What is PCI-DSS Compliance and Its Requirements?

If your business handles cardholder data, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires you to comply with its regulations. Whether you are a start-up or a large international organization, you must be PCI DSS compliant as long as you handle the personal and banking information of a credit cardholder. Your compliance is validated annually, as mandated by the credit card companies, and stated in the agreement you sign with credit card networks. The compliance process is continuous. Therefore, it is better to use a PCI-DSS automation platform to ensure that you are always on track.

The development of the standard for compliance is under the PCI Standards Council. The primary purpose of the PCI DSS compliance is to help secure and protect the total payment card environment. The standards cover several entities, including service providers and merchants that process debit/credit card payments. 

What Is PCI DSS compliance?

PCI DSS compliance denotes the operational and technical standards that businesses abide by to secure and protect the credit card information that cardholders provide them, which is transmitted when they process credit /debit card transactions.

The compliance includes 12 requirements:

  1. The enterprise must install and maintain a firewall configured to protect cardholder information
  2. Avoid using default system passwords and other security variables apps that vendors supply
  3. Ensure protection of cardholder data
  4. Encrypt the transmission of cardholder data sent over public and open networks
  5. Use and regularly update your network’s anti-virus programs 
  6. Develop and sustain secure applications and systems
  7. Restrict access to cardholder data to only a few staff on a need-to-know basis
  8. Assign a secure and unique ID to each person that has computer access
  9. Control physical access to cardholder information
  10. Track and monitor all access to cardholder data and other network resources
  11. Test security processes and systems regularly
  12. Keep a policy that will address information security for the entire company

Becoming PCI DSS compliant

The whole process of becoming PCI DSS compliant typically takes about one day to two weeks, depending on how long it will take you to complete the self-assessment questionnaire. Further, your business should pass a PCI scan. If you pass the questionnaire and scan, your merchant bank will receive the results. The bank will send the results to the Payment Card Industry, with a statement attesting to your company meeting the PCI compliance requirements. 

It is essential to understand that there are specific compliance requirements based on the various merchant accounts and the number of transactions your company processes each year. These specific requirements have four levels:

  • Level 1 applies to merchant accounts with transactions of six million or more per year. It also covers those companies with compromised data. Under Level 1, a company needs to perform a quarterly on-site annual security audit and network security scan.
  • Level 2 applies to businesses whose transactions reach 150,000 to six million each year. Merchants under Level 2 are required to complete a self-assessment questionnaire every year. 
  • Level 3 is for companies that process card payments between 20,000 and 150,000. They must complete the self-assessment questionnaire each year and pass a quarterly scan conducted by an approved scanning vendor.
  • Level 4 is for merchants that process about 20,000 credit card payments every year. They are required to continue compliance at all times although they are not obliged to report compliance. 

There is a minimal cost involved in getting PCI DSS compliance certification. However, failure to remain compliant involves hefty fines. Thus, you must know the requirements, stay compliant, and ensure that you have the necessary tools to protect and secure your customers’ sensitive information.




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