What is PCI DSS Compliance?

Confused about PCI DSS compliance? This article will explain PCI DSS and the importance of complying with this important information security standard.

What is PCI DSS?

PCI DSS stands for the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS). The PCI DSS is a proprietary information security standard that was established in 2004 by the major credit card brands. The standards apply to organizations that handle major branded credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB. The PCI DSS does not cover private label cards, such as department store credit cards, that are not associated with a major card brand.

PCI DSS compliance and credit card security.

The PCI DSS consists of common sense steps that coincide with widely accepted data security best practices. The goals of the PCI DSS standards are to help merchants securely process credit card transactions and prevent fraud.

Who must be PCI DSS compliant? Is PCI DSS compliance required by law?

While PCI DSS is not mandated by U.S. federal law, some states have laws that refer to PCI DSS explicitly or contain equivalent mandated standards. Additionally, the major credit card brands require that all organizations, worldwide, that accept or process their cards be compliant with PCI DSS. If your organization processes, stores, or transmits cardholder data, you are required to be compliant with PCI DSS.

What does PCI DSS compliance entail?

The PCI DSS outlines 12 requirements, each falling under one of six categories, or “goals.” The following is a brief overview of these goals and their corresponding requirements:

Goal No. 1: Build & Maintain a Secure Network

  1. Organizations must install and maintain a secure network to conduct transactions, including utilizing firewalls that are effective but do not result in undue inconvenience to cardholders or vendors.
  2. Organizations must not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters, as these defaults are widely known by hackers. They should be changed before a system is installed on the network.

Goal No. 2: Protect Cardholder Data

  1. Cardholder data should not be stored – whether in electronic or paper form – unless absolutely necessary. Magnetic strip and chip data should never be stored. When it is necessary to store cardholder data, it must be stored securely. Primary account numbers (PAN) must be rendered unreadable.
  2. Cardholder data that is transmitted across open, public networks must be encrypted.

Goal No. 3: Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program

  1. Anti-virus software must be used and regularly updated.
  2. All systems and applications must be secure and free of bugs or vulnerabilities that could allow data breaches. Software and operating systems should be kept up-to-date; vendor-supplied patches should be installed right away.

Goal No. 4: Implement Strong Access Control Measures

  1. Cardholder data should be accessible by employees on a “need to know” basis; employees should have access to only those systems and data that they absolutely need to perform their job.
  2. Every user should have a unique ID to access the system, and users should be authenticated using a strong password or passphrase, biometrics, or a token device or smart card.
  3. Data must be protected physically as well as electronically. This involves measures such as restricting physical access to different parts of the building, maintaining a visitor log, physically securing media, mandating the use of document shredders, and putting locks on dumpsters.

Goal No. 5: Regularly Monitor and Test Networks

  1. All access to network resources and cardholder data must be tracked, monitored, and regularly tested. Audit trails should be secured, and audit trail history should be retained for at least one year, with at least three months of history always available for analysis.
  2. Security systems and processes should be regularly tested, especially after new software deployments or system changes.

Goal No. 6: Maintain an Information Security Policy

  1. The organization must have a comprehensive security policy that addresses all PCI DSS requirements. All personnel should be trained on the sensitivity of cardholder data and their specific responsibilities regarding data security. These responsibilities must be clearly defined and adhered to at all times.

What happens if I’m not PCI DSS compliant, and a data breach occurs?

Although there are no federal laws regarding PCI DSS, your business may be found in violation of your state’s laws regarding data privacy, some of which mirror PCI DSS standards or refer to them directly. Additionally, the credit card companies that mandate PCI DSS could impose fines on your organization amounting to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars; if you are unable to pay the fines, you will no longer be able to accept their cards.

Despite the fact that the federal government does not mandate PCI DSS, federal law enforcement may still get involved to ensure that the credit card data stolen from your organization is not being used to finance terrorist activities. And, of course, your customers’ data will have been breached, which could result in massive, possibly irreparable damage to your organization’s reputation and/or civil lawsuits.

What can I do to ensure that my organization is PCI DSS compliant?

The PCI DSS focuses heavily on proactive steps that organizations can take to secure cardholder data and prevent breaches. Continuum GRC agrees with this approach; we feel that it is much better to be secure and prevent a breach than to have to react to one and face steep fines, legal ramifications, and damage to your organization’s good name.

The specifics of PCI DSS compliance requirements are quite complex. Thankfully, the PCI DSS compliance experts at Continuum GRC are here to help. Continuum GRC’s modules were designed by leading PCI DSS Qualified Security Assessors (QSA) approved by the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC). We provide our clients with scalable, efficient solutions for meeting the rigorous demands of PCI DSS compliance.

Continuum GRC offers full-service and in-house risk assessment and risk management subscriptions helping companies all around the world sustain a proactive cyber security program. Continuum GRC is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cyber security needs and find out how we can help you with PCI DSS compliance.

What is HIPAA Compliance?

Confused about HIPAA and HIPAA compliance? This article will explain HIPAA and the importance of complying with this complex federal law.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The HITECH Act, which was signed by President Obama in 2009, updated HIPAA by outlining rules and penalties regarding breaches of private health information (PHI).

Among other provisions, HIPAA mandates that security measures be taken to protect PHI. HIPAA is split into five sections, or titles. HIPAA Title II, which is known as the Administrative Simplification provisions, is what most information technology (IT) professionals are referring to when they speak of “HIPAA compliance.”

HIPAA Compliance? If your organization is not HIPAA compliant, and a breach of PHI occurs, the penalties can be severe, as can be the public relations fallout for your organization.

Who must be HIPAA compliant? Does this only apply to doctors’ offices and hospitals?

HIPAA rules apply to two groups of organizations, known as “covered entities” and “business associates.”

A “covered entity” is one of the following:

  • A healthcare provider, such as a doctor’s office, pharmacy, nursing home, hospital or clinic that transmits “information in an electronic form in connection with a transaction for which HHS has adopted a standard.”
  • A health plan, such as a private-sector health insurer, a government health program such as Medicaid, Medicare, or Tricare, a company health plan, or an HMO.
  • A “healthcare clearinghouse,” which is an entity that processes health information received from another entity, such as a billing service or a community health information system.

A “business associate” is a person or an organization that performs tasks that involve the use or disclosure of PHI, such as:

  • Laboratory facilities
  • CPAs, attorneys, and other professionals with clients in the healthcare industry
  • Medical billing and coding services
  • IT providers, such as cloud hosting services and data centers, that are doing business in the healthcare industry
  • Subcontractors and the business associates of business associates must also comply with HIPAA rules.

What does HIPAA compliance entail?

The Administrative Simplification provisions in HIPAA Title II are split into five rules, including the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect PHI. It applies to all forms of records – electronic, oral, and written – and requires employers to implement PHI security procedures and ensure that all employees are trained on them. The HIPAA Security Rule applies to electronic protected health information (ePHI). It establishes national standards to protect ePHI and requires entities to implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards of ePHI.

What happens if I’m not HIPAA compliant and a data breach occurs?

If your organization is not HIPAA compliant, and a breach of PHI occurs, the penalties can be severe, as can be the public relations fallout for your organization. You will be required to notify all affected patients of the breach, and this publicity could do irreparable damage to your organization’s reputation. Your organization could also face fines in excess of $1 million – and, in some cases, even criminal penalties.

Not sure where to start with HIPPA Compliance?  We created a free HIPAA Awareness & Compliance Survey that helps to determine your office’s degree of HIPAA compliance and awareness.

What can I do to ensure that my organization is HIPAA compliant?

Continuum GRC believes that the best defense against a PHI breach is a good offense – and HIPAA requires that covered entities and business associates take a proactive approach to protecting patient data. In light of the financial penalties and potential PR nightmare associated with breaches of sensitive personal medical information, HIPAA compliance is serious business.

HIPAA is a voluminous, complex law, and many organizations are baffled regarding where to begin with their HIPAA compliance. Thankfully, the HIPAA compliance experts at Continuum GRC are here to help. We offer comprehensive HIPPA compliance software that includes HIPAA Audit, HITECH, NIST 800-66 and Meaningful Use Audit services to help you evaluate your existing HIPAA protocols and establish new ones. Continuum GRC’s proprietary IT Audit Machine (ITAM IT audit software), which is fully HIPAA compliant; it helps eliminate 96% of cybercrime and nearly 100% of the headaches associated with compliance audits.

Continuum GRC offers full-service and in-house risk assessment and risk management subscriptions helping companies all around the world sustain a proactive cyber security program. Continuum GRC is proactive cyber security®. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cyber security needs and find out how we can help you with HIPAA Compliance.

Schedule some time with our HIPPA Compliance Superheroes!

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