PCI certification or PCI-DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard; it is a set of guidelines and frameworks that ensures end-to-end security for card payments. For every organization that stores or processes or transmits sensitive customer credit card information, it is essential for them to become PCI compliant.
PCI-DSS compliance is regulated and maintained by PCI Security Standards Council(PCI SSC) – an independent council formed by Visa, MasterCard, American Express.
The purpose of PCI compliance is to reduce the possibilities of debit and credit card data theft. Credit card payments are often associated with the risk of fraudulent activities. For example, in the early 1900s, organizations failed to store card data securely; cardholder data was often stored in a desktop system without any proper encryption – incidents like these questioned the security of card payments.
To avoid such questionable payment processing practices, PCI compliance was enforced to secure card payment processes.
Based on the monthly card transaction volumes, businesses can be divided into four different categories:
Each level corresponds to a specific difficulty in compliance maintenance. However, PCI compliance is applicable for everyone; it doesn’t overlook small-medium-sized businesses or large enterprises.
PCI-DSS is not a legal requirement; it is a best practice standard created by the PCI SSC. So, PCI cannot be enforced legally, but the consequences of being non-compliant could be problematic for any organization. Let us understand the aftermath of not being PCI compliant.
Being PCI non-compliant leaves you with a broad spectrum of risks; in case there is a data breach, your business can suffer heavy losses:
If a business is not PCI compliant, it can encounter monthly fines up to $100k per month by PCI SSC. Moreover, in case of a possible data breach, the organization suffers additional security costs and forensic investigation expenses that unearth the reasons behind the data breach.
The reputation of an organization is hampered if they face a data breach being PCI non-compliant. The end customer might file a lawsuit against the merchant organization, which might lead to your customers never trusting you again. As a result of a high range of penalties and low customer satisfaction, you might foresee a dip in revenue.
According to PCI SSC, every merchant organization should satisfy the following set of technical criteria to become PCI compliant:
|Goals||PCI-DSS Requirement List|
|How to build and maintain a secure network||
|How to protect the cardholder’s data||
|How to maintain a vulnerability management program||
|How to implement strong access control measures||
|How to regularly monitor and test networks||
|How to maintain an information security policy||
Having a PCI certification is similar to a safety shield. It positively impacts your brand reputation, customers, and your cash flow.
To complete PCI certification, any merchant organization can follow this 5-step process:
Step1: Analyze your PCI level
You have to analyze your PCI level; as per records, businesses can range within levels 1-4 based on their monthly card transaction volumes.
Step2: Fill Out the Self-Assessment Questionnaire
Based on your PCI level, the next step is to fill out a self-assessment questionnaire. These questionnaires are a series of yes-or-no questions built to determine how closely your business meets PCI Data Security Standard requirements.
Step3: Build & Maintain a Secure Environment to Protect Card Data
This step involves installing a ‘firewall’ to prevent any unauthorized access. As mentioned in the 12-point criteria, it is essential to build a strong password cadence program for your employees. Organizations also choose to store sensitive card information with the help of data tokenization in a secure web portal.
Step4: Complete a Formal Attestation of Compliance
The formal Attestation of Compliance is a social proof document reflecting successful results of the compliance assessment from the merchant’s end.
Step5: Fill the Paperwork with Credit Card Companies
A PCI certification or a credit card compliance certification process might get completed between a day or two weeks. It depends on how fast a merchant organization can meet all the five steps of PCI certification.
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