What Is PCI Compliance? Everything You Need to Know

What Is PCI Compliance? Everything You Need to Know

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance are requirements that companies are expected to follow. This set of regulations ensures that businesses involved in keeping, processing, or transmitting credit card data maintain safe practices. The PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was initially launched on the 7th of September 2006. The regulatory body has ensured that companies practice PCI safety standards to protect their customer’s transaction process. The PCI DSS is an independent body created by a collaborative effort between Visa, MasterCard, JCB, American Express and Discover. The council controls and manages the PCI DSS; however, the payment processors are responsible for complying with the set of regulations imposed by the PCI DSS.

Requirements of PCI DSS

The PCI DSS has a set of requirements that companies are expected to comply with. The requirements are 12 in number and they include the following:

1. Use And Maintain Firewalls

The regulatory body insists on using firewalls to block any foreign threats or entities that try to hack into people’s private data. The firewall system is the first line of defence against malicious programs or activities of hackers. They are very effective, and that is why the PCI insists on this compliance.

2. Proper Password Protections

You may have noticed that all point of sale (POS) systems, routers, modems, and similar products come with generic passwords. Anyone can easily access these passwords, and most times, businesses don’t bother securing this data, leaving them vulnerable. Following this compliance will ensure that your data is safe on all company devices. It is best to comply by keeping a list of all devices and software that uses passwords. Apart from keeping an inventory of the software or devices, companies need to also take additional safety precautions by configuring the passwords or changing them from the default ones.

3. Protect Cardholder Data

The PCI DSS also has compliance for cardholder protection. All cards should be encrypted using algorithms. This usually contains encryption keys to protect the data on the card. It is also important to conduct regular maintenance by scanning primary account numbers to ensure no unencrypted data is present.
What Is PCI Compliance Everything You Need to Know

4. Encrypt Transmitted Data

The cardholder data usually passes through various channels like payment processors or home offices from the local stores. The data must be encrypted when going through any of those locations. Also, the account numbers should not be sent to unknown locations.

5. Use And Maintain Antivirus

Companies are also expected to install good antivirus software to ensure PCI DSS compliance. The antivirus should be installed on all devices. All antivirus software should be updated regularly. It is important to ensure that the POS provider uses antivirus measures, especially in cases where the antivirus cannot be directly installed on the device.

6. Properly Updated Software

All software like firewalls and antivirus protection should continually be updated regularly. It is important to conduct this update to protect data. The updated security will usually address security measures that are not present in the older applications. This way, your data is more protected from any of the latest threats.

7. Restrict Data Access

The cardholder information should be strictly on a need-to-know basis. No third parties or even staff and executives of the company must be privy to this data. However, individuals who are designated to handle sensitive data should be documented appropriately, and also their data should be updated according to the PCI DSS requirements.

8. Unique IDs For Access

For the individuals trusted to handle cardholder-sensitive data, it is required that they provide credentials and identification. There should not be any login attempt initiated by multiple employees having access to cardholders’ usernames and passwords. Unique IDs should be created to reduce any exposure to private data and make it easy to track any crime committed if a breach occurs.

9. Restrict Physical Access

The cardholder’s data should be kept in a very secure location, which should be done in a physical location. Whether the data is typed or digitally stored on hardware, it should be kept securely in either a cabinet or a secure room. Access to the information should also be strictly limited.

10. Create And Maintain Access Logs

Companies are also expected to keep a log entry when possessing cardholder data and primary account numbers. This is an area many companies are non-compliant. This record must be kept to monitor data flow and know how many times access will be required. There are software products that are designed to keep these logs accurately.

11. Scan And Test For Vulnerabilities

The use of the software is unavoidable, especially when complying with all of the already mentioned requirements. It is necessary to scan and test that none of this software is malfunctioning. If there are any vulnerabilities, a regular scan will quickly detect them.

12. Document Policies

All data should be documented, whether of software or employees. The logs also containing access to cardholder data should also be properly documented. This way, companies can monitor how information flows within its structure. Also, it will prevent any breach in unauthorised access to sensitive data.

Benefits of PCI Compliance

The benefits of compliance are limitless as the PCI regulatory body has ensured that they are set in place to protect both the company and its customers. The standards should be followed strictly, and it is not always as difficult as most would imagine.

PCI DSS has mentioned a couple of benefits attached to the compliance:

  • Companies will get a secure system that will foster customer trust.
  • Compliance will also boost the company’s reputation with payment brands and partners.
  • It will also prevent any third-party threats or security breaches.
  • Companies will be in a better place to defend their system and comply with regulations like SOX, HIPAA, and many others.
  • The PCI DSS compliance will improve efficiency in the company’s IT infrastructure.

What Is PCI Compliance Everything You Need to Know

Penalties for PCI Compliance Violations

Just as there are benefits attached to the compliance, the PCI also mentions penalties for defaulters. There are fines for violations that are not publicly published or reported. However, the banks are empowered to pass these fines to companies that breach the regulations. Also, the company’s business relationships may suffer termination in case of violations. The fines could vary between $5,000 to $100,000 per month until compliance is reached. This fine may be manageable for large banks, but small businesses may suffer bankruptcy in the process. PCI DSS does not compromise on its compliance and will ensure that all companies abide by these regulations.

How To Become PCI Compliant?

Companies should maintain PCI compliance by engaging with PCI-compliant credit card processors or banking institutions. The protection of data keeps your business up with PCI DSS requirements. It is important that you ensure your business adopts good data security practices and conduct regular internal audits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the PCI DSS apply to me if I only accept credit cards over the phone?

Yes, every business that has dealings with credit card data, whether by storing, processing or transmitting, should be PCI compliant.

If my organisation uses third-party processors, does PCI DSS still apply?

Yes, even if a company uses third-party processors, it does not exclude them from complying with the PCI DSS requirements. However, the use of third-party processors lowers the risk of vulnerability but does not exclude compliance.

Do I need PCI Compliance if my company doesn’t store credit card data?

If your business accepts credit or debit cards for payment, it will still need to comply with PCI DSS. The storage of card data can give room for vulnerability. It is safer to be compliant.

Are debit card transactions also included in the PCI Requirements?

All cards, whether debit, credit, or even pre-paid cards, participate in the PCI SSC. This is especially true for cards managed by Discover, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB.

Olufifun A.

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