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An Overview of PCI DSS Compliance

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The PCI DSS compliance seeks to ensure that the Payment Card Information (PCI) collected by the institution is safe and secure. PCI DSS compliance requirements are over 100 pages long and can be a bit overwhelming to some organizations. To fully understand the security standards, you need to identify the cardholder information you hold and where you store it. Determining what and where will assist you know how to protect you PCI data as per the compliance requirements. Having your organization meet the necessary compliance standards protects your company from malicious attacks and other threats. The following overview breaks down materials of the information security standard.

The scope of PCI compliance

PCI compliance covers a wide area when it comes to information security. Determining the areas that PCI DSS covers in your organization is the first task in implementing the compliance standards. Identifying the organization’s Cardholder Data Environment (CDE) can narrow down the requirements that you apply. CDE includes network systems, processes that transmit cardholder data, the authentication process, network devices, computer devices, and software. Network devices include routers, switches, servers and anything physically connected to CDE. The software comprises internal and external applications like vendor services and services concerning security.

The annual PCI DSS review verifies all the aspects that associate with cardholder data to ensure threats management is thorough. Keeping a list of components, services, and software that a company uses concerning cardholder information may highlight critical areas where the PCI DSS standards should apply.

Is network segmentation advisable?

Companies are always looking for new ways to bring the cost of PCI compliance down. Network segmentation separates CDE from the rest of company data. Segmentation reduces the scope of PCI compliance making it easier to stay compliant. Network segmentation is not a requirement of the PCI DSS compliance standards. For network segmentation to be cost efficient, the application has to standardize the network configurations and tools that are in use. PCI requirements state that different technologies need to be reviewed separately to ascertain compliance.

Network segmentation restricts cardholder data to specific network devices, storage locations and having firewalls keep the data separate. Storing the data in the least possible locations is the most cost-effective way.

Organizations that do not segment their networks have to implement PCI standards on the entire system. The network will undergo PCI review as a whole to ensure compliance.

What is the scope of outsourcing PCI DSS services?

It is possible to use third party service providers to implement the PCI requirements. However, be cautious when hiring a third party. You need to thoroughly vet the third party before granting access to cardholder data. The third party has to agree to clear guideline on authorization, what the service provider should achieve and the parts of PCI DSS the provider will implement.

The service provider needs to prove that the company is compliant. The provider can conduct annual assessments or multiple on-demand assessments at the request of the clients. The client should cross-check the evaluations to confirm that their compliance needs are up to date.

How can a qualified security assessor evaluate system components?

Sometimes it is tempting to do random sampling PCI DSS audits for large organizations. Sampling can be tricky since there are several factors to consider. The samples should come from the location of the cardholder information. You need to test the sample location and the system components that process and transmit the data. The sample should meet all the PCI DSS standards that apply to your organization.

You can only use a sample if the system components and network configurations the company uses are of the same standard. The sample size should be large; otherwise, it won’t represent the actual position of the business. Quality security assessors have to conduct a PCI DSS audit on each location if the system components and network configurations are different.

The assessor has to document the thought process of sampling in regards to location, size, and components. The assessor should validate the use of the sample size and explain why the audit on the sample size provides a good overview of the organization.

How to implement PCI DSS into business processes?

Creating a culture that seamlessly incorporates compliance into business operations is the easiest way to stay PCI compliant. There a few ways to ensure that your organization is PCI DSS in business operations.

  • Incorporate PCI DSS standard to business operations and train your employees on the new procedures.
  • Monitor daily activities by using the appropriate monitoring software to ensure compliance.
  • Correcting compliance failure immediately when they occur. Analyzing compliance failures will give you insights on how to set better controls.
  • Continually review the changes that occur in the business environment. Do risk assessments of the risks the changes pose to PCI DSS compliance. Update the necessary controls depending on the threats.
  • Do periodic reviews to prove compliance. The reports should include users who should implement the requirements. Also, review all hardware, software, virtual components, and third-party service providers.

You need to understand the data you collect and how a company stores it before attempting to be PCI DSS compliant. Constant monitoring, reviewing and audits are the only way you can confirm continued compliance within your organization. Always documents reviews, failures, and examination to validate the procedures and decisions made regarding PCI compliance.

 

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