pci dss compliance

A Brief Guide on PCI DSS Compliance

Have you ever thought about how many credit card accounts exist around the globe? Based on rough estimates there are more than 3 billion and that number is growing. The number of fraud cases keep on increasing, too. In fact, the total amount of losses from card fraud globally are predicted to be over $35 billion by 2025.

However, in the year 2019 the percentage of fraud in the overall volume of transactions decreased. One of the main elements that make it possible is the industry’s collective efforts to improve the security of card transactions, which is reflected in PCI DSS.

In this post, we’ll attempt to dive deep into the meaning of PCI DSS as well as the history of PCI DSS, its requirements and procedures.

What do we mean by PCI DSS?

The abbreviation “PCI DSS” stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

PCI DSS is an array of standards for merchants developed through American Express, Discover, JCB, Mastercard, and Visa to protect the security of payments made by credit card, prevent fraud, and protect cardholders’ information across the globe. This applies to anyone who accepts or processes payment cards.

The four different levels for PCI DSS compliance, based on the number of transactions that businesses process each year. Level 4 is designed for businesses that process less than 20k transactions. Level 3 is for between 1 and 2 million transactions. Level 2 between 6 and 12 million as well as Level 1. which is the most strict level of compliance – over 6 million transactions.

PCI DSS evolution

The initial edition of PCI DSS was created in 2004 when the top card brands collaborated to develop an unified, easy to digest Standard instead of different policies that they each implemented before. They also created the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council to keep PCI DSS current since 2004.

A brief overview of PCI DSS requirements

The PCI DSS security standards are divided into six categories which is referred to by the text in the document as “control objectives”. These six categories contain certain sub-requirements , which differ between versions. The 12 high-level requirements have been in place since their inception. They’re considered to be the fundamental concepts of PCI DSS and are available at the top of the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council website.

Here are the 12 primary PCI DSS guidelines that you need to know –

  1. A firewall for your network installed.

It can be a program in software solution, hardware, or even a web application you can set up to limit unwelcome incoming and outgoing network traffic. It’s the initial security layer for the network and is essential for an environment that is secure for payment cards. Many businesses fail to tailor firewalls to meet their particular needs and this is an error that is related to the next PCI DSS requirements.

  1. Avoiding the default passwords and settings.

There is no way to ensure cardholders’ data security if you don’t pay attention to the specifics of your business and choose to use default settings when creating a payment system. It’s obvious that making use of default passwords is the most insecure thing to do for security. PCI DSS actually has specific requirements for passwords that require 7+ characters including numbers and letters changed every 90 days etc.

  1. Data storage for safe cardholders.

The cardholder’s data should be kept in an encrypted format in an environment that is secure.

  1. Secure transmission of cardholder’s information.

The data is often targeted by hackers that travels from one point to B, which is why PCI DSS highlights that the transmission of data over closed, public or public networks must be secured.

  1. Utilizing the most recent antivirus software.

Always update your antivirus program to protect yourself from new threats.

  1. Designing and maintaining secure applications and systems.

Examine the risk before installing new software or equipment and implement patches as required.

  1. Control of access.

Access to cardholders’ information on a basis of need-to-know. Set up a system of roles and permissions and access control policies to make the compliance with this obligation easier.

  1. Assigning unique identifiers to each user

Unique usernames, IDs, and passwords for all users can prevent hacks and trace back any suspicious actions.

  1. Physical access control

It is essential to safeguard the data of cardholders not just physically but also. Papers, servers and workstations must be secured in every way.

  1. Monitoring and recording all information that is accessible to the sensitive

PCI DSS requires keeping track of all accesses to data. Track and record system activity for security and accountability.

  1. Test your processes and systems to ensure security

Regular security checks allow you to identify weaknesses prior to hackers exploiting them.

  1. Monitoring the security of information

Develop and periodically update your infosec policies, distributing the most current version across the entire company. Third parties who are in some way involved in the data of your cardholders processing must also be aware of and agree to the policy.

How do I be PCI DSS certified?

Here’s a short checklist of the PCI DSS compliance checklist to refer to:

  • Examine your current situation and ensure that you are in compliance with the standards as stated above.
  • Take a self-assessment test that is specifically tailored to your particular business to assess your readiness. For large companies it is recommended to conduct a PCI DSS audit if needed.
  • Modify your environment to ensure it meets all requirements.
  • Tokenization of cardholders’ personal information.
  • Complete the certification of compliance and then wait for a certified security assessor to provide feedback.
  • Document all of the PCI DSS documents with the card companies or banks then wait to see if they will approve.

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