Are you considering going through an information security audit for the first time? Are you contemplating a requirement for all of your vendors to undergo information security audits? Are you looking for an auditing firm who can help your organization utilize the benefits of auditing? Do you need help explaining the value of information security audits to executive management? Are you trying to cultivate a culture of compliance within your organization? We’re here to help.

What are the Advantages to Auditing?

Many people are intimidated by the requirements, price, and efforts of auditing, but we believe the benefits outweigh the cost. Yes, undergoing information security audits is a challenging and time-consuming process for most organizations, but our Information Security Specialists aim to educate clients on the value that attestations and compliance can bring to their business, which range from competitive advantages to reputational improvement. When your organization has completed an information security audit and gained compliance, the challenges you faced will be worth it.

However, getting executives on board with undergoing information security audits can be challenging, because many organizations are fearful of the process. We see many organizations get stuck in the checkbox mentality, where they view auditing as an item to be checked off a list rather than understanding the purpose and benefits. At KirkpatrickPrice, we want to be your audit partner, not just an item to check off on a list. We want to walk through this audit lifecycle with you, enhancing your business by placing security and compliance at the forefront of the current threat landscape.

Are you ready to get started on securing your business? Do you want to ensure your security posture is as strong as possible? Do you want to see how your mindset toward auditing can change over a three-year period? KirkpatrickPrice offers a wide variety of information security testing and auditing services. To learn more, contact a KirkpatrickPrice information security specialist today.

Welcome to the inaugural Risky Business blog! The goal here is to provide education about the ISO 27001 standard and provide useful advice on how this framework can be used to solve many of your compliance and information security problems.

I have been using ISO 27001 for over a decade as the foundation for information security programs that I’ve developed and directed, both for myself and for my clients, and have seen the efficacy of the standard firsthand. ISO 27001 is unique in that it gives a clear framework that is risk-based, business-focused, and allows its users to build an information security program that meets their specific information security needs. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather it tailors itself to your organization’s security needs based on your particular risk.

ISO 27001 is the successor to ISO 17799, BS 7799 before that, and is part of the ISO 27000 series’ information security standards. BS 7799 was published in 1995 by the government of the United Kingdom, so the core content behind this standard has been around for over 20 years. It was labelled as a “Code of practice for information security management.” In short, it tells you how to design and operate your information security management system (ISMS), or information security program.

Since you are reading an information security blog, you might be somewhat familiar with some other commonly used information security standards such as PCI DSS or HIPAA. Now, ISO 27001 has a very different approach to information security than standards such as these. Whereas, for example, PCI DSS tells you specifically what controls you have to use (the prescriptive approach), ISO 27001, instead, lets you decide on what controls best suit your particular information security needs (the risk-based approach). It’s a very different way of looking at things and requires a different mindset for those of you who are simply used to going “down the list” of controls, requirements, etc. The real magic in ISO 27001 is that, in following it, you essentially create an information security standard that is customized for your organization. It’s like making a tailor-fitted version of the PCI DSS just for you. This tailored version not only specifically addresses your particular information security needs and environment, but also allows you to not waste effort and resources on applying controls of no or little value to your organization. Again, it’s tailor-made for you.

ISO 27001 really is somewhat magic! I’ve consulted for hundreds of clients over the last few decades, and have noticed that those that use ISO 27001 as the basis of their information security programs are always heads and shoulders above those that don’t. Not only are their programs more mature and effective, but they also spend their budget far more effectively since ISO 27001 targets their real and actual risks instead of some theoretical risk on a piece of paper. We want you to be able to enjoy the same advantages that those organizations enjoy.

In upcoming posts, we will break down the standard into bit-sized pieces that are easy to understand and put into practice. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you. What experiences have you had with ISO 27001? What questions or concerns do you have about the standard? Email me at b.penn@ Contact us to learn more, and we look forward to hearing from you!

SSAE 16, SOC 2, HIPAA, PCI DSS, FISMA, ISO 27001. We’ve all heard of the Alphabet Soup, but what do they all really mean?

Which one is right for me? Which one should I pursue? Why would I get this audit over that audit? As auditors, these are the questions we are most frequently asked.

To help answer these questions and truly familiarize you with the different audit frameworks, we’ve broken down the Who’s, What’s, and Why’s for the most commonly reported on frameworks.


Who asks for an SSAE 16? If you work with publicly traded companies, financial institutions, or state or local government, you will frequently be required to have an SSAE 16 (or SOC 1) audit performed by a third party. It is the most commonly used form of attestation for service providers in the US. So what is an SSAE 16? It’s an audit and report on internal controls (whether related to information security, financial, operational, or compliance controls) at a service provider that are relevant to their client’s data. The SSAE 16 audit takes a risk-based approach, with specified objectives that are created to address client risk, and controls, or activities, to accomplish each objective. A third-party auditor would be looking at your environment to make sure your objectives are appropriate, your controls are effectively designed, and that you are doing what you say you are doing. An SSAE 16 audit is as good as its scope.


Typically, the same clients who are asking you for an SSAE 16 will be the ones asking you for a SOC 2 audit. Whereas SOC 1 was designed to validate internal controls at a service provider that relate to client financial reporting and validate information security, SOC 2 was a framework specifically designed for companies delivering technology related services. The SOC 2 framework is finally gaining popularity. SOC 2 was specifically designed to report on one of five principles: Security, Availability, Confidentiality, Processing Integrity, and Privacy. The established criteria for each principle address the following questions: How are your policies and procedures relative to the standard documented? How do you communicate those to all interested parties? How do you monitor that those controls are being effectively performed?


If you are working for a healthcare provider or a Business Associate who services a healthcare provider, you are going to be asked for validation of your compliance with HIPAA laws. Any entity who handles Protected Health Information (PHI) will be responsible for compliance with HIPAA. Legislation requires appropriate Physical, Administrative, and Technical Safeguards to protect PHI. Much like the SSAE 16, HIPAA compliance is risk-based. You must begin by performing a Risk Assessment to determine what the appropriate physical, administrative, and technical safeguards are, implement those, and then perform regular monitoring to ensure the safeguards are still appropriate. There is no “hard list” of requirements for HIPAA, and there is no certification. A third-party audit would provide validation of your controls and their appropriateness and effectiveness.


The PCI Data Security Standard applies primarily to the payment card industry. If you store, transmit, or process cardholder data, you will be required to comply with PCI DSS. Additionally, if you have a client who is required to comply with PCI DSS, they are required to validate your compliance with the standard as well. PCI DSS is a very robust information security standard, and is also sometimes used as a best practice, even without handling credit card data. A PCI audit is an information security audit focused on the protection of credit card data. All PCI audits are performed by a PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). There are over 200 controls and 1,000 audit tests that make up the framework and process. There are six control objectives with 12 subject areas. When a third-party auditor performs a PCI audit, it results in a PCI Report on Compliance (ROC).


FISMA Compliance is required of anyone working with the federal government, a federal contractor, or a sub-service provider of a federal contractor. FISMA is the law. NIST Special Publication 800-53 is the actual standard that lists the individual security controls required to comply with FISMA. A FISMA audit is a thorough assessment of your information security practices as it relates to NIST SP 800-53 requirements. It involves a detailed risk assessment, and a selection of comprehensive controls determined by whether you are a low, moderate, or high category. Out of the frameworks we’ve covered so far, FISMA is the most extensive.

ISO 27001-27002

If your customers are doing business globally, chances are you’ll be asked for an ISO 27001 audit. It is a very mature, holistic, information security standard that is widely recognized and highly revered on an international level. 27001 is the entire standard, and 27002 refers to just the controls. An ISO 27001 audit is a complete audit of your Information Security Management System (ISMS). This includes management system, risk management, internal audit, management review, continual improvement, and information security controls.

What is Meant by Audit Framework?

If you are unsure what is mean by an audit framework, please read over these Kirkpatrick Price resources:

Chief Compliance Officer Series: Constructing an Internal Audit Framework

6 Steps to Construct Your Internal Audit Program

Determining which audit framework is the best for your organization depends on a number of things; who your clients are, who your clients’ clients are, and what kind of information you process. For more information on a specific framework, or if you are interested in speaking with an Information Security Specialist for a consultation, contact us today.