports are designed to provide assurance to customers that an organization has implemented effective controls to protect their data. SOC 2 is a more flexible standard than ISO 27001, and it allows organizations to tailor their controls to their specific risks and needs. There are two types of SOC2 Audits, SOC Type 1 and SOC2 Type2:

SOC 2 Type 1 and SOC 2 Type 2 differ in the assessment and monitoring period of the internal controls. SOC 2 Type 1 evaluates the design of the security controls at a point in time, whereas SOC 2 Type 2 reviews the design and operating effectiveness of the controls over a period of 3-12 months.

While ISO 27001 is the jack-of-all-trades, SOC 2 Type 2 is specifically tailored to assess an organization's controls related to the five principles. This certification focuses on specific Trust Services Criteria—security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

Scope and Focus: SOC 2 Type 2 zeroes in on the trustworthiness and reliability of a service organization's systems. It ensures that customer data is secure, available, and confidential.

Framework and Standards: AICPA's Trust Services Criteria provides the foundation for SOC 2 Type 2. It's more industry-specific, tailor-made for service organizations dealing with sensitive customer information.

Applicability: This certification is the go-to for service providers, including cloud service companies, data centres, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. It speaks directly to the concerns of customers entrusting their data to third parties.

Certification Process: The SOC 2 Type 2 certification process is unique, with independent CPA firms conducting audits. These audits evaluate controls over a defined period, usually six months or longer, ensuring they meet the Trust Services Criteria.

Reporting: The crown jewel of SOC 2 Type 2 is the comprehensive SOC 2 report. This report, issued by the CPA firm, outlines their findings, conclusions, and recommendations related to the controls in place.

Validity/Renewal: SOC 2 attestation reports are valid for one year, requiring annual re-attestation.

FeatureISO 27001SOC 2
DefinitionA standard that sets the requirements for an ISMSSet of audit reports to evidence the level of conformity to a set of defined criteria (TSC)
FocusInformation security management system (ISMS)Data security controls
ApplicabilityDesigned to be used by any organization of any size or any industryOrganizations in the Service Industry across all industries
ComplianceCertification issued by ISO Certification BodyAttestation by a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
AuditAnnual (Surveillance)Annual
RenewalEvery 3 yearsEvery year

The ISO 27001 report is a detailed document that outlines the organization's ISMS. It includes information about the organization's information security policies, procedures, and controls. The report also includes the results of the audit, which will identify any areas where the organization needs to improve its information security.

The ISO 27001 report typically includes the following sections:

The SOC 2 report is a detailed document that outlines the organization's controls for one or more of the following Trust Services Criteria (TSC):

When it comes to ISO 27001 versus SOC 2 Type 2, the choice depends on your organization's nature and specific requirements. ISO 27001 is your passport to universal information security, applicable to diverse industries, while SOC 2 Type 2 is the trusted guardian of customer data for service providers.

The best report for your organization will depend on your specific needs and risks. If you are looking for a comprehensive report that outlines all of your organization's information security controls, then the ISO 27001 report may be a good option. If you are more concerned with providing assurance to your customers about your controls for a specific TSC, then the SOC 2 report may be a better choice.

COMPASS, a specialized lightweight platform, enhances your Internal Audit and external audit processes and user experience. Some of the benefits of using COMPASS include:

Whether you choose ISO 27001's structured framework or SOC 2's tailored approach, both standards offer valuable guidance in fortifying your organization's information security posture. Remember, the journey to information security excellence is an ongoing process, not a destination. By continuously evaluating, refining, and adapting your information security practices, you can safeguard your organization's sensitive data and maintain the trust of your customers.

In the ever-evolving world of IT, security has become a necessity more than a precautionary decision or a luxury that most organizations overlook. With the ever-increasing sophistication of cyberattacks, businesses are constantly seeking ways to safeguard their sensitive information and protect their customers' trust. Two widely recognized information security standards stand out in this arena: ISO 27001 and SOC 2. As a startup looking at certifications from ISO accredited bodies or attestations from CPAs (Certified Public Accountant) will give your organization the head-start it needs in the ever-evolving world of cyberthreats. ISO and SOC2 follow essentially two different paths for certification/attestation respectively, ISO 27001 is an international standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). It provides a systematic approach for managing information security risks. Whereas SOC 2 (Service Organization Control 2) is a framework developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) specifically for service organizations. It focuses on five trust service principles: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. SOC2 is essential for Service providing organizations across all industries, as it focuses on specialization of protection of service organizations that handle customer data. While ISO is a prescriptive standard that can be applied to any organization in any industry, it focuses on developing and maintain an ISMS framework in the organization and how well it is being maintained. The fundamental distinctions have been called out in detail in the Blog: The rudimentary differences between an ISO 27001 Certification and a SOC2 Certification.

As a startup, compliance with either of the standards will help your business in the following ways:

For a startup, having either certificate or attestation for ISO 27001 or SOC2 is a task that can be achieved rather easily as the systems, processes and technologies being adopted in the organization are rather nascent and can be molded according to the minimum requirements set by either standards. The certification or attestation can be achieved from scratch by following the below mentioned steps:

  1. Establish an Information Security Management System (ISMS):
    • An ISMS is a framework for managing information security risks.
    • It includes policies, procedures, and controls that help organizations to identify, assess, and mitigate information security risks.
  2. Conduct a risk assessment:
    • Identify and assess the information security risks that your startup faces. This step is crucial as it forms the basis for establishing controls and security measures. You need to understand the vulnerabilities and potential threats to your data.
    • It is essential to ensure that your risk assessment is metric driven so that you understand the critical risks in your organization
  3. Conduct a Business Impact Assessment
    • Identify critical business components, processes and technologies
    • Identify Single Points of Failure (SPOF)Create contingency plans for different scenarios
    • Communicate plans to key stakeholders
    • Conduct tests annually to test the preparedness of the organization
  4. Implement Security Controls:
    • For ISO 27001, you'll need to establish a set of controls based on the risk assessment. These controls should cover various aspects of information security, such as access control, data encryption, incident response, and employee training.
    • For SOC 2, you'll need to implement controls that address the specific trust service principles, including security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. These controls may include data encryption, access controls, monitoring, and incident response procedures.
  5. Incorporate Security into your processes:
    • By involving thoughts of Security into any process that happens in your organization you will be able to find opportunities for improvement in every process
    • The thought of risk should be something that is considered for every process being setup by the organization
    • By incorporating security into processes, the risk is significantly reduced
  6. Training and Awareness:
    • Ensure that all employees are trained and aware of your information security policies and procedures. They should know their roles and responsibilities in maintaining compliance.
  7. Continuously Monitor and Improve:
    • Regularly monitor and review your information security practices identifying areas for improvement.
    • Maintain a continuous improvement tracker to enforce the areas of improvement and also for compliance.
    • Conduct regular reviews of the ISMS framework (monthly) and document the Minutes of the meeting as Monthly Review Meeting
  8. Conduct Internal Audits:
    • Conduct regular internal audits to review your security controls to ensure their effectiveness. For ISO 27001, internal audits should be conducted periodically to assess compliance. For SOC 2, engage an independent CPA firm to perform an annual audit.
    • Improve on the gaps and OFIs identified during the Internal audit and continuously improve your information security practices and update your policies and procedures as needed.
  9. Seek Certification:
    • Once you feel you are in a good place with your ISMS system, seek certification/attestation as the case may be.
    • For ISO 27001 certification, you will need to engage an accredited certification body to assess your ISMS and grant certification if you meet the standard's requirements.
    • For SOC 2 compliance, you will receive a SOC 2 report after the audit. Share this report with your customers, partners, and stakeholders to demonstrate your commitment to security.
  10.  Maintain Compliance:
    • Achieving compliance is not a one-time effort; it's an ongoing process. Regularly review and update your information security measures to adapt to changing risks and regulations.
    • Conduct yearly surveillance audits for ISO and Yearly Attestation Audits for SOC2
    • Based on the findings continuously improve your system
  11. Communicate your compliance:
    • Once you achieve ISO 27001 and SOC 2 compliance, make sure your customers and partners are aware of it.
    • Highlight your commitment to data security in marketing materials and on your website.
  12. Leverage Compliance for growth:
    • Compliance with ISO 27001 and SOC 2 can be a powerful differentiator in the competitive startup landscape.
    • Use your compliance achievements as a selling point to attract new customers and investors who value data security.

How can COMPASS help?

COMPASS, a specialized lightweight platform developed by CyRAACS, enhances your Internal Audit and external audit processes and user experience. Some of the benefits of using COMPASS include:


In conclusion, ISO 27001 and SOC 2 compliance are achievable for startups with the right approach and commitment. ISO 27001 and SOC 2 compliance are achievable goals for startups, even with limited resources. These certifications not only bolster your information security but also provide a competitive edge and instill trust in clients and investors. By following the steps outlined in this guide and maintaining a commitment to continuous improvement, your startup can successfully navigate the path to compliance and reap the associated benefits.

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