PCI Mobile Madness: Council Clarifications Not Helping

Written by Evan Schuman
February 10th, 2011

The intersection of PCI and mobile—an admittedly murky place—is getting more complicated. The PCI Council has pledged that it won’t validate any more mobile applications for quite some time, at least not until it can determine what the best criteria are. Questions have now cropped up about the handful of mobile applications that had already been PCI validated.

The Council is in a very difficult position (between a ROC and a hard token place?), especially because it must give as much attention to political issues as it does to technological ones. In this case, the politics are not of the Washington, D.C., sort, but of the industry.

Specifically, how to deal with the concerns of the many mobile application developers whose apps now cannot even be considered for PCI validation, especially when they complain of their rivals, who happened to have slipped in before PCI closed the evaluation door.

Should the few already approved applications be delisted, so that all mobile applications can be evaluated at the same time, using the exact same criteria? Is that the fair approach? And what about the applications that were on that approved list? What’s the reason for delisting them, given that no specific security hole has been discovered?

It’s hard to tell a vendor, “We need to take you off the approved list because we’ve decided that didn’t know what we were doing when we approved you.” It’s actually closer to “We thought we knew. But upon reflection and industry changes, we’ve concluded that we need to re-evaluate everything.”

This situation gets worse. What’s the impact on retailers? As for the delisting situation, what should a merchant who used one of those listed apps do?

If it’s delisted for the reasons stated above (as opposed to the discovery of a critical security hole), would chains risk PCI compliance by not immediately removing an app?

And if those apps are not delisted, can retailers use them with confidence, knowing that PCI is going to completely rewrite its mobile rules? From a different perspective, in the months before PCI makes up its mobile mind, will retailers have to choose from the handful of already listed mobile apps (we counted three) because they are the only ones approved?


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