How Many Will Join The Lone Systems Integrator On PCI’s New List?

Written by Walter Conway
January 9th, 2013

A 403 Labs QSA, PCI Columnist Walt Conway has worked in payments and technology for more than 30 years, 10 of them with Visa.

The PCI Council’s Qualified Integrator and Reseller (QIR) program is officially up and running. Reliant Security is the first systems integrator to qualify under the QIR program and be listed on the PCI Council’s Web site. Qualifying the first systems integrator is a significant milestone, one that follows last May’s announcement of the QIR program and the beginning of formalized training this past autumn.

What everyone involved in retail payments will now want to see is how many other resellers and systems integrators will join Reliant. The ultimate success of the QIR program depends on the decisions made by retailers, payment application vendors and, quite possibly, the PCI Council and even the card brands, too.

The QIR program’s objective is to provide training and qualification on the secure installation of payment applications that are validated by the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) to facilitate the merchant’s PCI DSS compliance. The program exists because of two realities. The first reality is that a PA-DSS-validated application will simplify compliance only if it is installed and managed according to the vendor’s PA-DSS Implementation Guide.

The second reality is that retailers and other merchants specialize in doing what they do best: sell stuff. That means they know about as much about implementing a payment system as I do about heart surgery.

Therefore, retailers and other merchants rely on systems integrators and software resellers to implement their payment applications and help them achieve and maintain PCI compliance. This system only works, however, if the integrator or reseller knows what it is doing. Sadly, experience tells us that is not always the case. As a result, merchants suffer costly and reputation-damaging data breaches.

The QIR program is designed to fix all this by training and testing companies and their staff so they can install payment applications securely. Will the program succeed? I hope so, but we will know the answer to that question once we know the answers to the following questions first.

  • Will retailers insist on a QIR to implement their payment applications?
  • Becoming a QIR is an investment (more on this below), and the integrator or reseller will want to see a return on that investment in time and money. I had the chance to speak with Mark Weiner, the president of Reliant Security, and he told me he hoped his company’s QIR imprimatur would be a competitive advantage. I can’t tell you how much I hope he is right. Whether that is the case won’t be up to me, or any QSA, though. It will be up to retailers and other merchants to insist on a higher standard from their systems integrators. It is in the merchant’s own self-interest, because they are paying for the implementation. Hopefully, education and support from industry associations like the National Retail Federation and the National Restaurant Association, in addition to large franchisors, will get the QIR word out—especially to smaller Level 4 merchants and franchisees.

  • Will software vendors encourage their resellers to become QIRs?
  • If I have a software product and I end up in the headlines because merchants using it get breached, it cannot be too good for my business. Therefore, software vendors, too, have a stake in ensuring the success of the QIR program. On the one hand, they can work with their current resellers to encourage them to become qualified. That’s the “pull” effect.


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