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PCI DSS Compliance

PCI DSS Compliance


PCI Security Standard Council has made incessant efforts to ensure that app-based payment companies are functioning within the safety blanket. Continuous ignorance from Fintech organization has coaxed PCI Council into introducing norms that hold them liable for the damage.

PCI DSS certification helps enterprises to protect their customers from putting their card details in the wrong hands. By following the 12 requirements of PCI DSS, businesses are ensuring the safety of cardholders’ data.

Since PCI Compliances are tough to achieve and manage, businesses cannot get par with it on their own. Organizations need individuals or agencies who can help them prepare for PCI DSS audit and then file for certification. Qualified Security Assessors aka QSA is the one who can help businesses prepare for PCI DSS Certification.

1. What is PCI DSS Compliance?

In the simplest words, PCI DSS compliance can be defined as the set of regulations every enterprise that receives, stores or transfers card information must follow. PCI DSS compliance requirements are subject to timely upgrade. The upgrade is implemented in synergy with the evolving technology.

From standalone e-commerce stores to online marketplaces and from bidding sites to cab aggregators, everyone needs to acquire PCI DSS Compliance to safeguard customer’s card information from unauthorized access.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard pushes merchants to follow a series of steps to safeguard customer’s credit or debit card against fraud payments. PCI DSS compliance also defines best practices in case of a data breach. When followed religiously these guidelines safeguard both cardholders and merchants.

2. Who is subjected to PCI DSS Compliance?

The standard definition of PCI DSS holds every merchant who accesses, stores, transfers, or operates on customer’s card detail liable for the data breach, making it compulsory for them to be compliant. While the standard definition engulfs everyone who receives payment but the technical definition is a little broad and complicated.

A business that usages United Payment Interface, where the customer is redirected to apps like Google Pay and PhonePe for completing transactions, doesn’t require PCI DSS Compliance. Some exceptions and rules allow a few merchants to function without PCI DSS Compliance but customers want flexible payment options like Credit/Debit Card and Net Banking, for which PCI DSS Compliance is a must.

Merchants can let go of PCI DSS Compliance but to offer incomparable customer experience they must offer multiple payment options.

According to the latest norms released by PCI Council any organization that receives online payment or stores cardholders’ data is bound to furnish PCI DSS Compliance. Now the compliance is applicable on organizations that receive payment through debit and prepaid cards.

3. How PCI DSS Compliance protect your Company and Users?

PCI DSS is industry-specific compliance that offers immense benefits like data breach reduction, customer confidence improvement, and restricts cross-site scripting. Any enterprise that stores, transmits, or processes credit, debit or prepaid card data needs to get PCI DSS Certifications.

PCI DSS promotes confidence among customers

Pivot from earl stage SSL/TLS to technologies like SSH and IPSec VPN

Can Hold Customer’s Credit/Debit Card Details to Facilitate Better CX

Better ability to hash Primary Account Numbers and important details

PCI Encryption helps businesses avoid the need of getting expensive Disk Encryption

Promotion of healthy and safe handling of data at the workplace

Safeguard Passwords of servers and employees, since PCI DSS rules out the possibility of password sharing

Enhanced Physical Security to POS Terminals

Improved Resistance Against Unauthorized Access tested via Penetration Testing

4. How failing PCI DSS Compliance Impacts your Business?

A Verizon report presents a worrisome picture stating “Only 29% of enterprises continue to be compliant after the first year of certification”. For many businesses, PCI DSS is just a box they need to tick. These businesses are least concerned with customer’s data security.

When businesses fail PCI DSS compliance they are putting themselves in line for damages like:

  • DDoS attacks
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Dipping customer confidence

While cyber-attacks and data breaches become a common affair, businesses also get under the radar of payment processors like American Express, JCB International, and Discover Financial Services. These payment processors are members of the PCI DSS Council and they are concerned with proper safety of cardholder’s data.

5. How to prepare for PCI DSS Certification?

Choose your QSA carefully

Well! Finding the right Qualified Security Assessor is important because your PCI DSS Certification relies on their expertise. A good number of QSAs are authorized to issue PCI DSS certificate to organizations. Finding the right QSA not only solves your compliance woes but also takes your business through an overhaul that includes

Gap Assessment

The QSA weighs your business processes against the standards set by the PCI DSS Council.

Process Redesign

They help you redesign your process that is in line with data security standards.


QSAs often improvise your business processes to help you remain compliant with upcoming changes.


Once all assessments and process changes are done, QSAs re-audit your processes.

Vulnerability Scan

Once all changes are implemented, a vulnerability assessment is carried out to check whether any loopholes are there or not.

Meet 12 requirements of PCI DSS

Without adhering to these 12 commandments of PCI DSS, no business can attain the certificate. Fulfilling these 12 requirements prepares businesses to avoid upcoming challenges. Some of these requirements are designed to remove obscurities while the rest are here to ensure cardholders’ data is safe and untouched.

6. What are the 12 PCI DSS Compliance requirements?

The 12 PCI DSS Compliance requirements ensure that organization has requisite measures in place to protect cardholders’ data. Fulfilling these 12 requirements helps enterprise all attempts of internal sabotages obsolete and reduces the impact of any hacking attempts.

  1. Protect your system with Firewall
  2. Protect stored Cardholder Data
  3. Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program
  4. Restrict Access to Cardholder Data by Business-need-to-know
  5. Implement Logging and Log Management
  6. Use Authentic Anti-virus and not Vendor Supplied Tools
  7. Encrypt transmission of Cardholder Data across all channels
  8. Assign Unique ID to Every Authorized Personnel
  9. Regularly Update and Patch System
  10. Conduct Vulnerability Scans and Penetration Testing
  11. Documentation and Risk Assessments
  12. Restrict Physical Access to Workplace and Cardholder Data

PCI certification cost

The cost of getting PCI Compliant depends upon several factors. Bootstrapping companies that are offering basic services need lesser compliance while industry leaders need to get their workplaces optimized too. PCI DSS has 12 unique requirements as mentioned earlier hence the cost varies accordingly.

Apart from the PCI requirements the cost also depends upon the following:

  • Your business type
  • The size of the organization
  • The security culture at the organization: If a company follows a unique id feature from early then the cost of PCI Compliance will come down
  • The environment at the workplace
  • PCI Capabilities of the Internal IT Team
  • Earlier collaboration with Banks and NBFC

7. When PCI DSS Compliance came into existence?

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard aka PCI DSS Compliance safeguards cardholders’ data from external attacks and internal sabotages. The compliance came into existence in 2004 and became fully functional in September 2006. Ever since 2006, the PCI council, which includes VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and JCB International has laid out norms and security standards that need to be adhered to by all companies that stores, transfers, or processes cardholders’ data.

Is PCI DSS a Law?

PCI DSS is not a law, no government has either tabled it or passed it from any legislative assembly. While PCI DSS is not yet law but the government of a few states in the US have incorporated in plastic card protection law.

Unlike GDPR and CCPA, which were officially tabled in constitutional houses of countries and passed by majority votes, PCI DSS is not a law and is governed by a council that includes VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and JCB.

8. Who enforces PCI DSS Compliance requirements?

PCI DSS Council that came into existence in 2004, the council looks over the regulations and enforces them. They remotely conduct audits and also act on complaints received anonymously. The five members of PCI DSS namely includes:

  • JCB
  • Discover
  • American Express
  • VISA
  • MasterCard

Apart from looking into complaints, other tasks undertaken by the council include:

Keeping up with the technology: The council actively looks into the technological breakthroughs and revises the PCI DSS paradigms to suit the needs of businesses and organizations.

Optimizing the PCI requirements: They play an instrumental role in making the certification an effective way of safeguarding cardholders’ data by putting businesses through a thick forest.

Publish Updates and Concerns: The council works with a motif making the world a better place. They often publish concerns related to new technologies and advises businesses to wait until they release guidelines related to the latest technologies. 

9. What are the types of PCI DSS Certification?

There are three levels of PCI DSS namely Level 1, 2, 3 and 4. All 4 levels are meant for organizations of different capacities. The level of PCI DSS Compliance/Certification you need depends upon the kind of transactions your online store processes.

How Breaching PCI DSS Levels Impact Organizations?

Abiding by the regulations of the level you are subscribed to is very important, failing will invite complications from PCI Council. The council can take strict measures and downgrade levels or cancel the PCI DSS Certification. To ensure compliance in accordance with level at all times requires organizations to understand the levels intricately.

Since Levels are decided on the basis of number of transactions, organizations often to try to hide it and save cost, which puts cardholders’ data at risk. To stop businesses from risking cardholders’ data, PCI Council looks after strict implementation of the

Level 1

  • Meant for merchants/online stores that process transactions over 6 million in a year. We are talking about 6 million transactions and not transactions worth $6 million.
  • Level 1 certified merchants need to conduct and document network scans every quarter.
  • These entities must get their annual compliance audit done by a Qualified Security Assessor.

Level 2

  • Any merchant or online store that processes transactions between 1-6 million annually needs to get Level 2 compliance.
  • The merchant must conduct and furnish a self-assessment questionnaire every year.
  • Alike Level 1 merchants, Level 2 merchants are also required to conduct and document network scans quarterly.

Level 3

  • Applies on the merchant who processes transactions between 20,000 to 1 million in a calendar year.
  • The merchants are required to conduct and furnish a self-assessment questionnaire.
  • Similar to Level 1 and 2 merchants, Level 3 merchants are also bound to conduct and document network scans quarterly.

Level 4

  •  Applicable on merchants that process less than 20,000 e-commerce transactions but up to 1 million real-world transactions.
  • The merchants are required to conduct and furnish a self-assessment questionnaire.
  • Quarterly PCI Scan and yearly assessment using the relevant SAQ is necessary.

10. Is PCI DSS a one time or a recurring event?

Organizations need to conduct audits annually irrespective of the level of compliance. Conducting compliance audits regularly ensures that businesses are protecting cardholders’ data against the latest cyber threats.

Conducting PCI DSS audits regularly has its own set of benefits including:

  • Ensures protection against the latest threats
  • Helps businesses prepare for the impending threats
  • Boosts the customer’s confidence

11. Who is a PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA)?

Qualified security assessor is an individual who handles compliance auditing and consulting for companies willing to get PCI DSS compliant. A PCI certified QSA is eligible to audit, suggest corrections, or even revamp the entire network. Such individuals are motivated to help organizations work in sync with the 12 commandments of the PCI DSS Council.

A qualified security assessor assists businesses with other network issues and challenges. Hiring an experienced QSA can benefit enterprises exceedingly.

12. How to Select the Right Qualified Security Assessor?

Here’s a checklist that will help businesses identify and hire the right Qualified Security Assessor: 

  • Check whether he or she is qualified by PCI DSS Council or not. Check it here.
  • Identify whether they are affiliated with an organization that has been PCI DSS Compliant for at least 1-3 years.
  • Hire a QSA, who belongs to an organization that offers comprehensive cybersecurity services, because to get PCI DSS compliant, you will have to invest in firewalls and other tools.
  • Ensure that the company guarantees PCI DSS Certification before getting in a deal. Such guarantees ensure that QSAs will reveal every loophole and help you cover them at all costs.

13. Why PCI DSS Compliance requirements change year after year?

PCI SSC (Security Standard Council) is vigilant towards the growing enemies of online payment. The huge amount of transactions owing to billion-dollar valuation invites trouble that needs to be addressed strictly. By keeping up with the technological changes and landscape development, PCI SSC helps vendors, organizations and payment facilitators ensure full security of cardholders’ data.

Some of the other reasons why PCI DSS requirements keep changing every year are:

  • Introduction of new payment methods like NFC and Tap-and-go.
  • Changes in router technology to facilitate faster processing of transactions.
  • Software development cycle that uses bypass technology to speed-up the overall processing.
  • Hardware technological advancements that offer instant payment using commercial-off-the-shelf devices.
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