Reducing The Scope Size Of A PCI DSS Audit

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Reducing The Scope Size Of A PCI DSS Audit

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Complying with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and all the 281 directives therein is a time-consuming hassle.

Luckily, there are several strategies that you can use to minimize not only the scope of your PCI DSS scope but also save time. By implementing these strategies, you will also lower your stress levels.

Large organizations that process over one million credit card transactions every year might need up to two years to attain initial PCI DSS compliance.

To stay compliant, these companies will need to set aside adequate resources for monitoring their systems to ensure that they are all up to date. Failure to do so can attract crippling penalties.

Smaller companies (internet service providers and financial merchants) may require one year’s work to attain PCI compliance.

This is because the PCI DSS framework contains a whopping 281 directives falling under 12 categories. Maintaining compliance with all the directives is a mind-boggling affair, which can also strain your enterprise’s budget. Fortunately, you can become PCI compliant by following a few straightforward steps.

PCI Compliance: Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All

PCI DSS was established by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) in 2004. The council is made up of members drawn from processor companies, software developers, point-of-sale vendors, and merchant organizations. Its mandate is to avert credit card fraud, which has grown with the popularity of e-commerce.

The council seeks to ensure that all players in the industry comply with PCI DSS. This mainly entails protecting cardholder and credit card data from unauthorized access within the cardholder environment.

As cybercriminals come up with more sophisticated ways of breaching networks and systems, the list of requirements has similarly grown. Therefore, you need to devise ways through which your organization can comply with all the requirements.

What is Your PCI DSS Compliance Level?

Level 1 is the most stringent PCI DSS tier. It affects merchants who process between one and six million credit card transactions annually. Level 1 compliance requires you to pass an onsite audit that is undertaken annually by an Internal Security Assessor Qualified Security Assessor (QSA).

Levels 2, 3, and 4 generally have less stringent requirements for PCI DSS compliance. Service providers and merchants at these levels don’t need an audit. Instead, they undertake a Self-Assessment Questionnaire provided by the Security Standards Council.

Regardless of the DSS compliance level that your enterprise is required to adhere to, you will still need to check off dozens of directives that cover each aspect of payment card security.

These directives range from remote-access connections to point-of-sale devices. To ensure that your compliance process is more straightforward and cost-efficient, you should ensure that your assessment’s scope is minimized.

The Stress-Free Path to Scope Reduction

Before you think about minimizing the scope size of your PCI DSS assessment or compliance audit, you first have to determine what the scope is. This can be done by going through the framework to determine which of the 281 directives are relevant to your enterprise. This will help you come up with a shorter list of directives that are most relevant to you.

You should also examine your CDE to determine whether there is a way of limiting the scope so that you undertake an efficient audit. The possibilities that you can consider in this regard include:

  • Setting up firewalls to block access, keep external users from intruding your organization’s networks and internal users from gaining entry to information that they don’t need.
  • Using point-to-point encryption to reduce PCI audit cost and scope
  • Using approved devices to ensure that the PCI council ratified your software, point-of-sale devices, and point-to-point encryption devices
  • Analyzing third-party vendors to ensure that all of them are PCI DSS compliant
  • Examining your payment applications to ensure that they also meet PCI compliance standards. Similarly, you should ascertain that they are not only patched up but also up-to-date.
  • Segmenting your networks. By placing firewalls around your CDE, you will separate it from the rest of your organization’s network. PCI DSS auditors only scrutinize the CDE.
  • Disposing cardholder data efficiently and promptly. You should only keep this data as long as it is required. After that, destroy it using a method that is ratified by the PCI Security Council.

It is also a good idea to ditch your spreadsheets. Keep in mind that compliance with PCI DSS isn’t a simple task. By ensuring that the strategies as mentioned earlier are adhered to during your self-assessment or audit, it will be easier for you to pass the test.

You should try as much as possible to avoid using spreadsheets to monitor and track the PCI compliance efforts of your enterprise. Spreadsheets are not only outdated but also confusing. Therefore, they compound the compliance officer’s problems instead of solving them.

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Reducing The Scope Size Of A PCI DSS Audit

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