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PCI More Of A 'Check-Box' Than Security For Most Retailers

New survey shows less than one-third of small businesses are PCI-compliant, while 70 of large businesses are
Nearly 80 percent of retailers and organizations that handle credit card transactions have been hit with a data breach, but more than 70 percent still don't consider security strategic to their operations, according to a new report released today.

This apparent incongruity has more to do with organizations accepting a certain level of risk with doing business on the Internet, says Brian Contos, chief security strategist at Imperva, which commissioned the 2009 PCI DSS Compliance Survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute.

"Roughly 30 percent take [PCI security] seriously," Contos says. "And the others see it as a check box."

But Contos says the 30 percent figure is actually promising: "It's encouraging to see that many are saying this is not just about compliance, and, 'I have to make this investment now, anyhow, so I'll make the best of it.' That's reassuring."

The Ponemon study also found 55 percent of organizations focus only on protecting credit card data and don't bother securing other sensitive customer data, such as Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and bank account information. "We like to think wherever our information is, people are securing it, but that's not necessarily the case," Imperva's Contos says. "Small companies with a limited budget and resources simply don't generally secure credit card and other supporting information."

Only 28 percent of small businesses in the survey (501 to 1,000 employees) are PCI-compliant, according to the survey, while 70 percent of companies with 75,000 or more employees are. But even the PCI-compliant ones aren't necessarily more secure if they only treat it as a check-box item to appease the auditors, Contos says.

"One of the more interesting things is that those who focus on security are generally PCI-compliant," he says. "[However], PCI is what you make out of it. If you treat it strategically and get C-level executive involvement, it can turn into a very mature security program that happens to encompass PCI requirements."

Contos says he expects smaller retailers to begin outsourcing more of their PCI and security operations. "A lot of this is too expensive" for them to deploy on their own, he says.

Meanwhile, the report recommends the PCI-DSS Council create a compliance logo that retailers and companies can display for their customers, and that PCI requirements be tailored to the size of the organization to better fit its needs.

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