July 22, 2015, Patrick Townsend, Townsend Security
Many organizations approach a PCI audit with fear and trepidation. There are a lot of stories out there about how difficult, expensive and disruptive a PCI audit can be, but I want to see if I can add some balance to this view. I believe that when it comes to a PCI auditor it matters a great deal who you are working with. We just completed a PCI audit of our Alliance Key Manager for VMware solution and it gave me a whole new perspective and attitude about the audit process. Our PCI work was conducted by Coalfire, a security company that provides PCI audit services as well as audit services for the health and financial communities. Most of my remarks will reflect on the great experience we had with Coalfire and some of the lessons we learned.
As is true of financial auditors, the QSA auditor has a duty to accurately assess the security of your IT systems to insure that they meet or exceed the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) as outlined by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). They have a professional responsibility to tell you where you meet the PCI DSS standard, and where you fall short. That “falling short” part is the thing most people dread hearing about.
I would suggest that this is exactly where a good security audit can be very helpful. We need to know where our security is weak, and we need to know how to fix the problems. A good QSA auditor will be more than a gatekeeper for the PCI security standards - they will be a trusted advisor on how to get things right from a security perspective. That practical advice is exactly what we need to protect our sensitive data.
Finding problems and fixing them is less expensive than suffering a data breach and then scrambling to fix the problems.
Another often overlooked benefit of having a good QSA auditor is that you get a get a trusted advisor in the process. It is one thing to have an auditor point out the faults in your security strategy, it is another to find an auditor who can advise you on the security strategies and potential solutions that can help you. While there must be an arms-length relationship between an auditor and a solution provider, your QSA auditor should be able to point you to a number of solutions that can help you mitigate security weaknesses. An experienced auditor is going to help you navigate towards a good solution.
It is hard to quantify the benefit of this type of guidance, but I personally think it is invaluable.
The take-away is that you should set high expectations for the relationship you develop with your QSA auditor. You can walk away from the experience with checks in boxes, or you can meet PCI compliance AND achieve a credible security strategy and trusted advisor. I found the latter in my relationship with Coalfire.
(Disclaimer - neither Patrick Townsend nor Townsend Security have a financial relationship with Coalfire.)
Patrick Townsend — Townsend Security
Coalfire started in 2001 with a simple idea – cyber threats are increasing, compliance mandates are getting more complicated, and a well-designed cybersecurity program can help fuel your overall success.
Coalfire helps organizations comply with global financial, government, industry and healthcare mandates while helping build the IT infrastructure and security systems that will protect their business from security breaches and data theft. The company is a leading provider of IT advisory services for security in retail, payments, healthcare, financial services, higher education, hospitality, government and utilities.
The Coalfire Board of Directors provides invaluable guidance for the organization and reflects Coalfire’s dedication to achieving success for our customers.
Coalfire’s executive leadership team comprises some of the most knowledgeable professionals in cybersecurity, representing many decades of experience leading and developing teams to outperform in meeting the security challenges of commercial and government clients. With diverse backgrounds in IT systems security, governmental security, compliance, and reducing risk while implementing the latest enabling technologies (such as the Cloud and IoT), our leaders understand the challenges customers face.
With a passion for quality, Coalfire uses a process-driven quality approach to improve the customer experience and deliver unparalleled results.
Created in honor of the late co-founder of Coalfire, the Richard E. Dakin Fund at The Denver Foundation is supporting scholarship programs at several universities for promising college students studying cybersecurity and related fields.
Security is a team game. If your organization values both independence and security, perhaps we should become partners.
The increased need for cyber security has become a common enterprise priority across the globe. However, industry requirements for effective cyber risk management are as distinct as the individual entities under fire. Enterprises and government organizations need more than an off-the-shelf audit to provide an effective threat assessment. They need industry- and organization-specific insights, tools and processes to protect digital assets and ensure compliance.
Coalfire can help cloud service providers prioritize the cyber risks to the company, and find the right cyber risk management and compliance efforts that keeps customer data secure, and helps differentiate products.
“Success” at a government entity looks different than at a commercial organization. Create cybersecurity solutions to support your mission goals with a team that understands your unique requirements.
The financial services industry was built upon security and privacy. As cyber-attacks become more sophisticated, a strong vault and a guard at the door won’t offer any protection against phishing, DDoS attacks and IT infrastructure breaches.
The continuum of care is a concept involving an integrated system of care that guides and tracks patients over time through a comprehensive array of health services spanning all levels of care. Interoperability is the central idea to this care continuum making it possible to have the right information at the right time for the right people to make the right decisions.
Maintaining network and data security in any large organization is a major challenge for information systems departments. However, in the higher education environment, the protection of IT assets and sensitive information must be balanced with the need for ‘openness’ and academic freedom; making this a more difficult and complex task.
When it comes to cyber threats, the hospitality industry is not a friendly place. Hotels and resorts have proven to be a favorite target for cyber criminals who are looking for high transaction volume, large databases and low barriers to entry.
The payments industry is undergoing rapid changes and unfortunately, an increasing risk for data breaches. Cyber criminals are growing increasingly businesslike, and payments leaders need to move quickly to cover their cyber risk.
The food and beverage industry is under attack from cyber criminals intent on stealing payment information. The food and beverage industry makes up the highest percentage of breach investigations, at nearly 73 percent, according to Visa.
The global retail industry has become the top target for cyber terrorists, and the impact of this onslaught has been staggering to merchants. To secure the complex IT infrastructure of a retail environment, merchants must embrace enterprise-wide cyber risk management practices that reduces risk, minimizes costs and provides security to their customers and their bottom line.
Private enterprises serving government and state agencies need to be upheld to the same information management practices and standards as the organizations they serve. Coalfire has over 16 years of experience helping companies navigate increasing complex governance and risk standards for public institutions and their IT vendors.
Technology innovations are enabling new methods for corporations and governments to operate and driving changes in consumer behavior. The companies delivering these technology products are facilitating business transformation that provides new operating models, increased efficiency and engagement with consumers as businesses seek a competitive advantage.
Cybersecurity has entered the list of the top five concerns for U.S. electric utilities, and with good reason. According to the Department of Homeland Security, attacks on the utilities industry are rising "at an alarming rate."
Cyber risk management, advisory, technology and compliance services. Manage risk and maximize return on investment to prevent data breaches and theft. Coalfire’s solutions are led by a team of industry experts that help enterprise organizations understand a wide range of compliance and risk management initiatives, which enables a consistent cybersecurity framework across the organization.
Assess your cloud strategy and the maturity of your cloud security program, and then chart a path to a more secure program that aligns with business objectives
Better understand the unique risks posed by the cloud and how to assess your cloud program to effectively identify cloud-specific risks and threats and close critical security gaps
Ensure compliance by leveraging our unparalleled expertise across multiple frameworks and extensive experience with more than 350 cloud service providers
Identify risk and vulnerabilities across all devices, and apply solutions to mitigate security issues across your business’s entire cloud ecosystem
Build customized, automated processes so you can stand up and manage secure, compliant, audit-ready cloud environments to get to market faster
Expert assessments that provide an accurate understanding of what you are trying to protect, the inherent and residual cyber risk to your enterprise and the maturity of the your security program and underlying controls
Customized services to help CISOs and Senior Management develop cybersecurity strategy, implement controls, and govern a security program
Adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity
Make more informed security-related decisions
Design, engineer, and scale with confidence
Certification and Accreditation (C&A) process for DoD
Get FedRAMP authorized with the leading 3PAO
Reducing Financial IT Security Risk
Meet your FISMA authorization needs
Privacy programs to secure consumer data
Health data protection for all shapes and sizes
A risk management and third-party assurance solution
An internationally recognized approach to information security
ITAR, EAR, and DFARS Advisory and Assessment
Cyber security for electric grid critical infrastructure
Protect Controlled Unclassified Information for Nonfederal
Payment Application Security Validation
PCI Data Security Standard Compliance
Have you suffered a data breach of cardholder data?
Establish and report controls to differentiate your organization
Demonstrate your commitment to cybersecurity
Secure the design, development, and deployment of your applications
Collect, preserve and analyze digital evidence to better understand security incidents
Test your IoT solution from field devices to the cloud
Understand vulnerabilities and implement remediation before they’re exploited
Test your organization’s defense against a simulated real-world attack
Listen to real-life stories of our security team exploiting vulnerabilities
Use malware and vulnerability research, open-source tools, and opinions to provide realistic adversary simulations
Control your Compliance
Easily identify IT vulnerabilities