PCI app security: Who's guarding the data bank?

Compliance strategies for PCI's new application security requirements

Additional Visa Mandates

Beginning in January 2008, Visa raised the bar on application security when they announced a series of new mandates. Ultimately, these mandates are designed to eliminate the use of what are deemed to be vulnerable payment applications from their Visa's payment processing networks. To quote from their announcement, "These mandates require acquirers to ensure their merchants and agents to not use payment applications known to retain prohibited data."

The initial Visa mandates will be focused primarily on new payment applications to be connected to the Visa payment processing system this year. As the other additional mandates are phased in over time, however, their overall objective is to force the eventual de-commissioning of all known vulnerable payment processing systems from Visa networks by July 2010.

In addition, Visa will be publishing a list of current known vulnerable applications and providing that information to acquirers. By doing so, Visa can ensure that acquirers will hold their merchants and agents accountable for using only non-vulnerable payment processing systems.


Web applications have become the backbone of banking and e-commerce. POS and payment processing applications leveraging web and web-like technologies are being deployed as the next generation alternative to similar legacy systems. They connect end-users, customers, merchants, agents, and partners and process sensitive data including personal and financial information which is of the highest value. They do so anywhere, everywhere, anytime, and in real time. The need for significantly enhanced application security becomes paramount, and as a result the importance of PCI DSS and PA-DSS application security requirements become even more focused.

While application security presents some of the most challenging, and possibly the most costly, barriers to compliance with PCI DSS, requires 6.6 is far too important to ignore, no matter how difficult it is, nor how high the cost. Your organization's future depends on securing web applications and the costs of an unauthorized breach will eclipse the costs of doing the right thing by protecting the applications and sensitive data in the first place.

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