Survey on PCI: How it's impacting network security

A survey of 500 information technology professionals with responsibility to assure compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standard shows just over half find it "burdensome but necessary" in their organizations and about a third see it impacting their virtualized network environments in particular in the future.

ANALYSIS: Encryption adoption driven by PCI, fear of cyber attacks

The survey was sponsored by Cisco to gauge attitudes toward PCI, its cost to organizations that need to achieve PCI compliance and where future security changes are now under consideration. The survey indicated about 85 per cent were confident their organizations were prepared to pass a PCI audit but at the same time about a third indicated they anticipated making changes to their virtualized networks, such as using firewall and intrusion-protection systems as virtual security appliances, to meet future PCI compliance needs.

Although the PCI mandate applies specifically to how payment-card data is secured and stored, the security standard, which is set by the PCI Security Standards Council, appears to be having the effect of influencing security in general across the organization.

"A whopping 60 per cent were using point-to-point encryption to simplify their compliance efforts and possibly reduce the scope of their next PCI assessment," Cisco's survey results state. Fred Kost, director of security solutions at Cisco, said the PCI mandate is impacting plans for how virtualized networks will be secured as well. When asked, "How do you anticipate needing to change your virtualized environment to meet PCI compliance?" about a third replied they would need to add virtual security appliances, such as firewall and IPS, in order to meet PCI 2.0 compliance, while a third also wanted to "further harden our virtualization software."

Six out of 10 surveyed said their five-year spending on PCI compliance ran from $100,000 to more than $1 million. As to whether the effort to achieve PCI compliance actually made their organizations more secure, about 70 per cent answered in the affirmative. However, 15 per cent answered, "No, we already followed security best practices before PCI compliance requirements existed," 10 per cent said, "No, PCI compliance does not make an organization more secure," and six per cent were "unsure."

Rich Siedzik, director of computer and telecommunications services at Bryant University, would agree that PCI "is a very time-consuming thing. They're looking for proof you comply with the control points for over 168 control points you have to pass."

He notes it requires working on security improvements and reports to meet with the auditors and others with a role in PCI compliance review. "Our take on PCI is we look at security first, PCI second. If you focus on security, a lot of the PCI pieces fall into place," he says, adding the university prefers to automate control processes when possible.

At the end of the day, "PCI is worthwhile," says Siedzik, noting that various projects, such as deploying the Bradford Networks network-access control products for the entire university staff and students to track network and ensure anti-virus use, was prompted a few years back in part to meet the PCI requirements.

When asked their sentiment about PCI compliance, 36 per cent of respondents in the Cisco survey said, "It's necessary and I don't mind dealing with it," 51 per cent said, "It's burdensome but necessary," eight per cent said, "It's burdensome and not necessary," and five per cent answered, "It doesn't go far enough in protecting cardholder data."

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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