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The PA-DSS deadline is closer than you may realize and there is bound to be a mad-rush at the end. July 2010 is the deadline for Phase 5 of Visa’s “Payment Application Security Mandates”. By that date, Visa is requiring that acquirers certify that all their merchants and processors are using PA-DSS certified payment applications. Did you get that? Stop, backup, read it again. If you are using a purchased payment application (those that are sold, distributed or licensed to third parties), it better be on the PA-DSS list.

PA-DSS is nothing new. It was introduced in 2007 as the successor to Visa’s Payment Application Best Practices (PAPB), which is intended to help software vendors and others develop secure payment applications, which could includePCI_Safeanything from a POS system to online shopping cart software. PA-DSS requires that payment application be assessed by a 3rd-party, pass a series of security tests, and adhere to leading-practices before it can be distributed. If it fails any part of the assessment, it cannot be used as a payment application.

What does this deadline mean? First, it means that merchants’ time of using anything but compliant payment applications is nearing an end. Second, any new merchant applying for a merchant account will have to, as one of the steps to getting the account, show the acquirer, that they are using a PA-DSS certified payment application.

It’s unclear how hard of a stance the payment brands are going to take on non PA-DSS or PCI compliant payment applications. If they go the full mile, they could shut down any organization whose credit card processing isn’t compliant. They could also hand down some major fines for non-compliance. No one really seems to know what those fines are, but obviously if credit card data is compromised while you are non-PCI compliant, you could be subject to hefty fines. With the ability to accept credit cards at stake, trusting non-compliant applications hardly seems like a risk worth taking.

July will be here quicker than you might realize. Are you ready? It’s quiet in here… can you hear the echo?