How Managed Security Can Help Reach PCI Compliance

How Managed Security Help Reach PCI Compliance

The PCI DSS standard is designed to ensure the security of credit card data. Any organization that stores, transmits, or processes credit card information must comply with the requirements of the PCI DSS standard. The organization must pass third-party audits designed to test this compliance.

What Do I Need to Do for PCI Compliance?

In order to be compliant with PCI DSS, an organization needs to fulfill the following twelve requirements:

  1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
  2. Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.
  3. Protect stored cardholder data.
  4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
  5. Protect all systems against malware and regularly update anti-virus software or programs.
  6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
  7. Restrict access to cardholder data by business need to know.
  8. Identify and authenticate access to system components.
  9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
  10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
  11. Regularly test security systems and processes.
  12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel.

Under each of the twelve requirements is a set of sub-requirements.  The goal of PCI DSS is to ensure that organizations implement appropriate security for cardholder data. By providing specific requirements, the PCI Council helps organizations to ensure they are compliant with the regulations and provides a clear roadmap for a compliance audit.  Any organization that processes cardholder data is expected to be compliant with all sections of the standard and be able to demonstrate this fact during a compliance audit.

How Can a Managed Security Services Provider Help?

Achieving and maintaining PCI DSS compliance is a complicated process for any organization.  The PCI DSS standard provides very detailed requirements for compliance, but these requirements can be overwhelming. A “checklist” approach to compliance may leave an organization still vulnerable to attack.

PCI DSS Rule 10, implement logging and log management, requires the organization to review logs at least daily to search for errors, anomalies, and suspicious activities. The company must also have a process in place to respond to these anomalies and exceptions.

These mandates consume time, personnel and expertise. A Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) can help to ensure the security of cardholder data by aiding with achieving, maintaining, and proving PCI compliance in an efficient and less expensive manner than conducting monitoring and logging in-house.

1. Achieving PCI Compliance

Many of the requirements described in the PCI DSS standard can be thought of as “configuration” standards.  When setting up a new appliance or network or modifying one, there is a collection of requirements designed to ensure that the configuration baseline meets PCI DSS standard minimum security requirements.

This process of creating a security baseline can be complicated for a new appliance or network.  The PCI standard outlines the necessary controls for achieving security, but designing a strategy for implementing these controls for a new appliance can be challenging.

An MSSP with an understanding of the PCI standards beyond the “checklist” can be an invaluable asset in moving from the “what” of the PCI standards to the “why” and “how” of implementing them in your organization’s environment.

2. Maintaining Compliance

PCI compliance is not a “one and done” process.  The PCI standard includes “maintenance” requirements where an organization processing cardholder data is expected to perform security tasks on a continual basis.  For example, requirements 10 and 11 state that continuous monitoring of access to sensitive data and testing of security systems and processes is a required component of PCI compliance.

Many organizations do not have the personnel and skill sets in-house to efficiently and effectively monitor their networks on a continuous basis.  The global nature of the Internet means that security monitoring is a 24/7/365 job, which may be outside the capabilities of a SME.

An MSSP with expertise in vulnerability management and data protection and the resources to perform continuous monitoring can take this burden off of your organization. This allows you to focus your energies on providing value to your clients and customers.

3. Proving Compliance

When facing a compliance audit, being secure and compliant isn’t enough.  In order to pass a third-party audit, your organization needs to be able to demonstrate this fact to the auditor.  Auditors rarely have the time and resources to exhaustively search through every aspect of your network configuration, policies, and procedures for proof of compliance with each of the PCI DSS requirements. Making verification of your security controls as quick and painless as possible benefits both the auditor and your organization.

One of the biggest advantages of using a managed security service provider to achieve PCI compliance is in demonstrating compliance.  An experienced MSSP has participated in multiple audits and knows the questions auditors ask and the best ways to answer them.  Having an experienced MSSP on-hand leading up to, during, and after an audit helps ensure that your organization is prepared for the audit, that it runs smoothly, and that your organization gets the full value from the notes and comments provided by the auditor during the audit and in their final report.

Why Use an MSSP for PCI DSS Compliance?

Using an MSSP is not necessary for achieving PCI DSS compliance.  The PCI standard provides a list of requirements for compliance and an organization can individually fulfill each requirement and have a high probability of passing a compliance audit.  However, this “checklist-focused” approach to compliance increases the probability of failing an audit or having a data breach.

A Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) brings extensive experience with both the PCI standard and securing enterprise networks.  An MSSP can provide advice and aid throughout the security lifecycle from initial configuration to monitoring and maintenance to incident response.

This help can mean the difference between being breached with minimal but “compliant” security controls and appropriately protecting your organization’s sensitive data.

Sword & Shield partners with our PCI customers to provide expert PCI compliance consulting services along with award-winning managed security services under one roof. Request a consultation to learn more.

Managed Security Services vs In-House SolutionDownload our e-book, “Utilizing a Managed Security Services Provider vs. an In-House Solution” to compare the pros and cons of outsourcing managed security and tackling the task yourself.

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