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How do you Implement Vulnerability Management for PCI Compliance?

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a data safety requirement to be followed by all companies and organizations that store, process, or transmit credit card/financial information. If your organization handles financial data, it’s highly likely you’ve heard of it before and are looking to understand, implement and stay compliant with PCI DSS, which is not an easy task by any means.

But implementing PCI becomes significantly easier if a vulnerability management program is in place. It simplifies a chunk of PCI compliance and also helps you enforce and maintain the compliance status.

This blog will help you get a quick overview of the steps needed to implement PCI, a checklist to follow while implementing it with vulnerability management, and an understanding of the benefits and ramifications of PCI compliance.


Why PCI?

Financial information is one of the most sought-after data in the wild. Supporting the argument is that financial institutes are one of the most ‘cyber-attacked’ industries in the world. To reduce the risk of a data breach and any cyberattack in general, staying compliant with PCI can be a huge game-changer.

With security as its core benefit, being compliant with PCI also provides a string of benefits to your business, ranging from having a seal of approval on your business to boosting your reputation and improving customer confidence.

With so many benefits and positive impacts of compliance, you might wonder, ‘how do I enforce PCI?’. Read on to find out.


So, How do You Enforce PCI?

The goal of PCI is to protect cardholder data, reduce attacks and improve the security posture of an organization.

The PCI Quick Reference guide is an excellent place to start and provides an overview of what are its goals and the means of achieving them. But it’s pretty long.

So, here are 12 essential questions you must ask yourself to get an idea of how much work is cut out for you in becoming PCI compliant:

  1. Do you have a firewall in place?

    A firewall is a fundamental requirement for any compliance policy in general and is a must-have. It helps restrict access to your network that can be exploited to access cardholder data.

  2. Do you use Vendor-set default passwords?

    Default passwords are unsafe, and it’s critical to ensure any assets, both software, and hardware, that need a password to operate must be secured with complex passwords to reduce the chance of a breach. The passwords must be regularly changed to ensure heightened security.

  3. How do you protect stored data?

    Sensitive cardholder data must be secured with the highest protection. Implementation of physical measures like security and virtual measures like vulnerability management and antivirus is key in preventing breaches.

  4. Do you encrypt data before transmission?

    Before transmission of cardholder data, it must be encrypted, and card validation data must not be stored. This is to ensure the data is not intercepted by threat actors during transmission and is key for PCI.

  5. Do you use and regularly update your antivirus?

    An antivirus is the first step in network and device security and is a basic requirement for PCI. It must be installed in any and all devices handling cardholder data. And it must also be regularly updated to its latest versions as well.

  6. Do you monitor and secure your network regularly?

    Your network might have vulnerabilities and risks that can pose a threat to the cardholder’s data. A strong vulnerability management solution must be in place to ensure proper mitigation of risks.

  7. Do you strictly regulate and restrict access to cardholder data?

    Unless businesses and employees ‘need-to-know’ to operate effectively, cardholder data must be restricted to ensure it isn’t accessed but unauthorized parties.

  8. Do you monitor and regulate access to sensitive system components?

    Along with the cardholder data, the devices and workstations storing and handling the data must be protected. So accessing it must be properly monitored and regulated.

  9. Do you strictly regulate and restrict PHYSICAL access to cardholder data?

    Virtual access restriction is vital, but physical access to the cardholder data must also be monitored and properly regulated. Enough physical security must be enforced to prevent robberies etc.

  10. Do you properly track and monitor access and usage of network devices and cardholder data?

    It is important to track and provide an audit trail of access to cardholder data. This is especially beneficial in case of an attack to find the point of origin and track the threat actors during investigations.

  11. Do you regularly test your network security for gaps and weaknesses?

    Regular vulnerability scanning and pen-testing to identify and remediate vulnerabilities are key and must be followed stringently. This helps fix potential risks and reduce attack surfaces.

  12. Do you have a stringent security policy in place?

    A clear security policy that includes all the essential information to track, maintain and secure the entire network must be in place.

If you could positively answer more than 50% of these questions, you are on track. And with the right tools and means, you can become PCI compliant.

If not, you have your work cut out for you, and you now have a good idea of what is needed and what are the means of achieving it. And vulnerability management software like SanerNow can cut down your task by a lot.

To get an in-depth overview of your network’s status, here is a PCI Compliance Checklist we’ve created that can help you gauge your readiness for PCI DSS compliance.


PCI DSS Through Vulnerability Management Tools

Lucky for all of us, PCI implementation can be simplified through your already-existing vulnerability management program.

(If you don’t have a VM in place, check out our step-by-guide to build a VM program)

A good vulnerability management plan can take care of many ‘software’ aspects of PCI compliance. Vulnerability management can help you:

  • Regularly scan, detect, and remediate risks within your network. This, paired with a pen-testing, can find gaps and weaknesses that can cause cyberattacks and data breaches.
  • Monitor, maintain and track firewall status and block unnecessary traffic that can be a security risk.
  • Maintain and update your antivirus to its latest version.

A vulnerability management tool like SanerNow can do all of the above tasks, and more so, it can help you take the first step in your journey toward PCI compliance.

SanerNow is an advanced vulnerability management platform with superior vulnerability and patch management capabilities. It has a fully-fledged Compliance Management module that can help you implement measures that are required for PCI DSS, HIPAA, NIST, SOC, and more.

It can automatically run scans to detect and fix non-compliant devices based on the compliance benchmarks chosen. It can also detect vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other security risks AND remediate them with integrated remediation.


What are the Ramifications of not being Compliant with PCI?

  • Federal Audits: In case of a breach, organizations must show the audit trail and proof of compliance with PCI. If the audit determines non-compliance, it can result in strict regulations and penalties.
  • (Lots of) Fines: Non-compliance to PCI DSS can lead to large fines and penalties, which increase for repeat offenders. 
  • Legal Action: In case of a breach, the victims and affected parties can take legal action and sue the organization for compensation for mishandling cardholder data.
  • Loss of Brand Reputation: When a cyberattack occurs, along with monetary damage and revenue loss, the organization’s reputation takes a big hit. This can significantly affect business and might lead to them going out of business as well.

Closing Thoughts

For any business handling payments, PCI is a must.

The benefits and the upside of being compliant with PCI outweigh the costs and efforts it takes to achieve it. Adding to the argument are the potential ramifications that can make or break your business.

A vulnerability management program can help you achieve your goal and make the difficult journey simpler and easier.

With all of that in mind, take the first step towards compliance by investing in a solid vulnerability management tool like SanerNow and reap the benefits of becoming PCI compliant.

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