Friday, June 5, 2009

Data Breaches, Lawsuits, and Auditors - Oh My!

Wired's Threat Level writer Kim Zetter reports that Savvis is being sued as part of the 2005 CardSystems breach. Zetter notes that this is a legal first, making this an intriguing case to follow. Savvis' role as a Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) auditor. This predecessor to our broadly adopted and audited PCI-DSS standards was expected to help ensure that a compliant entity was secure.

Additional coverage can be found on various security sites around the net, such as SC Magazine, which observes that the breach occurred almost a full year after the certification - enough time for a multitude of compliance issues to creep into any environment if not carefully maintained and re-assessed.

Zetter also notes that credit card companies are aware that even those companies that have clean audit results are often vulnerable. This creates an interesting scenario - companies are required to meet PCI standards, and pay for certified auditors to assess their systems. Should they then be indemnified against compromises? Where does responsibility for incorrect audits and assessments lie?

Unfortunately, it is rare for organizations to completely meet all of the standard, and exceptions and local accomodations are common - and even when an organization meets all of the standards, they do they can be vulnerable. The PCI-DSS standards are a step forward for credit card processor security, but this lawsuit is likely only the first in a series of lessons the entire industry will learn about auditing and standards compliance.

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