A bad trend among information security executives may be good news for cybercriminals. The majority of businesses — 80 percent — fail their interim Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance assessment, leaving them open to potential attacks.

That’s according to the 2015 PCI Compliance Report by Verizon, which the firm released on March 12. The fourth annual report analyzes PCI compliance efforts and how they sync with data security breaches worldwide in a variety of industries.

The report encompasses three years of data and includes results from PCI assessments performed by Verizon PCI-qualified security assessors, who examined compliance efforts at large, multinational firms in more than 30 countries. The study includes analysis of each of the 12 PCI requirements.

Verizon says its research has shown for several years that companies victimized by data breaches tend to have lower-than-average compliance with PCI DSS controls.

One of the more telling findings of the latest PCI compliance report are that a mere 29 percent of organizations remain fully PCI DSS-compliant less than a year after being validated for compliance. On the positive side, nearly twice as many businesses received compliance validation during their interim review last year, in relation to 2013.

Companies need to take continuous compliance more seriously if they are to protect themselves against the kinds of attacks recently experienced by companies such as Home Depot and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“Today’s cybersecurity landscape is constantly changing,” said Rodolphe Simonetti, managing director of professional services for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “Compliance at [this] point in time isn’t sufficient to protect data. Putting the focus on making compliance sustainable is key. It must be a part of day-to-day activities within an organization’s greater security strategy.”

Among the areas in which companies typically fail with regard to PCI compliance, Simonetti says, are regularly testing security systems, maintaining secure systems and protecting stored data.

The recent rash of data breaches serves as a reminder of how important it is to maintain strong security practices, and organizations need to look at PCI DSS compliance as a key component of their cybersecurity and risk management strategy.

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