We use our credit cards several times daily through numerous credit card processors. Did you know that major credit card companies (including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover) have an established set of security standards to protect sensitive payment card data? They are the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
The PCI DSS provides a framework for merchants, payment processors, and other entities that handle payment card information to safeguard against data breaches and unauthorized access. The standards cover a range of security requirements, including network security, encryption, access control, and regular testing and monitoring.
The PCI DSS is divided into six main categories, or “control objectives,” which include:
- Building and maintaining a secure network
- Protecting cardholder data
- Maintaining a vulnerability management program
- Implementing strong access control measures
- Regularly monitoring and testing networks
- Maintaining an information security policy
Non-Compliance Can Hurt You
Merchants and other entities that accept payment cards must comply with the PCI DSS, which the payment card companies themselves enforce. Compliance is usually verified by a qualified security assessor (QSA) or through self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs). Non-compliance can result in fines, restrictions on card processing, or even the loss of the ability to process card payments altogether.
How To Become Compliant
To become PCI DSS compliant, organizations need to follow a series of steps that involve reviewing and implementing security measures, as well as undergoing regular assessments and audits to ensure ongoing compliance.
Here are some general steps that can help organizations get started on the path to PCI DSS compliance:
- Determine your level of compliance: Merchants and service providers are divided into four levels based on the volume of credit card transactions they process annually. Each level has its own set of requirements for compliance.
- Identify and protect cardholder data: Organizations must identify all systems and processes that handle cardholder data and place appropriate security measures to protect this data.
- Build and maintain a secure network: Organizations must implement secure network configurations, firewalls, and other network security measures to protect cardholder data from unauthorized access.
- Implement access controls: Organizations must ensure that access to cardholder data is restricted to authorized personnel and implement strong authentication mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access.
- Regularly monitor and test security systems: Organizations must regularly monitor their security systems and conduct vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify and address any vulnerabilities or potential threats.
- Develop and maintain security policies: Organizations must establish and maintain comprehensive security policies and procedures that are communicated to all employees, contractors, and partners.
- Engage a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA): For levels 1 and 2, organizations must engage a QSA to perform an assessment of their compliance with the PCI DSS requirements. For levels 3 and 4, self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs) may be used instead.
- Address any identified non-compliance issues: Organizations must take prompt action to address any issues identified in the compliance assessment, including implementing any necessary corrective actions and submitting appropriate documentation.
Achieving and maintaining PCI DSS compliance can be a complex and ongoing process, but it is a critical step for any organization that handles credit card data to protect themselves and their customers from security breaches and other risks.
Benefits of Being Compliant
There are several benefits to achieving and maintaining PCI DSS compliance for organizations that handle payment card data:
- Improved security: The primary benefit of PCI DSS compliance is improved security measures for protecting payment card data, which reduces the risk of data breaches, fraud, and other security incidents.
- Reduced risk and liability: Compliance with the PCI DSS helps reduce the risk of financial losses, legal liabilities, and reputational damage that can result from data breaches or non-compliance.
- Increased customer trust: PCI DSS compliance is a visible demonstration of an organization’s commitment to protecting customer data, which can help build trust and confidence among customers and other stakeholders.
- Competitive advantage: Compliance with the PCI DSS can give organizations a competitive advantage by demonstrating their commitment to security and compliance, which can be an important factor for customers when choosing between different service providers.
- Easier and faster payment processing: Compliance with the PCI DSS can help streamline payment processing and reduce the administrative burden associated with managing payment card data.
- Compliance with regulatory requirements: PCI DSS compliance can help organizations meet other regulatory requirements related to data security and privacy, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and others, which can help simplify compliance efforts.
Overall, achieving and maintaining PCI DSS compliance can help organizations protect themselves, their customers, and their stakeholders from the risks associated with data breaches and non-compliance, while also providing a range of business benefits.