Is PCI Done?

Written by Walter Conway
April 27th, 2011

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

I find myself wondering whether PCI is still a hot topic. I am not questioning whether PCI is worthwhile or if it reduces a merchant’s risk of a data breach. The answer to both of these questions is an unqualified “yes.” Rather, I note the lack of significant changes in the standard coupled with developments in the PCI ecosystem, and I question whether PCI is still—as a fellow QSA says—”sexy.” The answer to this question can have implications for both QSAs and the merchants who rely on them not just for assessments but also, increasingly, for advice and guidance.

PCI DSS is now firmly in the mainstream. The standard itself has not changed to any great degree for several years, and version 2.0 is locked for the next three years (barring some unforeseen development). This situation is good news for merchants, banks and processors. They benefit from a stable PCI that enables them to plan their investments and technology infrastructure with confidence that they won’t have to make changes too soon.

Even the smallest merchants seem to have heard of PCI, and they either have made some attempt to be compliant or are consciously choosing to run the risk that they won’t suffer a cardholder data breach. In my own case, I rarely need to use my “Five Stages of PCI Grief” slide when I do PCI training. A couple of years ago, that image of a screaming merchant captured the zeitgeist of the situation. Today, though, it seems merchants and processors have gotten past griping about PCI not being fair and believing it doesn’t apply to them and, instead, have moved on to working on compliance.

The PCI blogosphere reflects PCI’s going mainstream. I monitor a number of PCI and security blogs daily, and I am sure many StorefrontBacktalk readers do the same. Two important changes have occurred in the PCI blogosphere. The first is that there are a lot fewer posts these days. Respected security bloggers are writing one or maybe two posts a week. In the past, these bloggers used to have important things to say each day and, in some cases, several times a day.

A second change in the blogosphere is that there are a lot fewer reader comments in response to the blog posts. I used to check my favorite blogs a couple of times a day to get the latest information, leave a reply to a post or maybe ask or answer a question on the now defunct PCI forum. Certainly some of the reader commentary has moved to Twitter, but the present lack of give-and-take between bloggers and their readers tells me people aren’t as passionate about PCI as they were.


2 Comments | Read Is PCI Done?

  1. Ernie Schell Says:

    All very true, Walt. But with mobile commerce payment solutions a big question mark for PA-DSS compliance for the foreseeable future, you would think that this challenge alone would cause some excitement. No?

  2. Walt Conway Says:

    Hi Ernie,

    Thank you for the comment. I agree that there will be some activity, but “excitement?” I doubt it. Things like mobile commerce are specific technologies, and these will come and go. The general nature of the PCI framework should allow for new technical developments.

    But PCI itself is pretty much at the end of its run as far as being new and interesting. It has well and truly entered the mainstream. I am not saying that is bad, I am saying it reflects maturity of the standard and we are facing — to steal a book title — something like “the end of history” for PCI.


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