What Is PCI Compliance
Companies that handle payment information from customers need to implement measures to secure such data. So what is PCI compliance?
Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance refers to a standard which companies that manage, store, and transmit credit card and related information must adhere to for security purposes.
Major credit card companies created PCI Data Security Standards (DSS) in 2006 to help businesses prevent customer payment data from being stolen—and understandably so. Credit card fraud costs businesses across all industries billions of dollars annually in the United States.
Deploying the measures outlined in PCI DSS to gain compliance can help protect your customers’ data against theft and protect your organization against the consequences associated with such a security breach.
Why PCI Compliance Augments Security
Companies that fail to implement the measures in PCI DSS are more at risk to experience a cyberattack that can jeopardize sensitive information.
The framework establishes a common ground for all companies that deal with this data to keep customer information safe. For instance, businesses may not think to encrypt cardholder data when transmitting it across public networks, or to restrict user access to this sensitive information. Even monitoring file access to cardholder data is important.
These are all commonsense measures that businesses in the payment card industry may not have otherwise had in place that can help prevent data misuse and theft.
The Requirements of PCI Compliance
What is PCI compliance? It’s compliance with PCI DSS, which contains 12 requirements for organizations to deploy. The requirements to gain compliance are as follows:
- 1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
- 2. Not using vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.
- 3. Protect stored cardholder data.
- 4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
- 5. Use and regularly update antivirus software or programs.
- 6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
- 7. Restrict user access to cardholder data under a “need-to-know” basis.
- 8. Issue a custom ID to every person who has access to the data.
- 9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
- 10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
- 11. Regularly test security systems and processes.
- 12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for both employees and contractors.
Methods to Confirm Compliance
Once you’ve implemented the following measures, there are a couple options for confirming your compliance with PCI DSS.
You can utilize a self-assessment tool to determine your level of compliance, although it needs to be performed quarterly and you must submit your results (each credit card company has their own validation requirements).
You also have the option of working with a PCI Quality Security Assessor (QSA), who will be a trained and certified individual that performs PCI security assessments, but it’s important to choose one who understands your industry for best results.
How to Maintain Your Security Standards
Deploying PCI DSS measures and gaining compliance isn’t the end of the road—you need to regularly assess and improve your efforts to protect cardholder data.
Keeping up with the requirements of PCI DSS and having regular audits of your efforts will help you prevent a data breach and stay in compliance to avoid the consequences associated with non-compliance.
Your organization should have procedures in place to continually identify and isolate sensitive data, manage access control, and monitor file activity related to such information.
What Happens If You Neglect to Establish Compliance?
If you’re not compliant with PCI DSS, you can expect fines and even legal action against your organization. Fines can vary and may include a monthly fee of up to $100,000 until you gain compliance or a flat amount for each customer who was affected by a security breach.
However, these fines will be small compared to the legal action you may experience as the result of non-compliance. No matter the cost to gain compliance, it’ll always be cheaper for your business to gain and maintain compliance as opposed to experiencing a data breach!
So when considering what is PCI compliance, consider that companies that handle sensitive cardholder data must deploy the measures outlined in PCI DSS. These measures help organizations attain compliance and continually manage their approach to data security to better protect customer data!