The FedRAMP Edge: SOC 2 vs. FedRAMP Certifications

February 2, 2024

How can clients or customers assess whether a company is as secure as they claim to be?  In the intricate landscape of cybersecurity and compliance, SOC 2 and FedRAMP certifications stand as critical benchmarks.  Both frameworks are rooted in the need to provide a safe and secure environment for businesses by aiming to protect sensitive data, yet they differ in scope, rigor, and applicability.  This discussion details the fundamental definitions and differences between the two and highlights why FedRAMP, with its inclusion of third-party vendor assessments, often emerges as a more comprehensive choice for certain organizations.  It will also shed some light on why it can take so much longer to obtain.

Scope and Focus

SOC 2, established by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), is tailored to service organizations, assessing their controls related to the Trust Service Criteria, which is divided into five categories: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.  It's a versatile certification, relevant across various industries, focusing on the management of user data.

Conversely, FedRAMP, a U.S. government-mandated program, specifically targets Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and Internet-of-Things (IoT) providers working with federal agencies.  It provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring, with an intense focus on cloud security.  Same applies to Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices such as security robots.

The Extensive and Time-Consuming Nature of FedRAMP Certification

A critical distinction between SOC 2 and FedRAMP lies in the duration and depth of their certification processes.  The SOC 2 certification process is typically quicker, involving an audit by a CPA or accounting firm, based on the Trust Service Criteria. This process can often be completed within a few months.

FedRAMP, on the other hand, is a more time-intensive and detailed process. The involvement of third-party assessment organizations (3PAOs) for an unbiased evaluation of a CSP's security measures significantly adds to the duration of the process (these sometimes could be known as “white hat hackers”).  These assessments go beyond the CSP's direct controls, extending to third-party vendor evaluations to ensure comprehensive security throughout the service chain.

The much longer nature of FedRAMP certification — often taking a year or several years — is a reflection of its thoroughness and the complexity of compliance requirements, especially in cloud and IoT environments.  This extended timeline is crucial for CSPs to adequately prepare and align their systems with the stringent security standards required by FedRAMP.

The Rigor of Third-Party Assessments in FedRAMP

The 3rd Party Assessment aspect of FedRAMP is particularly vital as it recognizes the interconnected nature of cloud/IoT services and the potential risks posed by third-party associations.  By mandating 3PAOs to assess the connections to all vendors in a CSP's supply chain, FedRAMP ensures a holistic security posture, significantly reducing the risk of data breaches or vulnerabilities originating from less secure links in the service chain.

Certification Process and Industry Relevance

The path to SOC 2 certification involves an audit by a CPA or accounting firm.  In contrast, obtaining FedRAMP certification is a more extensive process, necessitating ongoing collaboration with a 3PAO, continuous monitoring, and annual reassessments.

While SOC 2 is widely recognized and essential for various service organizations, FedRAMP’s niche focus on cloud/Iot services for federal agencies makes it indispensable for CSPs eyeing contracts in the federal sector.

Why FedRAMP's Comprehensive Approach Stands Out

FedRAMP's comprehensive framework, underscored by the involvement of 3PAOs, offers a more robust assurance of security, particularly in cloud + IoT environments.  This approach not only evaluates the CSP's direct controls but also extends to assess how these controls are managed and enforced across third-party vendors.

For organizations that handle sensitive government data, this multi-layered assessment is crucial.  It ensures that every aspect of the cloud service, including interactions with external vendors, meets the highest security standards.  Moreover, FedRAMP certification paves the way for CSPs into the lucrative government sector, where high levels of security are non-negotiable.


While SOC 2 and FedRAMP both play pivotal roles in data security and compliance, FedRAMP's rigorous and comprehensive approach, bolstered by third-party vendor assessments, often makes it the certification of choice for CSPs dedicated to government contracts.  It provides an unparalleled level of assurance in the secure management of federal data, a critical aspect in the sensitive domain of government information.

At Knightscope, our long-term mission is to make the United States of America the safest country in the world.  We are honored to have achieved our Authority to Operate (“ATO”) under FedRAMP and we look forward to growing in the federal sector as well as applying a number of these best practices to our private sector clients.  At the end of the day, it’s about winning trust with ALL clients.  With organizations upping their security postures and continuously monitoring and improving their data security game, FedRAMP Compliance is Knightscope’s superpower and a distinct competitive advantage, and the end-user client will be the undefeated winner in both the private and public sectors.

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