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6.3.2: Industry Compliance

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    What is Industry Compliance

    There are situations where companies will face compliance with regulations which are not mandated by law through a governmental entity. Nonetheless there are severe repercussions on a company's ability to conduct business when they do not follow the requirements of various regulators within various industries. An excellent example of this  is compliance with the PCI DSS, often simply referred to as PCI compliance. In this situation a body composed of credit card issuers (Visa, American Express, and MasterCard, among others) has set up specific set of security standards as a condition of processing the credit card transactions for cards issued by the members companies.

    While the PCI SSC has no legal authority to compel compliance, it is a requirement for any business that processes credit or debit card transactions. PCI certification is also considered the best way to safeguard sensitive data and information, thereby helping businesses build long lasting and trusting relationships with their customers.

    Although this organization cannot legally enforce compliance with their standards, their decree does have teeth. Merchants processing credit card transactions based on cards from PCI members, based on the number of transactions processed, must submit to yearly assessments of their security practices. For very low numbers of transactions, this is a very simple self-assessment process consisting of a short questionnaire. As the number of transactions grows, the requirements become progressively more stiff, culminating in visits by specially certified external assessors, mandated penetration tests, requirements for internal and external vulnerability scanning, and a great deal more. PCI compliance is divided into four levels, based on the annual number of credit or debit card transactions a business processes. The classification level determines what an enterprise needs to do to remain compliant.

    • Level 1: Applies to merchants processing more than six million real-world credit or debit card transactions annually. Conducted by an authorized PCI auditor, they must undergo an internal audit once a year. In addition, once a quarter they must submit to a PCI scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).
    • Level 2: Applies to merchants processing between one and six million real-world credit or debit card transactions annually. They’re required to complete an assessment once a year using a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). Additionally, a quarterly PCI scan may be required.
    • Level 3: Applies to merchants processing between 20,000 and one million e-commerce transactions annually. They must complete a yearly assessment using the relevant SAQ. A quarterly PCI scan may also be required.
    • Level 4: Applies to merchants processing fewer than 20,000 e-commerce transactions annually, or those that process up to one million real-world transactions. A yearly assessment using the relevant SAQ must be completed and a quarterly PCI scan may be required.

    For those found to not be in compliance, penalties range from hefty fines to removal of the ability to process credit card transactions. We might suppose that, for a business that depended heavily on credit card transactions, such as a retail store, losing the ability to process credit cards would be a business-ending proposition.

    There are numerous other organizations, that have similar requirements for dealing with data security within their specific industry.

    This page titled 6.3.2: Industry Compliance is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Patrick McClanahan.

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