RSA, The Security Division of EMC (NYSE:EMC), today released the findings of a survey polling North American businesses impacted by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS), a framework of best practice requirements for all organizations that collect, process or store credit card account and transaction information.
Created by the major payment card brands, the standard is global in scope, and designed to ensure the security of consumer credit card data throughout the information lifecycle. The RSA survey asked businesses for opinions on issues related to PCI DSS including rates of compliance, perceptions of the standard, and motivations and challenges in meeting the PCI DSS requirements.
Individual respondents from 80 companies, polled in late February 2007, reveal that the outlook and progress for achieving compliance is varied despite the fact that merchants have already seen various compliance deadlines pass, but that the vast majority of merchants believe the PCI DSS requirements will be effective in protecting cardholder data. These companies are driven to comply in order to proactively protect their brands and consumers, but they do view PCI DSS compliance as a challenge.
"Identity theft is a global problem. Well over 100 million records have been stolen in just the past two years. Whether it's a printing company in Japan, a bank in England or a university in the US, organizations that hold personal data are being victimized by thieves that take advantage of flawed security policies," said Jim Melvin, vice president, Marketing, RSA, The Security Division of EMC. "The PCI Standard serves as best practice requirements for protecting credit card data and provides a robust approach to protecting that data throughout its lifecycle. Our survey results indicate that the majority of merchants are motivated to comply in an effort to protect their customers, but that there are still challenges to achieving it. With an issue so complex, we expect efforts to understand the standard and comply with it will continue well into 2008 and beyond."
Motivations for Meeting the PCI DSS Requirements
RSA's research shows that the majority of merchants approach the PCI DSS as an opportunity to protect their brand and their consumers, rather than as an opportunity to mitigate legal eal exposure.
Thirty-six percent of merchants said they are motivated to address the PCI standard because of a desire to protect the card data of consumers. Another
25 percent said the motivating factor was protecting the company and/or brand.
"We're heartened to see that companies recognize the brand risk that comes with data theft," added Melvin. "Compliance with the PCI standard gives banks, merchants and payment processors an opportunity to protect that company's image, as well as their customers' private information. Protecting their customers ultimately helps them protect their brand."
One-fourth of respondents, however, were motivated because PCI DSS is a requirement. Only ten percent said mitigating the chances of fines or civil litigation were the driving factors behind the PCI initiatives.
Progress and Outlook for Achieving Compliance
Merchants perceive the PCI DSS requirements as providing a framework for effectively protecting consumer card data. Ninety percent of those surveyed believe the requirements will be either moderately or highly effective, and only 10 percent view the standard as slightly effective or not at all effective.
The rate of reported compliance to date, however, was largely dependent upon a business' merchant level, which are generally defined as:
- Level 1: Processing more than six million transactions (for a single card brand) per year
- Level 2: Processing one to 6 million transactions per year
- Level 3: Processing 20,000 to one million e-commerce transactions per year
- Level 4: Fewer than 20,000 e-commerce transactions per year, and all other merchants processing up to 1,000,000 transactions per year
Of the 80 companies surveyed, 52.5 percent have not reported compliance, while 47.5 percent have done so. However, while 55 percent of merchants within Levels 1, 2 and 3 have met the requirements, compliance drops significantly within the Level 4 merchant community. In fact, only 19 percent of Level 4 merchants said they had reported compliance. These results validate the general perception that it's so far been primarily large merchants who have made efforts to address PCI DSS compliance. In addition, most incentive programs and fines for non-compliance have been directed towards Level 1 and Level 2 merchants.
The results of the survey also show that achieving PCI DSS compliance is generally not a short-term project. In fact, of the merchants that are already compliant, nearly half said that meeting the PCI DSS requirements took over a year. Five percent said it took over two years, 16 percent said the process took 18-24 months and 27 percent said the timeframe from conducting an initial gap analysis/assessment to submitting the compliance report took approximately 12-18 months. Only 19 percent said achieving compliance took less than half a year.
Of the respondents polled who have not achieved compliance, 19 percent believe it will take more than 18 months to comply, while 26 percent expect to become compliant within 12-18 months. Twenty-four percent anticipate meeting the PCI DSS requirements in 6-12 months, and almost one-third believes compliance will be attained within 6 months.
Challenges in Meeting the PCI DSS Requirements
According to RSA's survey, over 60 percent of participants say their company views complying with the PCI DSS as a moderate challenge, and one- third calls the requirements a "very significant challenge." Only about 6 percent believe PCI DSS poses either a minor challenge or no challenge at all.
Merchants also shared feedback regarding the most significant challenges they face when addressing PCI. Of merchants that have reported compliance, the clearly most significant challenge was in understanding the PCI DSS requirements. Over half answered in this fashion, while about 21 percent said that "determining their current PCI status before an audit" was their most significant challenge.
Merchants were also asked to pick the three most significant technology challenges they face in the drive towards compliance. Of the options available, more than half felt that tracking and monitoring access to the network and systems with cardholder data was significant, while 48 percent saw encrypting card data as a significant technology challenge. Thirty five percent listed controlling logical access to systems containing card data, while 23 percent felt that authenticating users accessing systems containing card data was a challenge. About 15 percent named intrusion detection/intrusion prevention and/or vulnerability scanning, while 11 percent named penetration testing and/or installing and maintaining firewalls. Only 6 percent cited updating and using anti-virus systems.
"RSA's survey underscores the struggle many merchants are having with PCI compliance. Many understand the need for the standard and believe that it will be effective, but they continue to face technology challenges as they attempt to comply," said Melvin. "While we're moving in the right direction, the technology challenges are something that vendors need to consider as they look to build solutions to help merchants accelerate their businesses."