What Is a QSA?

Since the formation of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards back in 2004, PCI DSS has setup its requirement for financial service providers and large merchants to use QSAs to carry out onsite assessments and to check on Compliance and security. QSA stands for Qualified Security Assessors; it is a designation awarded to individuals by the PCI Security Standards Council, whom it finds qualifying to execute consulting services and PCI assessments.

Recently, PCI DSS has expanded to take in its guidelines for training QSAs and some other advancement. Still QSAs and the services they provide do vary a lot. With assessors, the thoroughness, methodologies, technical skills and some other areas differ a lot.

The PCI DSS V2.0

The PCI DSS v2.0 released on 30th October includes number of classifications and further areas of guidance for assessments. The standard according to new version states that the first step of any PCI DSS assess is to describe the scope of assessment, by pointing out clear maps (locations and flows) of cardholder information within a system.

A lot of organizations are not aware about every single location where the card holder information is situated in their systems. A QSA must have understanding about application data handling, network architecture, operating system security, storage and database technology, and other business and IT functions in order to carry out those assessments.

Virtualization Technology

A new guidance has also been added in the PCI DSS v2.0 which is its grant of using virtualization technologies and how to assess them. As many organizations are looking to handle cost efficiencies savings through implementation of application and server virtualization, it is a must for the QSAs to know more about this technology and how it differs from the traditional server/client technologies they are using for assessment.

Through virtualization numerous server instances can be developed and run from a single physical system. This has been considered as non compliant by many QSAs in the past. PCI v2.0 Section 2.2.1 permits the use of virtualization; but makes it clear to run only one function on a single virtual server like one machine will run database services, while another will be used for running web services. So it is important for the QSAs to know about virtualization specific controls, virtual network segmentation and the IT controls which come in use with the virtualization platforms.

Choosing a QSA

Once you select a QSA, the relationship might develop into a long one. It is necessary for the organizations to look for a QSA that knows about the same technology that is needed to be audited. In order to hire a QSA, the companies must gather information about business requirements; develop a detailed interview about past experiences (of QSA) and must choose a time for onsite review and planning or meeting. Make sure that the individual QSA you spoke and work with for carrying out collection of data and assessment and who will eventually be coming onsite for managing assessment are the same.

The QSA firm will have great effects on your compliance and security for a long time. Making the right decision regarding QSA selection will turn out in great advantage for both fulfilling the PCI DSS Compliance requirements as well as making your security system for a longer period of time.

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One in a Million – Or One of Millions?

Branding oneself can be the most significant strategy to break out of the pack of others who market similar products and services. Most salespeople agree that value, not price is the selling point. This being the case, the most important thing a company can do is to brand itself – convince the customer that the company’s value is higher than that of its competitors.

Brand building is done in a number of ways. Successful marketing strategies have changed drastically over the last half century. Marketing strategies are shifting to the utilization of social media. The old means of print media and even TV spots aren’t as effective as they once were. TV ad spots are at a record low and internet advertising spots are at a record high. Most companies who advertise on Hulu, an online television viewing website, create links back to their Facebook pages rather than traditional websites.

Developing the concept of the brand is just as important as developing the brand itself. Before starting to use social media marketing to build a brand, there are still many things that need to be done such as creating a mission statement, elevator pitch and short biography of the company. These are all important because they will be used to provide information on each of the social media sites used by the company.

The combination of utilizing traditional marketing strategies and shifting to a social media platform will help optimize the company’s exposure. Print media is still appropriate and encouraged in many industries. Just because some methods of marketing have become less effective than new strategies doesn’t mean that they are ineffective.

The more exposure, the better. There are several ways to build a brand once the basic concept has been developed. Using all of these techniques and creating a shot gun effect can be very successful. The saying, “don’t carry all of your eggs in one basket,” is very true in the case of a marketing strategy. While some techniques may be more effective than others there is still valid reason to use many different techniques. If the favored technique fails to attract customer attention there will always be other techniques that may do quite well. On the other hand, if all of the techniques fail, there may be a flaw in the fundamental concept of the brand.

The main point of any marketing strategy, no matter how in vogue it may be, is to create brand awareness. The way to make customers aware of a brand is to be where the potential customers are. Researching the targeted demographic is important because the majority of the advertising and customer relation building needs to be done there. Based on conjecture, if a heavy metal band is trying to market its brand, this would be done more successfully at heavy metal concerts, on MySpace and in music stores that sell heavy metal music. The contrast to this strategy would be an attempt to market at pop concerts, LinkedIn and church socials.

There are millions of websites and several prominent social networking websites that make reaching customers much easier than standing in the weather for hours upon end handing out flyers. Reaching customers through interacting with them on social media sites is not only an effective way of making contact but it is also effective to let them get know the company. Corporate blogs make companies personal. Sharing information about company events, trends in the industry and company news is a good way to connect with customers. The personal connection made possible by social networking sites is a very important aspect of social media marketing.

Customers identify with brands. When a customer considers a certain brand to be the foremost authority in a particular industry it is clear that the brand in question has built up value in the mind of the customer. The successful brand will eliminate the need for its potential customer to use Google or the phonebook to find what they are looking for. The successful brand will already be in the mind of the customer from previous contact. The purpose of building a brand is to stick out in the mind of the customer…to become one in a million instead of one of millions.

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