What is the PCI DSS?

Digital payments are now the most popular payment transactions increasing year-over-year. This is why PCI DSS requirements are more critical than ever to ensure privacy and security of all transactions.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a framework of regulations to address credit card fraud and protect the entire payment card value chain. These requirements are for any businesses that process debit or credit card transactions.

Threats and technology evolve, and so do security standards. PCI DSS compliance requirements cover how cardholder data is stored to how payment data can be accessed. Merchant, businesses, and payment facilitators should always be aware of new and changing compliance standards.

How can you comply with the PSI DSS?

The PCI DSS presents certain challenges.
The framework includes twelve requirements within six broader goals.

  • $1. Network systems are always secure
  • $2. Protect cardholder data
  • $3. Inviolable control around data access
  • $4. Establish a risk management program
  • $5. Consistent testing and monitoring
  • $6. Information security policies

Safeguarding sensitive financial data can be tedious. Any data breaches are often high profile and break consumer trust in offending organizations. Also, chain of custody for many digital credit card processes involve several parties, so there is a greater likelihood of breach. Risk management involves highly complex protocols and systemized standards for all entities.

PCI DSS Compliance Checklist

There are twelve overarching PCI DSS best practices or core requirements to protect customer data and remain compliant. Both operational and technical, the focus of these rules is always to safeguard cardholder information.

1. Install and maintain a firewall

Firewalls restrict network traffic and are often the first line of defense against hackers

2. Change vendor default settings

This applies to everything from routers to firewalls. Passwords, usernames, and any other default settings are not sufficient.

3. Protect stored cardholder data

The most critical piece. Know where data is going, where it’s stored, and for how long.

4. Encrypt transmission of data across networks

Similar to step three, this focus is on data transmission and traffic rather than storage. Data-in-motion via open, closed, private, or public networks are all included. Hackers often target data as it’s going from one location to the next, when it’s more vulnerable.

5. Use updated anti-virus software

Basic anti-virus software isn’t usually PCI DSS compliant. Applications must be updated regularly. Standards must guard against viruses and malware that could compromise systems or data.

6. Maintain secure systems and applications

Processes should identify and classify risk. Assessments can provide insight for which equipment and software should be used for data management and patches.

7. Restrict access to cardholder data

Deny or allow access to data based on roles and permissions. Access is on a need-to-know, essential basis. Access levels should also be physically documented.

8. Assign unique IDs to all parties

Each user should have a complex and unique username and password with two-factor authentication.

9. Limit physical access to cardholder data

Beyond digital security, companies must also safeguard things like paper files, servers, and workstations that hold or transmit consumer data. This requirement also extends to logging and electronic monitoring of physical data storage locations.

10. Monitor all access to network

Both physical and wireless networks are targets of hackers. PCI DSS standards require all network systems to be protected and monitored at all times, with detailed activity history.

11. Test security systems

Vulnerable spots in systems are often sought out by cybercriminals. Continuous system and process testing should occur to test such vulnerabilities. Periodic scanning of wireless analyzers, external IPs, and domains by a PCI DSS approved vendor must be conducted quarterly. An application and network penetration test should be performed annually.

12. Maintain policy to address information security

Create, implement, and maintain a company-wide security policy. It should cover all management, employees, and third parties.

This information is not intended to serve as legal advice. Nor is it intended to act as compliance advice specific to the processes of any specific company. Application of compliance laws is a company-specific endeavor. We recommend that you contact compliance counsel to discuss the application of information found herein to your operations.