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PCI DSS – Why Do You Need It?

card payment made through a device

What is PCI DSS, and why do you need it?

Keeping your customers’ payment data safe is paramount. No business can afford a data breach in today’s times. Theft of cardholder data has a ripple effect on the entire payment ecosystem. Businesses lose the trust of their customers and become subject to various financial liabilities. All of this hurts businesses in the long term.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a security standard that was created in 2004 by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Its main aim was to create a secure environment to process payments and handle sensitive payment data. Since then, it has become an essential part of processing card payments.

Millions of people around the world swipe their cards every day. PCI DSS ensures that these card payment transactions take place in a secure way.

If you are a merchant who has access to cardholder data, you should follow the PCI DSS norms. Even if you use a third-party processor, you still have to comply with the PCI DSS guidelines.

Not complying with PCI DSS holds a lot of potential liabilities for businesses. The PCI Security Standards Council lists some of these:

  • Losing customers who switch to other merchants because of loss of trust
  • Lowered sales
  • Losses from fraud
  • Fines and penalties
  • Higher subsequent costs of compliance
  • Legal costs and settlements
  • Cost of reissuing new payment cards
  • Termination of ability to accept payment cards
  • Going out of business

What are the requirements to comply with PCI DSS?

The PCI Security Standards Council has listed 12 requirements that businesses have to follow to be PCI compliant. These are as follows:

Build and Maintain a Secure Network

1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data
Every merchant who has access to cardholder data has to install a firewall to protect this sensitive data. A robust firewall can block any unauthorized access to this data.

2. Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters
Using pre-supplied passwords from vendors leaves you open to external threats. Merchants are advised to reset factory settings and set new unique passwords.

Protect Cardholder Data

3. Protect stored cardholder data
Merchants are required to protect cardholder data by using proper encryption. Merchants have to encrypt all cardholder data that is stored, along with the encryption keys.

4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks
Merchants are required to encrypt all payment data that is on their servers and also shared over open networks. This also includes data transmitted within a merchant’s own servers or with third-party processors.

Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program

5. Use and regularly update anti-virus software or programs
Merchants are required to update their threat management software and stay informed on the latest fraud trends and patterns.

6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications
Merchants are required to keep their security systems updated and regularly fix bugs and weak links in their security setup. This will prevent hackers from breaching weak spots.

Implement Strong Access Control Measures

7. Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know
Merchants are required to limit the access to cardholder holder data to a strictly need-to-know basis. This ensures sensitive data is accessed by authorized sources only when needed and keeps it secure from fraudsters.

8. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access
Each user should be assigned unique IDs to limit unauthorized access. Passwords should be unique, while remote access should be verified using multi-factor authentication.

9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data
Merchants are required to restrict physical access to cardholder data. They have to list out all parties who have access to this data and why. Merchants have to list out all devices that can access cardholder data and where they can and cannot be used. Companies also have to use the time lockout feature to avoid any unauthorized access. Regularly inspect all devices for weak spots and train your staff on all the latest threat management procedures.

Regularly Monitor and Test Networks

10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data
Merchants are required to monitor all devices and systems in real-time to see where data is being accessed. Any suspicious activity can thus be detected and flagged on time.

11. Regularly test security systems and processes
Merchants are required to regularly test their security systems and processes to identify and remedy weak spots and vulnerabilities. Using the latest technology can help merchants stay ahead of hackers.

Maintain an Information Security Policy

12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for employees and contractors
Merchants are required to document their information security policies and update them regularly. This includes all employee and supplier documentation, such as employee training docs, policies and procedures, response plans, and third-party vendor agreements.

How can a payments partner help you to comply with PCI DSS?

The right payments partner can help you build a robust threat management system that helps you to process your payments securely and remain PCI DSS compliant. They can provide you with a secure payment processing environment that ensures customer payment data is safe.

They can provide you with AI-powered risk management, real-time monitoring, and threat detection that uses advanced analytics and machine learning to detect fraud. They can also give you access to highly trained staff and end-user support to help you troubleshoot in real-time.

Partnering with a payments provider will give you access to counsel, expertise, and tools that will help you to be compliant with PCI DSS norms and process your payments safely. In that, your payment service provider can play a decisive role in your payments journey and business growth.

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