Understanding PCI DSS Compliance
If you’re a business that handles credit card data, including processing, storing, or transmitting it, you’re required to abide by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are among the major credit card companies that developed the standard to help ensure safer managing of credit card data.
No matter how large or small your organization is, you must obtain PCI DSS compliance if you handle credit card data.
The good news is that getting in compliance benefits your company in more ways than just avoiding fines from the PCI Standards Council.
However, it’s not a guarantee that your business is safe against security threats involving data breaches.
Here’s what you need to know about PCI DSS so you can better map your road to compliance.
What Are the Benefits of Gaining Compliance?
We all know a business that’s security has been compromised, resulting in a data breach and compromising sensitive credit card information.
In addition to the fines imposed for not complying with PCI standards, these companies lose more than just cash.
Organizations that lack the security standards to prevent such breaches risk losing their customers’ trust, damaging their reputation, and making others hesitant to do business with them.
Often, businesses experience a decrease in sales and even lawsuits as a result.
If you attain PCI DSS compliance, however, you’re on the right path to data security.
It’s also easier to comply with other data security regulations, such as the ISO/IEC 27001 family of standards.
The benefits of getting in compliance far outweigh the cost of neglecting these best practices for handling credit card data!
The 12 Requirements for PCI DSS Compliance
PCI DSS outlines 12 different requirements across six-goal categories that companies must abide by to create a better model for their security standards.
The requirements and goal categories are:
Have a Secure Network and Systems
- Use firewalls to defend your networks against unauthorized access to credit card data.
- Make appropriate password use a priority. Never use given passwords with a system, change passwords regularly, and create strong passwords.
Keep Cardholder Data Secure
- Encrypt cardholder data when stored or used; unencrypted data shouldn’t be available at any point in the payment process.
- When transmitting data, especially on open networks, encryption is a must.
Have a Plan for Managing Vulnerabilities
- If you use anti-virus software, be sure to regularly update and maintain it, and protect all your systems against malware.
- Create and maintain secure systems, including conducting any updates or patches for systems that use or store credit card data.
Have Strong Access Control Methods
- Have a database of people in your organization who require access to cardholder data and restrict access to only those who need it.
- Identify all individuals accessing sensitive data and create a unique login for each one. Avoid using a generic login, which helps reduce vulnerability and accelerate response to incidents.
- Safeguard and restrict physical access to credit card data and keep accurate logs of access.
Conduct Regular Monitoring and Testing
- Keep records to track all access to credit card data and monitor appropriate access.
- Ensure security by conducting regular system tests and identifying and remediating any vulnerabilities, including outdated software.
Have an Information Security Policy
- Create and maintain a policy that documents your information security practices for all workers.
PCI Compliance Requires an Ongoing Commitment
Applying these standards is a three-step process, beginning with assessing your systems for vulnerabilities and taking inventory of your payment processes.
You can do this by taking a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), which will help you better understand how to get started with the standard.
Next, remediating any weaknesses and doing away with the practice of storing credit card data (unless absolutely necessary) is essential.
Finally, reporting your assessments and any required paperwork will help document your compliance.
PCI DSS compliance isn’t a process that you complete and walk away from—it’s an ongoing commitment to keeping credit card data secure.
PCI DSS compliance goes beyond simple rule-following with major credit card companies.
It benefits your business by giving you the framework to adopt basic security practices for sensitive data, protect your reputation, and retain your customers’ trust.
Is your business PCI DSS compliant?