Companies failing to maintain payment-card protections after PCI DSS certification

The majority of companies handling personal financial details are failing to meet their obligations to adequately protect those details under compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) requirements, a scathing evaluation of ongoing compliance by Verizon has found.

Investigations into payment card security after a security breach found that not a single target company had been fully compliant with PCI DSS standards, Verizon's 2015 PCI Compliance Report noted.

Equally as worrying was the fact that even companies successfully completing PCI DSS compliance were struggling to retain it: just 28.6 percent of surveyed companies were still fully compliant a year after they had been certified, according to Verizon, which offers PCI DSS assessment and certifications through its Verizon Enterprise Services arm.

“You have a huge discrepancy between the compliance level of companies that have been breached and companies that have been assessed,” Sébastien Mazas, professional services manager for Payment Card Industry services with Verizon Enterprise Solutions, told CSO Australia.

While the percentage of companies meeting PCI DSS compliance requirements had increased from 2012 – when 92.5 percent of companies failed their interim PCI DSS compliance assessments – in 2014 four out of five companies were continuing to fail their interim assessments.

Two-thirds of organisations in the Verizon research did not adequately test the security of all relevant systems.

There were some encouraging results, with compliance in 11 of the 12 PCI DSS domains actually increasing by 18 percent from 2013 to 2014. But that last domain – relating to testing of security systems – had proved to be stubbornly difficult because it required companies to view PCI DSS compliance as an ongoing process – which needed to be monitored – rather than a tick-the-box exercise.

“It's typical and it's human nature,” Mazas said. “Customers and candidates are so focused on being compliant for the first time that they forget they have to do some things periodically.

“We have seen companies that forget to do one thing in their PCI compliance, or where the guy that was supposed to do it left the company and nobody reassigned the task.”

The complexity of PCI DSS compliance was also proving challenging, with complex systems of capabilities, checks and balances required to ensure that requirements were met.

There were signs that the recent spate of breaches against high-profile companies like Sony, Target and Home Depot had scared companies into increasing their compliance efforts: some 60 percent of large US enterprises said they would increase their data security budgets as a result of the recent breaches.

Yet increasing budgets won't fix the problem alone: even simple procedural issues, such as patch management, were continuing to trip up many companies: 64 percent of breached companies were not compliant with PCI DSS requirements around patch management, and 72 percent were not meeting compliance requirements around security log monitoring.

“If you're not testing your environment appropriately, and if you don't have the logs that are going to help you detect and understand what's going on in the case of a breach, it's a problem,” Mazas warned. “These and other requirements are a bit more tricky for companies to meet, especially when they are doing the job by themselves.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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