Security council blames breaches on poor PCI standard support

"Best practices" guidance from PCI security group says compliance needs to be 365-day-a-year focus.

The growing number of data breaches resulting in massive numbers of payment cards being stolen from retail stores and other businesses is occurring because they're failing to keep up with the Payment Card Industry's data security standard, according to the PCI Security Standards Council.

In its "best practices" guidance document published today, the PCI Council says although many businesses may be meeting the periodic compliance requirement of the PCI data-security standard (DSS) in an annual audit check, they are letting attention lapse and not keeping network security up to date. The "best practices" guidance contains several suggestions on how to further PCI-required security as an ongoing process (see graphic, below). Despite the PCI standard being in place for several years, retailers and restaurants that have to follow it continue to be hit by a rash of massive card breaches.

+ Also on NetworkWorld: 5 Things You Need to Know About the New Payment Card Industry Standard +

"They weren't compliant," according to Troy Leach, CTO at the PCI Council. "They think PCI compliance is a once-a-year achievement," failing to maintain security controls as the needs of the business change in terms of users, applications and security, he says. That's why a special interest group at the PCI Council put together the "best practices" document as a set of recommendations for businesses that must follow PCI rules because they accept or process payment cards.

Among the ideas that businesses can put in place, if they haven't already, is to make someone in the organization the PCI compliance manager to engage key personnel or functional groups to ensure compliance is an ongoing process. Guidance also includes adopting automated monitoring of security controls, when possible, plus operating according to the standardized control frameworks established by the International Organization for Standardization, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association.

The guidance also says PCI compliance must be part of the ongoing security process that focuses on operational changes to system, network or security architectures and configurations.

"If organizations want to protect themselves and their customers from potential losses or damages resulting from a data breach, they must strive for ways to maintain a continuous state of compliance throughout the year rather than simply seeking point-in-time validation," the document concludes.

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