What Businesses Need To Follow To Be Compliant With PCI DSS?

The payment sector is extremely reliant on trust. While there has always been the possibility of fraud, the fast adoption of the internet in the 1990s brought with it a massive increase in fraud.

Several companies attempted to address the problem on their own, developing their own security standards, but their efforts were largely unsuccessful. The situation worsened to the point where global payment fraud losses tripled in a decade to $33 billion

However, things changed in 2006 when a consortium of credit payment firms formed the Payment Card Industry Security Rules Council (PCI SSC), which established the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard as a guiding set of payment standards (PCI DSS).

In this blog, we will uncover every little detail about this global security standard and also guide you regarding the steps your business must follow to comply with it.

What is PCI-DSS?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a collection of guidelines designed to ensure that all businesses that process, store, or transfer credit card data do so in a secure manner. On September 7, 2006, it was launched to monitor PCI security standards and increase account security throughout the transaction process.

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) is an independent organization founded by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB to administer and oversee the PCI DSS. Interestingly, rather than the PCI SSC, payment brands and payment processors are in charge of ensuring compliance.

Related Topic: Compliance Checks That Businesses Need To Follow

What are the Requirements of PCI DSS Compliance?

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) establishes technical and operational requirements to safeguard cardholder data. All businesses that store, process, or transmit cardholder data must comply with the standards, which include software developers and manufacturers of apps and devices utilized in those transactions.

The Council is in charge of security standards management, while the founding members of the Council, American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa Inc., enforce compliance with the PCI set of standards. 

The PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is designed to safeguard cardholder information and sensitive authentication data wherever it is processed, stored, or transmitted. The PCI DSS security controls and processes are critical for safeguarding all payment card account data, including the PAN (primary account number) printed on the front of a payment card. After authorisation, merchants, service providers, and other entities involved in payment card processing should never hold sensitive authentication data.

This includes the 3- or 4-digit security code printed on the front or back of a card, the data recorded on the magnetic stripe or chip (also known as "Full Track Data"), and the cardholder's personal identification numbers (PIN).

What are the Levels of PCI DSS Compliance?

A business needs to establish and maintain a certain set of security requirements in order to meet the PCI compliant payment levels. The primary aim of this compliance is the protection of customer identity and preserving their payment details.

The level of compliance a business must maintain depends on the type and number of transactions completed in a year and the size of the business. And based on the type and amount of transactions completed on an annual basis, merchants belong to the following four levels of PCI compliance:

Level 1: Merchants processing more than 6 million transactions each year.

Level 2: Merchants processing card transactions between 1-6 million annually.

Level 3: Merchants processing 20,000 to 1 million transactions annually.

Level 4: Merchants processing 20,000 or fewer transactions per year.

Mostly, small businesses that process less than 1 million card transactions with less than 20,000 e-commerce transactions each year are placed in Level 4. Moreover, if the number of credit card transactions exceeds the Level 4 standards, the business has to follow higher level compliances.

Another important thing to keep in mind is how the transactions are processed in the company. Compliance requirements change based on the nature of processing modes used by merchants like mail order/telephone order transactions, point of sale transactions (where a swipe device is used), e-commerce or web transactions, and a combination of these.

Related Topic: What Businesses Need To Follow To Be Compliant With GLBA

12 Requirements of PCI DSS

Maintaining PCI compliance boosts developers' productivity by giving them security advice while they work and training them on how to constantly embed security into their applications. Here are the 12 requirements which are established by PCI DSS in order to ensure compliance:

1. Maintain And Use Firewalls

Foreign or unknown entities seeking to access private data are effectively blocked by firewalls. These anti-hacking technologies are frequently the first line of defence against cybercriminals (malicious or otherwise).

Because of their effectiveness in preventing unauthorized access, firewalls are necessary for PCI DSS compliance. 

2. Ensure Effective Password Protection

Routers, modems, POS systems, and other third-party goods frequently have generic passwords and security mechanisms that are easily accessible to the general public. Businesses fail to secure these vulnerabilities far too often.

Keeping a list of all devices and applications that require a password is one way to ensure compliance in this area (or other security to access). Basic safeguards and setups should be implemented in addition to a device/password inventory (e.g., changing the password). 

3. Protect The Data Of The Cardholders

Two-fold protection of cardholder data is the third requirement of PCI DSS compliance. Certain algorithms must be used to encrypt card data. These encryptions are implemented using encryption keys, which must likewise be encrypted in order to be compliant.

To ensure that no unencrypted data exist, primary account numbers (PAN) must be maintained and scanned on a regular basis. 

4. Encrypt Data Which Has Been Transmitted

Data about cardholders is sent through a variety of methods (i.e., payment processors, home office from local stores, etc.). When this data is transferred to these known destinations, it must be encrypted. Account numbers should never be provided to unidentified locations. 

5. Maintain And Use Anti-Virus Products

Outside of PCI DSS compliance, installing anti-virus software is an excellent idea. All devices that interact with and/or store PAN, however, must have anti-virus software installed.

This software should be patched and updated on a regular basis. Where anti-virus cannot be implemented directly, your POS provider should use anti-virus measures. 

6. Properly Update Software

Firewalls and anti-virus software will need to be updated on a regular basis. It's also a good idea to keep all of a company's software up to date. Most software companies will incorporate security measures in their updates, such as patches to address newly discovered vulnerabilities, which adds another layer of protection.

All software on devices that interact with or store cardholder data, in particular, need these updates. 

7. Restrict Access To Data

Cardholder information must be strictly "need to know." All employees, executives, and third parties who do not require access to this information should be denied access.

As mandated by PCI DSS, responsibilities that require sensitive data should be well-documented and updated on a regular basis. 

8. Access Identification Keys

Individual credentials and identity should be required for those who have access to cardholder data. There should not, for example, be a single login to encrypted data with several employees knowing the username and password. In the event that data is compromised, unique IDs reduce susceptibility and speed up response time. 

9. Limit Access In The Physical World

Any information about cardholders must be kept in a secure area. Both handwritten and typed material, as well as data stored digitally (e.g., on a hard drive), should be maintained in a safe room, drawer, or cabinet.

Not only should access be restricted, but any time-sensitive information is accessed, a log should be kept to ensure compliance. 

10. Maintain And Create Access Logs

A log entry is required for any activity involving cardholder data and primary account numbers (PAN). When it comes to accessing sensitive data, one of the most typical non-compliance issues is a lack of effective record keeping and documentation.

Documenting how data flows into your company and the number of times access is required for compliance. To ensure accuracy, software solutions to log access are also required. 

11. Check For Vulnerabilities And Scan For Them 

All 10 of the previous compliance standards involve a variety of software products, physical locations, and most likely a small number of people. Many items can break down, become outdated, or be subject to human mistakes. The PCI DSS requirement for regular scans and vulnerability testing can help to limit these dangers. 

12. Document Policies 

For compliance, an inventory of equipment, software, and employees with access will be required. The records of cardholder data access will also need to be documented. It will also be necessary to document how information enters your organization, where it is held, and how it is used after the point of sale.

Final Thoughts

Compliance with PCI DSS has become very crucial for businesses and it may not be as difficult as you think, especially if you have the correct tools and information. The long-term benefit of this is that you don't have to rely on industry baseline standards or be concerned about security mechanisms failing.

This method allows agile firms to limit the risk of a data breach while avoiding the emotive, time-consuming, and costly approach to PCI certification that has been used in the past. Not to mention, a more secure integration approach is dependable at all times of the year.

Published on May 21, 2020
Harshit Agarwal
Written by Harshit Agarwal
Harshit Agarwal is the co-founder and CEO of Appknox, a mobile security suite that helps enterprises automate mobile security. Over the last decade, Harshit has worked with 500+ businesses ranging from top financial institutions to Fortune 100 companies, helping them enhance their security measures.
Beyond the tech world, Harshit loves adventure. When he's not busy making sure the digital realm is safe, he's out trekking and exploring new destinations.


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