PCI council launches certification program for IT staff

Internal Security Assessor's program designed to bolster a company's self-assessment capabilities

The organization responsible for administering the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has launched a new program to help enterprises conduct self-assessments of their compliance with the standard.

The PCI Security Standards Council LLC, which was set up by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and other credit card companies, today announced a new Internal Security Assessors (ISA) program for merchants and processors covered by the standard.

The security council will train and certify IT security staff to conduct PCI compliance assessments on behalf of their companies. The monthly, three-day long programs will be held throughout the world and are designed to enhance the quality of PCI self-assessments being conducted by merchants and processors, said Bob Russo, general manager of the PCI Security Council.

The PCI standard was created by the major credit card companies and covers all organizations that accept credit and debit-card transactions. The standard specifies several high-level security controls that all companies handling payment card data are required to implement.

Companies, especially large and medium-sized ones, are required to submit periodic updates of their compliance with the requirements.

Each credit card company has its own compliance validation requirements, Visa, for instance requires all merchants that process more than 6 million credit and debit card transactions annually to submit to on-site assessments by qualified third-party assessors. Smaller merchants are allowed the option of conducting annual self-assessments for compliance validation.

MasterCard has similar requirements but also says that self-assessments may only be carried by IT staff members who are certified by the PCI Security Standards Council to do PCI compliance audits.

The training program addresses an important need, said Avivah Litan, an analyst with Gartner Inc.

"This is one of the more positive announcements that the security council has made in quite a while," Litan said, "There is a lot of interest in this kind of training among retailers because they want to be up to speed on how to comply with PCI."

MasterCard's requirements that self-assessments only by conducted by qualified PCI auditors has also created an immediate need for the ISA certification program, Litan said.

The training program will allow companies, especially the larger ones, to leverage the talent of their own IT security teams to conduct PCI security assessments, Litan said.

"There are a lot of companies with very talented and skilled security staff. A lot of them are more skilled at assessing compliance than third-party assessors," she said. The training will also help companies to understand compliance validation requirements much better, she said.

The three-day sessions will cost $2,495 per person. The fee for companies that are members of the PCI Security Standards Council is $1,495 per person. The first training program is scheduled for May 19-21 in Sydney, Australia.

The first session in the U.S. is set for August though no venue has been selected yet, Russo said.

Certifications awarded to an individual under the ISA program are company-specific and valid only for a year. Russo said. If an individual who gets trained and certified under the program later leaves the company that sponsored him, the certification is no longer valid, he said.

"We are not looking to put out rogue security assessors here," Russo said. "This is valid only if you are going to do this internally for the company you are working for. This isn't to create a freelance workforce" of PCI security assessors Russo said.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld . Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com .

Read more about education/training in Computerworld's Education/Training Knowledge Center.

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Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld (US)
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