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PCI QSA: How Organizations Can Select The Right One For PCI DSS Certification

Posted by: MK CS Team
Category: PCI DSS

A report reveals by 2022, mobile transactions are projected to grow by 121%, eventually composing 88% of all banking transactions. With network penetration increasing in India and China, mobile-based payments are expected to cover 95% of transactions by 2025.

Backed by technological advancements like peer to peer transaction and biometric protection, payment based apps have simplified the lives of common people. Today, people can shop and pay for items online and send money to their pals at their convenience.

While technology has simplified lives, it has also armed hackers. Today, cyber terrorists are relying on phishing, triangulation and credit card frauds to garner illicit benefits. While the mobile payment penetration has increased to 50% in some countries but the customer base is not highly trained with the tech.

Also Read: Preparing for PCI DSS Certification? Things to know!

How Businesses Can Protect Users From Online Frauds? 

PCI DSS certification helps enterprises to protect their customers from putting their card details in the wrong hands. By following the 12 requirements of PCI DSS, businesses are ensuring the safety of cardholders’ data.

Since PCI Compliances are tough to achieve and manage, businesses cannot get par with it on their own. Organizations need individuals or agencies who can help them prepare for PCI DSS audit and then file for certification. Qualified Security Assessors aka QSA is the one who can help businesses prepare for PCI DSS Certification.

Who is a PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA)?

Qualified security assessor is an individual who handles compliance auditing and consulting for companies willing to get PCI DSS compliant. A PCI certified QSA is eligible to audit, suggest corrections or even revamp the entire network. Such individuals are motivated to help organizations work in sync with the 12 commandments of the PCI DSS Council.

A qualified security assessor assists businesses with other network issues and challenges. Hiring an experienced QSA can benefit enterprises exceedingly.

What can go wrong without a QSA and by violating PCI DSS Compliance?

Getting PCI DSS Compliant is a costly affair, organizations need to fix networks, get them free of redundant algorithms and also put up impregnable firewall protection. To minimize the cost, enterprises try to audit their network on their own. By adding an affordable firewall and running internal penetration testing, they try to save the fees of a QSA.

Businesses often hire QSA, when getting compliant for the first time but ditch them for the consecutive years. Based on the changes suggested by QSA in the first year, organizations prepare for the impending audit. When the audit finally happens, they fail it, because:

  • They fail to match the new standards introduced by PCI DSS
  • They missed vulnerabilities that popped up due to tech upgrades
  • They oversee loopholes left or created by third-party integrations

The damage failing PCI DSS Compliance may be equivalent to:

  • A fine imposed by PCI DSS Council amounting to $5000-$100,000
  • Confidence of customer is lost
  • Bad name for the business
  • Huge loss of market share due to bad publicity

 Key Roles Played by a QSA in PCI DSS Certification

A Qualified Security Assessor is not just an intermediate between organizations and PCI DSS Certification. QSAs have huge roles to play, which includes responsibilities that can make or break the future of businesses.

Must Read: PCI DSS: A Necessary Evil for Fintech Companies?

A general modus operandi followed by a QSA includes following steps

Gap Assessment: A qualified security assessor traverses the entire cyberinfrastructure for vulnerabilities and gaps. The entitled individual relies on multiple tests, scans, and attacks to decipher all routes through which an attacker can enter and steal information.

Such a gap assessment ensures that all loopholes and shortcomings are identified and concealed before the PCI DSS audit.

Inspecting Contemporary Standards: Often creating a wall around the property is concerned to be a safety measure but it is the strength of the wall that actually counts. Putting up a firewall or low encryption SSL fulfills the requirement on paper but they come down a house of cards when under attack. A qualified security assessor assesses the entire infrastructure and ensures that proper standards are maintained.

Improvisation: When dealing with layers of the transport protocol, it is important to distinguish what level is best suited for your business. With properly implemented security layers, one can be sure that servers are safe at all times. QSAs help businesses avail the next level of security against internal sabotages and external threats by improvising. Such advancements in code and technologies strengthen all kinds of protective walls.

Reassess: Once all the suggested changes and improvisations are implemented, QSAs reassess the network. The assessment includes multiple tests, attacks, and scans from internal as well as external sources to identify any loophole they might have missed.

This step ensures that all changes suggested were implemented correctly and also oversees that all changes are working efficiently.

Vulnerability Scan: Once all the changes, audits and re-assessments are done, QSAs take the professional route and run a vulnerability scan similar to standards of PCI DSS. By running a high-quality scan, the QSAs ensure that the network is secure against all kinds of attacks from inside as well as outside.

Interesting Article: PCI DSS: A Necessary Evil for Fintech Companies?

Common Questions Related to PCI QSA

People are skeptical about hiring an expert from outside and letting them assess their cyberinfrastructure. The concerns raised by organizations are legit hence PCI DSS council has published a list on their website. Enterprises can cross-verify the authenticity of QSAs before hiring them or letting them access the internal network.

Some of the Top Questions related to PCI QSA include

Question: Can they help you avoid PCI Fines?

Answer: Yes! A PCI verified QSA helps businesses avoid PCI Fines by helping them identify and conceal loopholes in their networks. By suggesting changes in firewall and transport layer management, QSAs ensure that businesses are safe against all kinds of ransomware attacks.

Question: Has your QSA Company ever been in Remediation? Ever been in violation of PCI?

Answer: This is perhaps the most important question to ask. Let your QSA reveal their experience of helping businesses get PCI DSS compliant. Allow QSAs to explain what went wrong and what they missed that led to remediation.

Also, a notorious QSA will lose his or her authority to asses businesses for PCI Compliance. Visit the PCI DSS website and cross-verify the details before letting them access your infrastructure.

Question: Has the QSA Company ever been audited?

Answer: QSAs work in collaboration with an enterprise that offers comprehensive cybersecurity services including Managed Security Services and Information Security Risk Assessment.

A QSA must be affiliated to a company that is fulfilling PCI DSS requirements year and year again. If you realize they are not compliant, do not negotiate with them any further.

Must Read: The Definitive Guide to PCI DSS Compliance

How to Select the Right Qualified Security Assessor?

Here’s a checklist that will help businesses identify and hire the right Qualified Security Assessor: 

  • Check whether he or she is qualified by PCI DSS Council or not. Check it here.
  • Identify whether they are affiliated with an organization that has been PCI DSS Compliant for at least 1-3 years.
  • Hire a QSA, who belongs to an organization that offers comprehensive cybersecurity services, because to get PCI DSS Compliant, you will have to invest in firewalls and other tools.
  • Ensure that the company guarantees PCI DSS Certification before getting in a deal. Such guarantees ensure that QSAs will reveal every loophole and help you cover them at all costs.


The fine levied by PCI DSS Council on failing the compliance lies around $5000-$100,000, which is way more than the actual cost of getting compliant. Businesses can furnish 10-15 years of PCI Compliance in $100,000 hence it makes sense to invest in security than in fines.

With proper certification, businesses can garner the unquestionable trust of customers and also onboard third-parties without any hesitation. PCI DSS Compliance protects businesses, promotes them and also amplifies their overall brand reputation.

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