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The Importance of PCI DSS Compliance

As credit card fraud transactions have increased in recent years, the payments industry has set up security measures to reduce such incidences.

One of these measures is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). PCI DSS is a set of requirements intended to ensure that all companies that process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment where such transactions are conducted.

Here’s a breakdown of how PCI DSS has defined 11 requirements as part of its security standards. These are the following:

  1. Usage and maintenance of firewalls - Firewalls block foreign or unknown entities that are attempting to access your system, especially the private data contain within. Firewalls are often the first line of defense against hackers and are an integral part of PCI DSS

  2. Proper password protections - Routers, modems, point of sale (POS) systems, and other third-party products used for financial transactions must be protected by a strong password that cannot be easily guessed or hacked by non-authorized users, especially cybercriminals. It is also important that the password information is updated regularly to ensure maximum protection.

  3. Protection of cardholder data - PCI DSS requires two-fold protection of cardholder data. First, card data must be encrypted with certain algorithms. Secondly, regular maintenance and scanning of primary account numbers (PAN) are needed to ensure no unencrypted data exists.

  4. Encryption of transmitted data - Since cardholder data is sent across multiple channels (such as payment processors, home offices from local stores, among others), such data is also required to be encrypted in any instance when such data is transmitted. PCI DSS also requires that account numbers must never be sent to unknown locations.

  5. Antivirus protection - Antivirus software is required for all devices that interact with and/or store PAN and must be regularly patched and updated for continuous protection.

  6. Properly updated software -. Every software installed within the business should be regularly updated to ensure functionality and optimal performance, not to mention security patches as well.

  7. Restriction of data access - Cardholder data is required to be strictly on a “need to know” basis. This means all staff, executives, and third parties who do not need access to this data should not have it. The roles that do need such data should be well-documented and regularly updated as required by PCI DSS.

  8. Unique IDs for access - Individuals who have access to cardholder data should have individual credentials and identification for access to minimize vulnerability and get quick response time in the event data is compromised.

  9. Restriction of physical access - Cardholder data that is physically written or typed and data that is digitally kept (on a hard drive or similar hardware) should be locked in a secure location like a locked cabinet or drawer. Not only should access be limited, but there should also be a log that documents each instance that sensitive data is accessed and by whom.

  10. Scanning and testing for vulnerabilities - Regular testing of hardware and software is crucial to ensure optimal performance and security, as well as to address potential vulnerabilities outright before they get worse.

  11. Documentation of policies - Inventory of equipment, software, and employees that have access to the data must be documented for compliance, as well as the logs of accessing cardholder data, how information flows into the organization, where it is stored, and how it is used after the point of sale.

Benefits of PCI DSS compliance

PCI DSS compliance ensures that the enterprise’s systems are secure, enabling trust among its customers to provide sensitive payment data such as from credit or debit cards. This helps establish a loyal customer base that contributes to the business’ growth. At the same time, it also improves the business’ reputation with financial institutions.

And with security threats and protections constantly evolving at a frenetic pace, being PCI DSS compliant ensures the business’ system is updated on a regular basis to ensure effective security and IT infrastructure efficiency. This also entails compliance with regulations such as HIPAA and SOX, to name a few.

Risks of non-compliance

As a security standard, PCI DSS is a crucial requirement for any business that handles payment transactions. Failure to comply poses not only governance risks but security risks that can jeopardize a business’ existence.

Without PCI DSS, there is a greater risk of data being compromised, which in turn negatively impacts the business’ reputation with consumers, merchants, and financial institutions. It can also bring about huge losses for the business in terms of revenues.

The non-compliant business also runs the risk of facing penalties, fines, adverse claims, and even court action, which can also bring about financial losses for the business.


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