PCI DSS Readiness Assessment

Published on : 28 Sep 2022

PCI DSS Readiness Assessment Important

The PCI Council has set a robust framework comprising a comprehensive set of requirements for enhancing the security of payment card data. So, prior to performing the final PCI DSS Audit, most Level 1 Merchants conduct a PCI Readiness Assessment. This is to validate the effectiveness of their security implementation and the readiness for the final audit. In fact, Level 2-4 Merchants who are required to fill out a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (PCI SAQ) are also recommended to conduct a Readiness Assessment.

Performing a PCI DSS Readiness Assessment helps build a baseline for organizations like you to ensure your efforts are well aligned for achieving compliance. The process uncovers the weak cyber defenses and helps your organization know whether you are ready for a full PCI DSS Audit or Self-Assessment.

Covering more on this in detail, we have shared some reasons why we consider PCI DSS Readiness Assessment important. But, before that let us understand what PCI DSS Readiness Assessment is and the other details related to the assessment process.

What is PCI DSS Readiness Assessment?

PCI DSS Readiness Assessment is a kind of gap analysis that is often performed just prior to undergoing the final PCI DSS Compliance Audit. The Readiness Assessment is an evaluation process wherein the auditor tests and verifies whether or not all the processes and implementation of PCI DSS Requirements are in place. The assessment helps your organization determine gaps in the systems, and processes concerning PCI DSS Compliance. The report of the assessment further recommends the implementation of appropriate controls to meet the PCI Requirements. Performing a PCI DSS Readiness Assessment is a proactive way of improving the compliance standard and implementation process.

The assessment helps your organization understand the key areas of weakness and respond to rapidly evolving security compliance obligations. Further, such assessment helps your team in the decision-making in terms of developing a strategy and planning out the process of implementing necessary requirements in alignment with PCI DSS Compliance. So, to put it simply the PCI DSS Readiness Assessment is an effective method for determining and fixing compliance gaps. The assessment goes a long way in simplifying the compliance process and reducing the long terms expenses relating to non-compliance.

Importance of PCI DSS Readiness Assessment

Every organization that handles cardholder data is expected to comply with PCI DSS. So, organizations are strongly recommended that prior to the final PCI DSS Audit they run a quick Readiness Assessment to check whether or not the necessary requirements of compliance are met.  This is usually seen as a proactive initiative and a standard of best practice for organizations who plan for PCI DSS Compliance. Given below are some of the benefits of performing a readiness assessment before a formal PCI DSS Audit.

  • Strengthens Security

PCI DSS Readiness Assessment helps identify weaknesses in systems and processes. This allows your organization to fix the gaps and improve their security measures. So, with this step in place, your organization also has better chances of reducing the potential risk of security breaches. So, PCI DSS Readiness Assessment will not just ensure PCI Compliance but also help strengthen the security systems and measures within your organization.

  • Reduces the Possibility of Breach

PCI DSS was designed to protect payment cardholder data and secure the business process of payment transactions. So, achieving PCI DSS compliance reduces the possibility of a data breach. Although it is important to understand that achieving and maintaining PCI compliance does not guarantee the prevention of data breaches.

But it definitely helps to substantially decrease the risk. Performing the Readiness Assessment allows your organization to evaluate and verify whether or not they can achieve PCI DSS Compliance. So, considering PCI DSS Readiness assessment is essential to ensure your organization achieves PCI DSS Compliance.

  • Prevents Hefty Fines

PCI Readiness Assessment lets your organization know whether or not you are compliant and your security implementation is in alignment with the PCI requirements. It allows your organization to fix gaps and meet compliance requirements before the final PCI audit.

This way the assessment prevents your organization from being non-compliant and reduces the possibility of fines and penalties for not complying with PCI DSS Standard. Generally speaking, if you do not meet the PCI requirements, your business will be liable for paying considerable fines and penalties for non-compliance. Further, in case of a data breach, the penalty may quickly add up for you causing substantial financial loss in terms of the cost of investigation and expenses for the loss of customers due to the event of a breach.

  • Improved Customer Relationship

Performing the Readiness Assessment helps your organizations meet the PCI Requirements and clear the final audit for achieving PCI DSS Compliance. Further, achieving compliance will not just help your organization tick off your obligation towards meeting the PCI requirements, but also help you in building a sense of confidence among customers.

Knowing that your organization is PCI DSS Compliant, it definitely boosts the customer confidence in your business. It shows that your organization is committed to safeguarding your sensitive card data and personal data by taking proactive measures to protect them. This definitely goes a long way in building credibility for your business in the market and improving customer relationships.

Compliance with other Regulation

Complying with PCI requirements by implementing necessary security measures does not just ensure compliance with PCI DSS but also prepares your business to comply with other regulations as well. This way your organization will also be able to identify ways to improve the IT infrastructure and enhance its security.

pci dss readiness assessment

How does PCI Readiness Assessment help organizations in the PCI DSS Audit?

PCI DSS Readiness Assessment can benefit your organization if you are planning to undergo the final PCI Audit. The assessment ensures a smooth audit and compliance process for your organization. Elaborating more on this here are some ways how the readiness assessment can help your organizations in their PCI DSS Audit.

  • Compliance Strategy & Decision Making

PCI Readiness Assessment reports help your organizations in their decision-making process related to PCI DSS compliance. The assessment highlights the key areas that need to be addressed and recommendations to fix those gaps. So, those planning to undergo the final PCI DSS Audit must surely consider undergoing the readiness assessment to evaluate and take the right decision concerning compliance.

  • Verifies the Effectiveness of Systems, Processes & Controls

The effectiveness of Systems, Processes & Controls plays a key role in achieving PCI DSS Compliance. The Readiness Assessment allows your organization to evaluate and verify the effectiveness of the existing controls established and highlight areas that need to be fixed. Based on the outcome of the assessment, your organization can improve the existing process and controls to meet the requirements.

  • Identifies Weaknesses in Systems & Processes

More than often organizations fail in their PCI DSS Audit due to the gaps identified in systems, processes, and controls. There is always a possibility of certain gaps being overlooked by the internal audit team during the internal audit assessment.

Such gaps can result in failure of the PCI DSS audit and compliance. For these reasons, organizations are recommended to conduct a quick readiness assessment to identify such gaps and fix them before the final audit. Depending on the outcome of the assessment and the weakness highlighted in the report, organizations can implement additional controls as per the PCI requirements and fix the gaps accordingly.

  • Recommendations to Fix Gaps

Recommendation to fix the gaps in systems and processes is a critical aspect of the Readiness Assessment Report. Based on the risk exposure and gaps identified, auditors provide a list of recommendations to address the issue in the report. These reports and recommendations work as a guide for organizations to improve their systems, processes, and implementation and additionally fix the identified compliance gaps.

  • Prevents PCI DSS Audit Failure

PCI DSS Audit failure can be an expensive affair for your business. Non-compliance to PCI DSS will not just attract hefty fines from banks, but also in case of a data breach, it may result in the canceling of license for card transactions by the credit card brand, especially if the impact of the breach is significant. So, just to prevent the consequences of such audit failures, organizations are recommended to perform a readiness assessment prior to the final PCI DSS Audit. The Readiness Assessment verifies whether or not the organization meets the 12 requirements of PCI DSS compliance. This in turn helps the organization fix the gaps identified and prevents the possibility of an audit failure.

Key Takeaway 

Complying with standards like PCI DSS can be expensive, tedious, and time-consuming. But to make the process easy, we strongly recommend you conduct PCI DSS Readiness Assessment. This makes your compliance journey much easier and more efficient. It helps your organization make an informed decision in your compliance process and implementation.

The assessment streamlines the process and makes your organization compliance-ready.  So, before you plan to undergo the final PCI Audit consider performing a readiness assessment by an experienced auditor like us (VISTA InfoSec) to guide you through the process and help you stay ahead in the journey of PCI compliance proactively.

VISTA InfoSec is a global cyber security consulting firm and a PCI Council qualified PCI QSA, PCI QPA offering end-to-end PCI DSS solution. For any doubts or queries pertaining to PCI DSS Readiness Assessment, you can contact us or drop us a mail at askus[@]vistainfosec.com

Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.