If you’ve ever taken a grueling hike up a mountain, you know that feeling of relief and that sense of achievement once you reach the top. But ask any seasoned hiker, and they’ll tell you — the real work is the descent. The same goes for achieving and maintaining PCI-DSS compliance.

For many organizations, achieving PCI compliance is like reaching the summit of a mountain. The sigh of relief and the “Thank God, it’s done!” feeling once certification is in hand is completely understandable. But what happens when that relief morphs into complacency?

Related: Your Approach to PCI Compliance Could Put You Out of Business

The Danger of PCI Compliance Complacency

If you approach PCI compliance as a one-off hurdle instead of an ongoing commitment, you’ll set up your organization for some real trouble. One crucial task that often falls prey to complacency is the routine quarterly vulnerability scans. Mandated to be conducted every 90 days, these scans aren’t merely a suggestion but a requirement. Their role is to uncover issues that need addressing. However, many organizations, in the whirlwind of their “real work,” forget to run these scans or neglect to address issues in the results.

When audit time rolls around, it’s your Assessor’s job to ensure that you’ve been following the right path and that you’re actively maintaining PCI compliance. Any signs of neglect and your Assessor starts to see red flags.

The auditing process is meticulous, involving the collection of documentation, conducting on-site inspections, and observing business functions. Assessors are adept at spotting lapses or inconsistencies. So, if your organization has failed to run their quarterly vulnerability scans or do your due diligence, you could be screwed.

What do I mean by screwed? In the context of PCI Compliance, it implies that your organization potentially faces severe repercussions for non-compliance. Some PCI controls are non-negotiable for certification, such as the quarterly scans.

I’ve witnessed organizations with lapses in their operational compliance requirements, including these scans heading through their annual Assessment. Then they’re told by their Assessor, “I’m sorry, but we’re not going to be able to sign off on your annual assessment until you have four quarterly scans.” Missing a scan in the third quarter means the assessor can’t sign off on your PCI until six months from now, causing delays, necessitating rework, additional costs and creating a massive burden needlessly.

This guide will give you the basics of PCI and help you figure out how to make your certification journey as simple as possible.

What Happens if You Don’t Maintain PCI Compliance?

PCI Compliance isn’t just a bureaucratic requirement. For any company that processes payments, it’s a must. Imagine the repercussions when a bank asks for your annual certification and you have to wait for six months to produce it. This scenario could lead to substantial fines or even account termination. The inability to process payments for the next several months could put an e-commerce business out of business.

What’s more, with the Assessor, these types of issues will snowball, especially when dealing with routine checks or random evidence requests. For instance, if you’re asked to present vulnerability scans and fail to do so, it raises red flags. Your Assessor will start probing to find out why a supposedly routine process failed. To that end, it’ll make them more curious about what other things have slipped through the cracks — anytime you have missing elements which should have been done.

You also end up adding to your workload in terms of responding to inquiries, providing additional evidence, and dealing with a cascade of tasks that arise from these failures. It’s like a domino effect – a failure in one control may expose other related issues, leading to more tasks and responsibilities, including additional controls that may be enforced by the Assessor to prevent future lapses.

This kind of fallout doesn’t just stay within the confines of your organization. It affects your relationships with banks, customers, and potential partners.

Keep in mind that you have interested third parties that depend on your annual certification and in some cases the compliance of these organizations is directly tied to your annual certification. If one of these organizations is going through their own annual assessment and you’re a critical part of their annual certification, your lapse could very well have ripple impacts on their compliance.

Any business relationship, at its core, is an exercise in trust. From a security perspective, most organizations depend on third-party reporting as their main form of assurance. If these reports start flagging issues, trust erodes. You might not lose your PCI certification, but the report’s red flags could lead to the loss of partners or clients, or make them question your reliability.

Related: Tired of Compliance Chaos? Get Your Sh*t Together for PCI DSS 4.0

The Trustworthy Safeguard: TCT Portal’s Operational Mode

As we move into the era of PCI-DSS 4.0, with its new set of requirements, the challenge of maintaining compliance only grows more complex. This is where TCT Portal’s updated Operational Mode for PCI-DSS 4.0 becomes the trusted safeguard for your organization.

TCT Portal is designed to ensure you stay on top of ongoing PCI maintenance throughout your annual cycle. It meticulously tracks the many layers of requirements, acting as your personal watchdog to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

Operational Mode provides routine reminders for the many tasks compliant organizations need to do all year long (such as vulnerability scans), ensuring that you not only perform these critical elements of compliance on schedule but also review the results carefully. It acts as your centralized platform for all PCI related documentation, making it easy for you to provide evidence of compliance to the assessors during the annual audit.

TCT went through the latest version of PCI v4.0, establishing Operational Mode requirements for all of the elements of the PCI DSS which are required to perform periodically throughout the year.

By aligning with the specific requirements of PCI-DSS 4.0, TCT Portal positions your organization ahead of the curve. It helps you transition smoothly into new standards, simultaneously minimizing the risks of non-compliance.

Related: 9 Must-have Resources to Make PCI Compliance Easier

Embrace Ongoing Maintenance with TCT Portal

In the end, remember that PCI compliance is not just a mountain to be scaled but a landscape to be navigated continuously. The key to this journey is to avoid complacency, recognize the risks of neglect, and understand the repercussions of non-compliance. However, you don’t have to face these challenges alone.

TCT Portal, with its robust operational mode for PCI-DSS 4.0, acts as your compass, guiding you through the intricate maze of PCI maintenance. With this dependable safeguard, you can stay on track, ensure continued compliance, and prevent any unpleasant surprises during your annual audit.

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