John Shin is the Managing Director at RSI Security.
Whether they know it or not, any business with an internet-exposed edge has to take cybersecurity seriously.
The everyday act of putting information online and moving it from place to place (which we do without a second thought) is the very act that leaves it vulnerable to breach and compromise.
Malicious cybercriminals have a number of vectors they might take for gaining access to data without the necessary permission, from brute-force password cracks to sociologically-engineered phishing emails.
The simple truth is that information stored online can never be truly guaranteed 100 percent safe, but companies thankfully have meaningful ways forward in spite of this.
Those with a sufficient budget (or a large enough need) can hire specialized cybersecurity staff whose full-time job description is about maintaining strong IT standards, preventing attacks, and taking productive action in the case of a successful attack.
These workers are charged with not only knowing the latest and greatest for keeping a company’s cybersecurity tight, but also with actually implementing the standards to get it there.
Third-party cybersecurity compliance firms are also available to help whip your operation into shape. Whether they serve as your full-time employees or not, there is no shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts available to lend their services toward achieving maximum operational security.
Whether they’re full-time coworkers or temporary contractors, your cybersecurity staff should play a meaningful role within your internet-connected business.
Here are the pros and cons of hiring an external auditor instead of having a full-timer on hand for cybersecurity compliance issues.
Pro: With a little buy-in from the beginning, you’ll finish the process with compliance.
You’ll get what you pay with an external contractor. If you hire an expert to audit your business for PCI compliance and help bridge any gaps identified, you can be sure that expert will deliver.
Hiring an external firm for these kinds of audits is an effective way to achieve the desired result by leaving it almost completely up to internal stakeholders potentially satisfied with the status quo.
Change from within isn’t necessarily as simple as change arising from interaction with some external source.
It’s often easier to hire an outside expert to come in and shake up an organization with new best practices, improved processes, and strong guidance on any hardware they might need to replace.
If the tone among your company is that you are bringing the PCI compliance auditor into the fold in order to learn from them, then you’ll have much less friction on the way.
Con: You might not necessarily learn anything in the process.
Depending on how this external audit firm operates toward getting your business compliant, you and your teammates might not necessarily learn anything from them.
There is a spectrum of compliance auditors out there, from hands-on teachers to checklist sticklers. Have the associated stakeholders in the same room as the professional as often and make sense, and do your best to establish some knowledge transfer during this time.
The more the expert can explain what he or she is doing, the better.
Doctors can’t easily describe what they did to make a life-saving decision repeatable. A taxi driver will take you to a destination, but they won’t teach you how to drive.
Hiring an external auditor (versus prioritizing it from within and hiring a cybersecurity pro at the team level) can mean your compliance process is too automatic for its own good.
The experts can get you compliant, but can’t always easily explain what they’re doing or why on the way there.
Different firms will operate in different ways, but these people should be consistently receptive to questions in their niche, as well as have strong answers for them.
You should be able to have an informed conversation about any changes the compliance auditor recommends. They might not volunteer small details offhand, but you can lead them there by asking good questions.
Pro: You don’t have to hire an expensive full-time cybersecurity team.
Instead of onboarding a team of sufficient size, worrying about their healthcare costs and annual bonuses, you can pay a specialized company to come and help you out on your PCI compliance journey.
These audit firms run a horizontal solution designed to plug into the vertical structure of any business that needs to be PCI-compliant. Instead of hiring new cybersecurity staff, you can pay a fee to a company to help move your organization’s cybersecurity team.
It’s the difference between having food delivered to your house and hiring a personal chef.
Just as you can order a bunch of different food to your preference, compliance audit firms are sufficiently well-versed across a number of cybersecurity topics to earn their fees for guiding your company in a better direction.
These firms may be less expensive than a suite of full-time expert staff, but they still come with significant costs for engaging them. They are likely a more affordable avenue for businesses seeking PCI compliance, but they will still cost many thousands of dollars.
And once the auditor disappears after conducting an audit, team mindfulness about cybersecurity topics tends to follow close behind.
Any company with operations touching the internet today needs to have a cohesive cybersecurity strategy to sufficiently push back in case that real estate became compromised.
And if they process payments like credit card or debit card transactions, then they are especially beholden to having informed standards enforced. PCI compliance is a process for companies to go through if they want to securely collect and process credit card payments online, and signal that security to informed consumers.
As important as basic cybersecurity is for every website owner online today, PCI compliance is of the same importance if those sites are going to collect credit card data or other sensitive information.
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