Thursday, August 20, 2009

Robert Carr, PCI, QSAs...

I tried to resist posting about this last discussion. For those who are not aware of it, a very quick overview:

  1. Payment processing company (Heartland) had a breach, leaking thousands of credit card information
  2. Heartland's CEO complains that they went through the regular PCI-DSS audit and the QSA had not pointed out the issues related to the breach
  3. Security industry goes mad about his complaints: "compliance is not security", "compliant at that time doesn't mean always compliant", "PCI-DSS is just a set of minimum requirements", the QSA report is just information based on their own honesty, etc, etc, and finally, "he should know all that".
I agree with my peers on almost everything that was said on #3, but I'd like to point to some issues here. First, there is a kind of "cognitive dissonance" about PCI-DSS in our industry. It is sold (not by everybody, I must say) to high level executives as the best thing since sliced bread for breach risk reduction, but when something happens we promptly start saying that it is just an initial step in a longer journey, it is composed only of minimum requirements and so on. Think for a while about all the things you heard people saying while briefing executives about PCI-DSS and trying to get a budget to implement the requirements; have they always made clear all the limitations of PCI in terms of risk reduction?

I'm trying to see this episode with my "CEO glasses". I imagine what I would do if someone would come to me asking for money to implement requirements from a regulation that will do little to reduce my risk; wouldn't it sound to you that the standard is worthless? Also, I need to hire a company, that was trained by the organization who created the standard, to tell me if I'm in compliance with it. Assuming that I did that with the best intentions, provided my CSO with all necessary resources to stay in compliance and not just be in compliance at the audit time, shouldn't I assume that if a breach occurs its valid to verify if the breach occurred because of conditions that should have been identified by the auditors? And, in this case, that they share the responsibility?

I'm not necessarily saying that it is right or wrong, just that it seems very reasonable to me that CEOs would follow this line of thought. To be honest, I'm not the only one thinking like this. This post from the New School of Information Security blog goes along the same way.


No comments:

Post a Comment