Tag Archives: Conventional PCI

Are You PCI Compliant? – Council & 12 Guidelines … Plus Some Jokes


Credit cards Français : Cartes de crédit Itali...

Are you PCI compliant? Hm, I don’t know the answer to that. Nonetheless, I guess you want me to do all the talking … and I suppose that’s reasonable, given this setting.

I’ll discuss below what PCI compliance is and the industry board that controls its parameters. In so doing, we’ll get a basic sense of what’s involved and why it’s important for your business. This piece goes over similar ground to one I wrote previously for this site, but, like an old familiar song, you can never get enough PCI.

To achieve this bold and breathtaking effort to distill information and disseminate it across the Webiverse (what the kids call it), I’ll use two primary sources: a FindLaw article from the Reuters site and various pieces from the official PCI Council site. Speaking of “breathtaking,” be careful while reading this piece: it can cause feelings of awe and wonder that may be dangerous for pregnant and lactating women; individuals with heart disease and recovering from electroshock therapy; and hypersensitive imps, fairies, and demons.

I’ll first discuss the role of the official PCI Standards Council and then go over the twelve basic guidelines of which it’s comprised (though its details, as you can imagine, are extensive). Those guidelines can be accessed on page 8 of the Quick Reference Guide (though it requires contact information to view – and that means you, Jane Doe).

What’s the PCI Council?

First, to clear up any confusion at the outset, PCI does not stand for Politically Correct Imp. That’s important to remember because apparently the imp community is upset about humor related to Politically Correct Imps, especially the bitingly offensive comments made by Jay Leno at a public, clothing-optional Swedish bathhouse in 2009.

Here we go: The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (aka PCI SSC) is an open-access worldwide forum that was created in 2006. The Council creates and controls three sets of standards. They are as follows:

  1. Data Security Standard (DSS)
  2. Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS)
  3. PIN Transaction Security (PTS) Standard.

The organization is no longer in charge of the Beer Goggle Standard (BGS). That standard has been dissolved to allow those drinking beer to operate with full poetic and romantic license.

The standards run the gamut of the entire digital world and create an established and continually developing sense of how to keep debit and credit card information safe as it moves throughout the UniNet (the kids just changed the name) and is stored in various systems. What this means is that anyone who works with credit cards must meet these standards, with no exceptions (except for one lucky winner each year that can just go nuts with all our financial data).

The PCI organization performs three main functions:

  1. provides full information to any interested parties – including a publicly available documents library of all its standards and other guidelines
  2. develops and manages training classes to help those in the security field understand PCI compliance
  3. educates consumers on proper card security requirements and expectations.

The Council is unfortunately no longer handling waterpark safety code for scout troops and church youth groups, having realized that’s not its area of expertise. Here are its founding members (note the absence of clergy, scoutmasters, and waterpark administrators):

  • American Express
  • Discover
  • JCB
  • MasterCard
  • Visa.

12 Basic Guidelines of the PCI-DSS Standard

The twelve basic pieces of the PCI-DSS standard, the one that’s of main concern for typical merchants, are as follows (and again, notice the absence of anything related to waterparks, river tubing, or even swimming holes):

  1. Proper installation and maintenance of a firewall
  2. No usage of passwords provided as defaults by third-party business partners
  3. General security requirements for the storage of card information
  4. Encryption, typically via SSL certificates, of card details when passing through the Webiverse (yeah, the kids are fickle)
  5. Implementation of up-to-date and comprehensive anti-virus applications
  6. Securing of all software, devices, and other network components
  7. Disallowance of access to payment details without reasonable cause
  8. Allotment of individual login usernames for each user (internal and external)
  9. Cautious limitation of hard-copy access to payment details
  10. Consistent oversight of any points of access to payment information
  11. Determination that security parameters are operating properly via regularly scheduled tests
  12. Development of company-wide protocol for security, presented to all employees.

As a side note, you do want to make sure that your scout troop wears footwear when swimming shipside on the high seas, to avoid barnacle-inflicted flesh wounds.


As you can see, the PCI Standards established by the Council are thorough and far-reaching. Though these guidelines can be frustrating for companies, they are also crucial to maintain Internet-wide security across all sectors and throughout all regions (that means you, northeastern Siberia). Oh, by the way, we offer PCI Compliance analysis (checking all your systems and ensuring that you’re up to code). If you buy now, I’m allowed to clock out.

By Kent Roberts

FISMA Web Hosting Compliance – 8 Guidelines … Plus Some Jokes


English: Certified HIPAA Privacy Security Expert

FISMA, or the Federal Information Security Management Act, became law in 2002 as a piece of the E-Government Act. The basic idea behind the act is to ensure the security of information handled by a federal agency. Supposedly one or another of the branches of the federal government is in possession of important and sensitive information that another nation or organization might want to see – who knew?

We are FISMA-compliant. That essentially means that we can work with government agencies and other organizations that handle government information. A couple of similar forms of compliance that we have in place are HIPAA, allowing us to work with healthcare companies, and PCI, allowing us to work with any company or organization accepting payments by credit card online.

More importantly than what companies we can take on as clients, though, is what our various compliances and certifications say about our company. We are dedicated to passing every test out there, not just to establish broad international credibility, but also because it allows us to test our standards and security protocols. Undergoing the numerous rigorous crosschecks of these standards makes our infrastructure stronger – or at least gauges the strength and gives us a better sense of any potential problems which need addressed.

Below, we will look at what FISMA is all about. Also, as with my previous two articles on PCI and HIPAA, let’s take a look at a few of the newer standardization acronyms that are becoming more popular (so we can all stay ahead of the curve). Here is the first of those:

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: CHCS Hootenanny Standards

The Country Hootenanny Standardization Consortium (CHSC), which determines standards for square dancing and instruments such as the fiddle and banjo and jug, releases a set of standards each year to ensure that hootenannies never go out of style. Here are the new 2013 additions to the standards manual:

  • No more R. Kelly covers
  • No huffing gasoline out of the jug while playing it
  • No dirty square dancing
  • Hands and feet must be showing at all times, whereas elbows and knees are still free to go wherever they please.

FISMA Security Protocol – 8 Guidelines

The following are the basic rules established by FISMA. As you will see, these are very simple and broad guidelines but will give you a general a sense of what’s involved with compliance:

  1. Reviews/Checks – On a regular basis, the agency or organization that is compliant with FISMA will assess risk, specifically the types of damage and amounts of damage that would be caused by a breach in security
  2. Adaptable Policy – Policy should be in place that is adaptive to the results of reviews. The policy should determine budget-conscious ways (for government bodies) to bring any security risks within allowable parameters. Security of information should be sustained throughout the entire time that an information database, system, or network is active.
  3. Specific plans should be in place related to each electronic system or any systemic components in use at a particular organization. Particular rules and guidelines pertaining to networks, facilities, and information systems should be delineated.
  4. Training should occur so that the workforce and anyone working within the system on a contractual basis is completely aware of FISMA and the risks associated with breaches to the data contained within the system
  5. Once new sets of policies and controls are implemented, a timetable for further reviews should be set. The regularity of reviews should depend on the extent of risk that is shown by the first review (and similarly moving forward); at minimum, reviews should be conducted once per year.
  6. The process to plan, change, assess, and record any efforts to adapt the systems should itself be on record
  7. A system should be in place to determine when a security problem is occurring, to notify appropriate personnel, and to combat it effectively
  8. Plans should be in place to allow information systems that protect and secure data to run continuously, without interruption.

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: Eating & Drinking Spillage Standard

Another acronym that has become much more prevalent in the last six months comes from the people of the consumption industry. The Eating & Drinking Spillage Standard (E&DSS) provides guidelines that make it less likely that people will spill anything when they are enjoying a meal, snack, or beverage. Basic parameters of the standard allow all who are compliant to waste less of their drinks and treats, as follows:

  • No consumption on the Tilt-a-Whirl
  • Never share food or beverages – keep them close to your body at all times
  • Adhere to the five-second rule (it’s not spillage, technically, until the sixth second)
  • Throw away anything crumbly – such as crackers and some cheeses. Cheese-and-cracker platter zealots are just asking for trouble.


That should give you a basic sense of the guidelines created by FISMA. FISMA is, in a nutshell, an effort to develop across-the-board guidelines for the entire federal government, agencies using federal information, and/or those that have federal clients. As established above, FISMA is just one of the various certifications we have in place at Superb Internet. Here are our hosting packages as well. If you have any additional game-changing acronyms that are just now becoming popular, please let us know in the comments.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

HIPAA Web Hosting Compliance: Why it Matters … Plus Some Jokes


Amsterdam servercluster in its own rack
Servercluster in its own rack

Hosting and health are sometimes interrelated. Our bodies can become hosts for parasites, and that is no fun (well… the tapeworm probably enjoys it). In other cases, the hosting industry and health industry cross paths in the need to reach the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We are HIPAA compliant at Superb Internet, so this article will take a look at why that is important for working with health organizations.

HIPAA compliance is similar in some ways to PCI compliance: both express a company’s commitment to the parameters of a third-party body, and both of them have to do with security and privacy. PCI was established by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI  SSC) – a group formed by the major credit card companies – to develop comprehensive protocol for how companies should process payments and store sensitive personal information. HIPAA, unlike PCI, is not voluntary. HIPAA rules were signed into law at the federal level to give better consumer protections to American citizens. The downside (well, and upside) of HIPAA is the stringency of rules that health-care firms now have to follow.

Below is a little information on why HIPAA compliance is important for a web hosting company. As with my last article – focused on PCI – I will also get into standards acronyms that are growing in popularity in 2013. I’ll tackle the first one here:

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: MBAM Art Standard

The Made By a Madman (MBAM) standard requires that any piece of artwork be validated to determine that it was in fact created by a mentally unstable person. Once it is determined that it was, everyone can start to enjoy it appropriately. “We’ve had just about enough of these happy, content, non-Salvador Dali, non-Vincent van Gogh types,” says Christian Doyle of the Transatlantic Alliance for Incoherent Creativity (TAIC). “We needed a way to know that the art we were looking at was made by someone either currently in or headed toward long-term electroshock therapy.”

Basics of HIPAA & Why it Matters for Web Hosts

The reason that HIPAA is so important for the hosting industry is because a large part of the reason the act was passed was to account for developments of the electronic age related to health privacy. Part of what it stipulates is that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must have in place a set of standards, applicable across the country, for how healthcare is electronically administered – what the baseline security requirements are, what codes are used for certain health disorders, etc. This is essentially a streamlining and simplification of how healthcare records are organized.

Additionally, HIPAA contains specific language that relates to individual privacy. This language is essentially a recognition that the electronic age makes privacy of health records more challenging. Regulations, then, were deemed necessary to ensure that all physicians and hospitals were adequately protecting patient information.

Our own compliance can be of use to healthcare organizations that need to know the required governmental safeguards are in place. However, you still need to ensure the compliance of your company internally if you want to know you are completely legal.

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: Skeleton Key Standard

This is an incredibly radical standard being developed by the people at the Single Key Worldwide Society (SKWS). The Skeleton Key Standard (SKS) requires all locks of a business to fit a key that is held by members of the society. “We are not just skeleton key enthusiasts,” says Dan Perry, president of SKWS. “We also don’t believe in private property.”

HIPAA: Privacy & Security of PHI

First let’s look at how HIPAA protects privacy and security. All the codes of HIPAA are related in some way to protected health information (PHI) – how it is defined, how it must be maintained, and rules for transmission. Basic regulations include the following:

  1. Internal protections for PHI;
  2. Only the minimum amount of PHI necessary to conduct business should change hands;
  3. Records must be kept of any transfer of PHI;
  4. Patients must have access to make changes to PHI;
  5. Contracts with affiliated companies that ensure protection of PHI;
  6. “Privacy officer” role given to the person in charge of PHI at a company;
  7. Penalize those who do not properly protect PHI;
  8. Give paperwork with acceptable PHI guidelines to all relevant parties.

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: Packing Peanut Standard

The shipping industry has come together and created standards of quality for packing peanuts. The Packing Peanut Standard (PPS) ensures the following:

  • Peanuts must be pink
  • Peanuts must not be peanuts
  • Firmness of peanuts must be carefully balanced with their softness – with correct balance determined by a designated “Balance Officer.”


That is the gist on HIPAA. Many different types of health organizations (and some others, too) must comply with its standards. As with PCI and our other certifications, we are not just protecting our clients and their clients. We are also showcasing our commitment to credibility across a wide range of industries. Our hosting packages are here. If you have any further up-and-coming acronyms that you would like to share, please provide them below.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

PCI Compliant Hosting: 5 Reasons it Matters … Plus Some Jokes


Credit Cards ...item 2.. Big hack attack on Is...

PCI compliance is one of those things that are incredibly helpful and incredibly annoying at the same time. Similar to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines for semi-truck safety on the interstate, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) standards help ensure that credit cards are safe on the Internet and on the equipment of a company. Now, of course the flipside of the safety brought to those using the Internet or the interstate by DOT or PCI rules is that the stringency of the standards can sometimes be frustrating: this is the plus-and-minus nature of regulations.

To be clear, PCI is not federal regulations like those of the DOT. Instead, the credit card companies started the PCI standardization group to try to establish an across-the-board idea of what security for payments online is all about – to minimize the chances of theft of credit card numbers, purchasing data, etc. Online, PCI standards are similar to the standards set for Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates by the Certification Authority/Browser Forum (CA/B Forum). As with PCI, EV standards were established by major industry players to protect not only their customers but themselves.

Let’s take a quick look below at what is entailed with PCI compliant web hosting. Additionally, since I’ve been throwing around all these acronyms, I’ll review a few of the other most important up-and-coming acronyms in the standards world. I’ll start with the first of those now:

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: DHAH Bag Standard

DHAH is an exciting standard being developed by the international bag industry. DHAH stands for “Doesn’t Have Any Holes.” Charles Gibbons of the North American Free Bag Association (NAFBA) feels this standard will make it a lot easier for people to exchange bags without having to worry about functionality: “To be completely clear, a bag should have one hole in it – a big one at the top where you can put stuff in,” he explains. “Additional ones at the bottom are what DHAH standards are concerned with.”

What’s the PCI Council & 5 Reasons Compliance Matters

The Council was started in 2006. It is a worldwide forum and is open for membership application. Currently it oversees three sets of standards and requirements:

  • PCI-DSS (Data Security Standard)
  • PCI-PA-DSS (Payment Application Data Security Standard)
  • PCI-PTS (PIN Transaction Security Requirements).

PCI applies to all processing, handling, and storing of credit card and payment data. As the Council explains, “Our standards cover everything from the point of entry of card data into a system, to how the data is processed, through secure payment applications.”

Founding members include MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express. It’s important to note that the Council itself does not enforce its standard. However, the individual credit card companies will sometimes require the companies meet the standards so that online fraud is less likely to occur.

Of course, online fraud is not desired by anyone conducting legitimate business on the Web. The basic gist on why compliance is important for you:

  1. Consumer Trust – PCI-DSS is an easy way to establish third-party vetting of your security. This increases trust, which in turn increases sales and repeat business.
  2. Payment Card Partnerships – Becoming compliant makes it easier to take payments with the major credit card companies. It’s validation that you share their same concerns.
  3. Building a Wall – Becoming compliant is an investment in the future. Building a more solid alliance following the same sets of standards makes it easier to adjust and counter the moves of online malware and criminals.
  4. Preparation for Standards & Efficiency – Going through the compliance process ties into preparation for HIPAA, SOX, and other standards. In other words, it’s further checks and balances, better integrating and streamlining your general security strategy.
  5. Bad Things Happen to Good Companies – Like any set of standards or regulations, the PCI parameters are meaningful. They really will make your company safer against threats. If sensitive payment data is stolen, here are some potential results: 1.) Fines from the government; 2.) Card account cancellation; 3.) Fines from the credit card industry; and, 4.) Civil litigation.

When you choose a hosting company that is compliant, you get the benefits of PCI compliance as a part of your hosting package (so that you don’t have to go out and do all the work and vetting yourself). Although you can take advantage of our PCI compliance and other accreditations at Superb Internet, you may want to go out and get the compliance in place yourself as well to further establish credibility with your clients and partners.

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: MBATT Pet Standard

MBATT, or “Must Be Able To Talk,” is a standard that many pet stores are beginning to adopt. Laura Wright, owner of Animals Galore in Newton, Massachusetts, explains what MBATT is and why she became compliant: “Basically, it means that all of the pets in your store must talk. It’s hard to get a dog or fish or cat to speak in public, so I just have all tropical birds now, along with a few insurance salesman wearing tails.”


That should give you a basic sense of PCI compliance. Your basic consideration when you’re looking at a hosting company is to make sure that it is at least secure with your information and your customers’ information. PCI, then, gives us a standardized way to know if a company is doing its best to keep sensitive data secure. Here are our web hosting packages if you would like to take a look. Please comment below if you have any additional late-breaking acronyms you would like to share.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood