Why should merchants hire a QSA company and what should be the criteria for hiring?

Published on : 06 Jan 2021

qsa company

PCI DSS Compliance is a standard that provides a well-curated set of requirements for merchants or service providers. Service and Merchants are expected to follow these requirements as a part of the Compliance process and defense against data breach or theft. With stringent norms and enforcement of standards, the assessment of merchants and service providers for compliance with PCI DSS has become increasingly critical. Independent or third-party security organizations called Qualified Security Assessors are certified by PCI SSC to validate an entity’s adherence to PCI DSS requirements. These assessors are referred to as “Qualified Security Assessor Companies or QSA Companies or PCI Consultants

Validation of requirements by QSA Companies is critical for determining the effectiveness of security controls and PCI DSS Compliance. The reports provided by the QSA Company post the PCI Audit determines whether or not the cardholder data at the entity is adequately protected. The proficiency with which a QSA Company conducts the Assessment has a great impact on the data protection and therefore the level of compliance. It is therefore essential for organizations to ensure they hire the right QSA Company.  In today’s article, we have listed a few reasons why hiring a PCI Consultant or QSA auditor is essential. We have also listed certain points that need to be considered when hiring a QSA Company. 

Who is a QSA Company?

PCI DSS Compliance is not mandatory or required by federal law. However, complying with the standard is mandated by the payment brands for companies that handle payment data. Qualified Security Assessor companies or QSA Auditors are independent third-party security companies qualified to validate adherence to PCI DSS compliance standards. The organizations are qualified as a QSA Company by the PCI Security Standards Council after passing a rigorous criterion, exam and are insured to a pre-specified level. There are several certifications that PCI-certified companies may hold which includes

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • GIAC Systems and Network Auditor (GSNA)

VISTA InfoSec is a qualified QSA company offering merchants Information security and Compliance Consulting Services

What are the Benefits of Hiring a QSA Company?

Does a Merchant or Service Provider Need to Hire a QSA Company? Well, the below-listed benefits will answer this question which is most often asked by organizations merchants like you about the QSA Company. 

1. Compliance Experts

QSA companies qualified by the PCI Council are guaranteed experts in PCI DSS Compliance Standards. They have the knowledge and expertise to conduct cybersecurity assessments. Hiring a QSA with the expertise and knowledge of Compliance requirements will have the experience to guide organizations through what is required for achieving Compliance.

2. Keep pace with evolving standards

The Cybersecurity industry is rapidly evolving and hard to keep pace with for most businesses. QSA Companies have to remain in pace with the evolving industry standards and norms. They are in a better position to understand the growing cybersecurity requirements of the industry and communicate necessary changes to the aspiring organizations. Moreover, QSA Companies are required to pass recurring exams to remain certified and keep abreast with the trend. So, by hiring a Qualified Security Assessing Company you can be rest assured of being updated with the new norms and standards. Besides they will guide your company to stay compliant with the new norms. 

3. No conflict of interest

Hiring a third-party PCI Consultant or a QSA Company is essential for it will ensure no conflict of interest when it comes to assessment and recommendation such as not being stakeholders in the company to be certified. A QSA Company will ensure thorough due diligence of the Compliance process and assist merchants in achieving Compliance.  

4. Attain and retain Compliance-

A QSA Company will help organizations like you in the process of achieving compliance. They will guide you through the process and ensure the implementation of industry best practices and security controls for achieving compliance. Not just that, they also play a significant role in ensuring you remain compliant such as by giving you timely advice and to thrash out decision stalemates pertaining to card processing. 

5. Saves merchants valuable resources 

Finally, hiring a QSA company means you need not spend time understanding the complicated standards of PCI DSS compliance. You rather dedicate that time and money to growing your business than hiring a full-time QSA for internal day to day operations. 

Hiring the right QSA Company

When it comes to selecting a QSA company, it is important to remember that not all companies are equal. While some QSA companies may have more experience working in a particular industry (for example retail industry) some may have experience in another industry. Some may be able to advise you on achieving the compliance checklist, while some may go beyond the compliance checklist in helping you with security implementation and complex initiatives.

Others may in general have more years of experience. So, when selecting a QSA company ensure you select the one that can help you in your compliance process and meet your business needs. Making the right choice is critical. If you choose the wrong QSA Company, you could end-up struggling for months with the process and wasting resources. Given below are points to consider while hiring a third-party QSA or consultant for your business.

  • PCI Consultant must have dedicated staff with specific job functions that support the Information Security Practice.
  • QSA must possess relevant experience in technical security assessment or related to the PCI DSS Assessment.
  • The QSA Company must have a good standing in the industry.
  • They should be active as a QSA Company for at least two years. 
  • They should have at least one QSA Employee that qualifies as a Mentor. 
  • The QSA is required to meet specific requirements in terms of education and training.
  • The QSA Auditor needs to possess sufficient Information Security knowledge and experience to conduct technically complex Security Assessments. 
  • They need to have a minimum of one year of experience in each of the following Information Security disciplines 

a) Application security
b) Information systems security
c) Network security

The QSA Auditor needs to possess a minimum of one year of experience in the following audit/ assessment disciplines

a) IT security auditing.
b) Information Security Risk Assessment or Risk Management.

The QSA needs to be certified by the Payment Card Industry Security Standard Council.

If you have just begun your search for a QSA company, the PCI Security Standards Council provides a directory of qualified security assessors located around the world. You can even approach us at VISTA InfoSec for our QSA services (PCI Council qualified QSA). We are a global cybersecurity consulting firm who have been in this industry for nearly two decades (16 years).  Our team of industry experts and consultants will guide you through the process and ensure you attain and retain PCI DSS Compliance for as long as you are with us. 

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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.