Maintaining the security of financial transactions is a top priority for businesses. The PCI SSC has established various Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) to protect cardholder data. But how do organizations ensure that they are PCI DSS compliant? We’ve simplified it for you here.
Who is a PCI QSA?
The Payment Card Industry Qualified Security Assessor is a certification given to an individual who qualifies in the PCI QSA exam and becomes a specialist to evaluate whether an organization complies with PCI DSS. QSAs are independent third-party assessors who do compliance audits for the merchants and service providers who process payment transactions.
The PCI QSA is essential to helping businesses safeguard sensitive cardholder data and keep their payment systems secure. They are obliged to abide by stringent ethical and professional standards to guarantee the objectivity and integrity of their evaluations.
How to prepare for the PCI QSA certification exam?
QSAs are trained and authorized by the PCI SSC to conduct PCI DSS assessments efficiently. Hence, the PCI QSA test checks qualifications through a combination of knowledge, practice, and experience-based scenarios. You can follow the recommendations below to get ready for the test.
Here are four steps process for PCI QSA certification exam:
1. Have a strong foundation of PCI DSS standards
To clear the exam, you will need to be familiar with all PCI DSS compliance requirements and the card data environment—this includes all of the standards, directives, and other reference documents.
Review practice questions to understand the types and levels of the exam’s questions. The PCI Security Standards Council offers a collection of test questions on its website.
2. Choose the right place to take up PCI QSA courses
The PCI Security Standards Council offers an official QSA training program taught by experienced instructors with in-depth expertise in PCI DSS evaluations.
The PCI SSC QSA course contains an online component, followed by a two-day instructor-led session covering all essential PCI DSS standards, methods, auditing processes, and best practices. Candidates will be qualified to administer tests and conduct assessments once they have finished the course and passed the exam.
PCI QSA courses are also offered by other training organizations, such as SANS Institute, ISACA, and ISC(2). These training providers might provide more training choices or focus on particular PCI DSS evaluations or compliance areas; however, it’s crucial to confirm that they have received PCI SSC approval and that the course material is up to date.
3. Knowledge of reporting and assessment tools
The exam will test your comprehension of the PCI DSS assessments’ reporting criteria. Read the Reporting Instructions for PCI DSS Assessments and Attestations to comprehend the specifications for producing and submitting reports. Also, know the methods and tools available for conducting assessments. This covers report authoring, sampling methods, and scoping tools.
4. Stay up to date with trends
Keep abreast of the PCI DSS and its related documents’ most recent alterations and updates. Attend industry gatherings, peruse trade journals, and participate in appropriate forums and discussion groups to catch up with the recent happenings of the payment card industry.
Also check out: PCI DSS training guide
What is the process to get PCI QSA Certification?
Generally, individuals from different security companies look to obtain the QSA certification. For streamlining the process, PCI SSC made this certification mandatory for security companies that assess compliance with PCI DSS standards. PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) has an elaborate program for firms aiming to become qualified security assessors.
At a high level, the security company should have systems that adhere to ‘Qualification Requirements for Qualified Security Assessors (QSA) v. 4.0.’ The steps involved in becoming PCI QSA certified are as follows.
- With all the required procedures and processes in place, the security company should apply as a firm for the qualification in the program. They should submit detailed documentation, and the PCI Security Standards Council will scrutinize these documents and communicate with the company to address any issues.
- Following an acceptance from PCI SSC, the employees of the company who will be involved in assessing the clients must be trained in the Council’s QSA course.
- Once all the employees are successfully trained, the organization will be added to the council’s database, and the company can perform PCI audits for its clients.
- For the highest quality and professionalism in the audits, the performance of the company is judged based on the Quality feedback form submitted by the security company’s clients. The feedback is continuously monitored to enable continuous improvement of the certified company.
Read more: PCI DSS Audit: A Complete Guide
How much does the PCI QSA training program cost?
The structure of the program, location, and training provider all impact the price of PCI QSA training courses. The official PCI SSC QSA training course typically costs between $3,000 and $5,000 USD. This charge covers the cost of the instructional materials, online portal access, practical labs, and the exam fee.
Some training providers could provide discounts or package deals with other training or certification alternatives. Additional travel and lodging expenses might be necessary if the training program is conducted in person and requires you to travel to a different place. In general, it’s crucial to compare the offers and costs of several training providers to pick the one that best suits your goals and financial constraints.
The need for QSAs is still expanding as payment card data security becomes more crucial. And earning a PCI QSA certification is a demanding procedure. It needs a lot of commitment and a comprehensive understanding of PCI DSS compliance. Apart from this, a specific set of skills, knowledge, and competence are requirements for becoming a QSA.
We hope we have covered all the desired prerequisites for professionals and firms who wish to work in the payment card sector and support businesses in achieving PCI DSS compliance. But the road doesn’t end there. Once certified, QSAs are required to retain their certification through continued education and periodic exams. We wish you all the best in your journey to obtain PCI QSA certification and to make noteworthy accomplishments.
After getting certified, businesses can start with PCI DSS assessments to help organizations in achieving compliance efficiently.
What are the qualifications to become a PCI QSA?
To become a PCI QSA, you need professional experience in risk management, compliance, and IT security. Additionally, you need to hold a professional certification issued by a reputable organization, such as ISACA, ISC(2), or SANS. You must also pass a test and finish a training course that the PCI SSC has authorized.
What is the role of PCI QSA?
The role of a PCI QSA is to determine whether an organization complies with the PCI DSS by evaluating the security posture of those organizations that handle, store, or transfer payment card data. This could involve assessing the organization’s security controls, onsite audits, document checks, pinpointing any holes or weaknesses in the security posture, and offering suggestions, and then providing the PCI SSC with an evaluation report.
What does the QSA exam cover?
The QSA exam covers topics around The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and other pertinent standards and laws. The minimal passing score for the exam is 70%. It is in the form of multiple-choice questions.