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Home » Blog » Security » PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) 
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FEBRUARY 22 2023

What Is PCI DSS?

PCI DSS is a set of security standards designed to ensure that organizations that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Developed by the major credit card companies (Visa, MasterCard and American Express), it is aimed at reducing the risk of data breaches and fraud.

What Is PCI DSS?

PCI DSS consists of 12 requirements that organizations must meet in order to achieve compliance. These requirements cover areas such as network security, access control, data protection, and security testing. Compliance is mandatory for all merchants, payment processors and service providers that accept credit card payments, regardless of their size or volume of transactions. Organizations that fail to comply with PCI DSS can face significant financial and legal consequences, including fines and liability for fraudulent transactions. To maintain compliance, organizations must conduct regular security assessments, implement appropriate controls, and keep up to date with the latest changes to the standard.

An Overview of PCI SSC Data Security Standards

The PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council оr PCI Security Standards Council) data security standards provide a framework for securing credit card transactions and data. The standards include the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), which outlines specific security controls that must be implemented by organizations that handle credit card information, and the PCI PTS (Payment Card Industry PIN Transaction Security), which covers the security requirements for devices that accept personal identification numbers (PINs).

The PCI SSC established a Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) to protect sensitive payment card data from theft and fraud. The program is designed to ensure that businesses with merchant accounts accept, process, transmit, or store payment card data in a secure manner and comply with the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).

In addition, the PCI SSC offers guidelines and best practices for various areas of cardholder data security, such as cloud computing, e-commerce, and point-of-sale security. The PCI SSC is responsible for maintaining and updating the standards to keep pace with evolving security threats and technologies.

Compliance with the PCI SSC data security standards is mandatory for any organization that accepts credit card payments. Failure to comply can result in fines, legal liability, and reputational damage. Maintaining compliance requires ongoing effort and investment in security measures, but it is a crucial step in protecting the sensitive data of customers and preserving the integrity of the payment card industry.

How Does PCI Compliance Work?

PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance is the process of adhering to the security standards set forth by the major credit card companies in order to protect the sensitive data of credit card holders. The PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) is a set of security requirements that all merchants and service providers who accept credit cards must comply with.

PCI compliance works by requiring organizations to implement a range of security controls and best practices to protect cardholder data. These controls include requirements for securing network infrastructure, securing applications, encrypting data in transit and at rest, monitoring and logging access to cardholder data, and maintaining strict access controls for cardholder data.

Organizations that handle cardholder data must undergo regular PCI compliance assessments to ensure that they are maintaining the required security controls. These assessments can be conducted either by an external Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or by an internal Security Assessor (ISA) if the organization is approved for self-assessment.

If an organization is found to be non-compliant, they may face fines, legal liability, and the potential loss of their ability to process credit card payments. Therefore, maintaining PCI compliance is crucial for any organization that handles credit card data.

PCI DSS Сertification

PCI DSS Certified

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) certification is a validation that an organization has achieved compliance with the PCI DSS security standards. PCI Certification can be obtained by undergoing a formal audit and assessment by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or by completing a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) if the organization qualifies for self-assessment.

To obtain certification, the organization must demonstrate that they have implemented all of the required security controls and best practices outlined in the PCI DSS standard. These controls include areas such as network security, access control, data protection, and security testing.

Certification is valid for one year and must be renewed annually. It is important to note that certification does not provide absolute protection against data breaches or guarantee that an organization will not experience a security incident. However, it does provide a level of assurance to customers, partners, and regulators that the organization is taking steps to protect the sensitive data of credit card holders.

Obtaining PCI DSS certification is a critical step for any organization that handles credit card data, as it demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a secure PCI DSS environment for sensitive information.

PCI DSS Compliance Levels

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) merchant compliance levels are determined by the volume of credit card transactions processed by an organization in a year. There are four compliance levels, each with different requirements for demonstrating compliance with the PCI standards.

Level 1- applies to organizations that process over six million credit card transactions per year. Level 1 compliance requires an annual on-site assessment by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) and regular quarterly network scans.

Level 2 – applies to organizations that process between one and six million credit card transactions per year. Level 2 compliance requires an annual self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) and quarterly network scans.

Level 3 – applies to organizations that process between 20,000 and one million credit card transactions per year. Level 3 compliance requires an annual SAQ and quarterly network scans.

Level 4 – This level applies to organizations that process fewer than 20,000 credit card transactions per year. Level 4 compliance requires an annual SAQ and may also require quarterly network scans.

The 12 Requirements for PCI DSS Compliance

Compliance levels are determined by the payment card brands that an organization processes transactions for, and non-compliance can result in fines, legal liability, and reputational damage. Organizations should determine their compliance level and follow the appropriate requirements to ensure they maintain a secure environment for handling credit card data.

PCI DSS Requirements

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance requires adherence to PCI security proceduresthat consist of twelve requirements  to ensure the secure handling of credit card data. These requirements include protecting cardholder data, implementing network security, and maintaining secure access controls. Here is a brief overview of each requirement:

1. Use and Maintain Firewalls

Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data. Firewalls should be in place to protect cardholder data and ensure secure network access. Organizations should maintain strict controls over inbound and outbound traffic and ensure that all traffic is coming from a legitimate source. In addition, all changes to the firewall configurations should be logged and reviewed regularly.

2. Proper Password Protections

Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters. Passwords should be unique and difficult to guess, and default passwords should be changed immediately. Organizations should ensure that users are not using easily guessable passwords or reusing the same passwords across multiple systems. Multi-factor authentication should also be implemented wherever possible to provide an additional layer of security.

3. Protect Cardholder Data

Protect stored cardholder data. Cardholder data should be securely stored and protected, and any unnecessary data should be deleted. Organizations should implement secure storage mechanisms, such as encryption, tokenization, or hashing, to ensure that cardholder data is protected from unauthorized access. In addition, all stored data should be regularly reviewed and unnecessary data should be securely deleted.

4. Encrypt Transmitted Data

Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks. Cardholder data should be encrypted when transmitted over public networks to ensure secure data transmission. This can be achieved through the use of secure protocols such as SSL or TLS, or through the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to establish secure connections.

5. Use and Maintain Anti-Virus

Use and regularly update anti-virus software or programs. Antivirus software should be in place and kept up-to-date to protect against malware and other threats. Organizations should ensure that antivirus software is installed on all systems that store, process or transmit cardholder data, and that it is updated regularly to ensure protection against new threats.

6. Properly Updated Software

Develop and maintain secure systems and applications. Secure systems and applications should be in place, and all software should be kept up-to-date with security patches. Organizations should also ensure that all software development follows secure coding practices and that security is integrated into the development process from the beginning.

7. Restrict Data Access

Restrict access to cardholder data only on need-to-know basis. Organizations should implement strict access controls and ensure that access is granted on a need-to-know basis. In addition, all access should be logged and reviewed regularly.

8. Unique IDs for Access

Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access. User IDs should be unique and used to track and monitor all access to cardholder data. Organizations should ensure that user IDs are unique, not shared, and that they are used to track and monitor all access to cardholder data. Strong passwords should also be required, and access should be terminated immediately upon an employee’s departure.

9. Restrict Physical Access

Restrict physical access to cardholder data. Physical access to cardholder data should be restricted and monitored to prevent unauthorized access. Access to systems that store cardholder data should be physically restricted to authorized personnel only, and video surveillance should be implemented to monitor any physical access

10. Create and Maintain Access Logs

Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data. All access to network resources and cardholder data should be tracked and monitored to detect and prevent potential security incidents. Organizations should implement tools to monitor access, and logs should be regularly reviewed to detect and respond to security incidents.

11. Scan and Test for Vulnerabilities

Regularly test security systems and processes. Security systems and processes should be regularly tested and evaluated to ensure they remain effective and up-to-date. Organizations should implement regular vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and risk assessments to identify and remediate potential vulnerabilities.

12. Document Policies

Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel. All personnel should be trained in information security best practices and adhere to a comprehensive security policy. Organizations should ensure that all employees receive regular training on information security best practices, and that all personnel understand their role.

Benefits of PCI Compliance

PCI compliance provides several benefits to organizations that handle payment card data. First and foremost, compliance with the PCI DSS standards helps to ensure the security of sensitive cardholder data, reducing the risk of data breaches, the associated costs and reputational damage. It also helps to improve the overall security posture of an organization by establishing a framework for protecting against a range of common cyber threats.

In addition to improving security, PCI compliance can also help to reduce the cost of compliance and improve operational efficiency. By implementing the necessary security controls, organizations can reduce the risk of non-compliance fines and fees, as well as reduce the cost of responding to security incidents. Compliance can also help to streamline operations by identifying areas where efficiencies can be gained through automation and process improvement.

Finally, PCI compliance can help to build trust with customers and partners. By demonstrating a commitment to security and compliance, organizations can differentiate themselves from competitors and build a reputation of trust and reliability. This can ultimately lead to increased customer loyalty, improved sales, and new business opportunities.

Overall, the benefits of PCI compliance are clear, making it a critical component of any organization’s security and risk management strategy. By prioritizing compliance, organizations can ensure the protection of sensitive data, reduce costs and improve operational efficiency, and build trust with customers and partners.

PCI Compliance and Web Application Firewalls

PCI DSS compliance requires organizations to implement various security controls to protect cardholder data. One of the critical security controls is the use of a web application firewall (WAF). A WAF helps to protect web applications from attacks by filtering and monitoring HTTP traffic between the web application and the internet.

By implementing a WAF, organizations can help to mitigate the risk of web-based attacks, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other common web application vulnerabilities. The WAF can also help to identify and block malicious traffic and can provide detailed logs and alerts to help organizations detect and respond to security incidents.

Web Application Firewall

In addition to improving security, a WAF can also help organizations meet the PCI DSS requirements for secure web application development and testing. Specifically, PCI DSS requires organizations to implement security controls for their web applications, including secure coding practices, vulnerability assessments, and penetration testing. By using a WAF, organizations can demonstrate compliance with these requirements and provide additional protection for their web applications.

Overall, a WAF is a critical component of any organization’s Payment Card Industry compliance strategy. It helps to improve the security of web applications, reduce the risk of web-based attacks, and demonstrate compliance with PCI DSS requirements. As such, organizations that handle payment card data should consider implementing a WAF as part of their overall security position.

Difficulties Posed by PCI Non-Compliance

Non-compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) can pose significant difficulties for organizations. The most obvious risk is the potential for data breaches, which can result in substantial financial losses, damage to reputation, and legal liabilities. Organizations that fail to comply with PCI DSS may also be subject to fines and penalties from credit card companies and regulators.

In addition to financial and legal consequences, non-compliance can also have operational impacts. For example, organizations that are not PCI compliant may face limitations on their ability to process payments, which can impact their ability to do business. Non-compliance can also increase the likelihood of operational disruptions and other security incidents, which can cause significant disruptions to business operations.

Overall, non-compliance with PCI DSS can have far-reaching consequences for organizations. To mitigate these risks, organizations should prioritize compliance with the PCI DSS standards and implement the necessary security controls to protect cardholder data. This can help to reduce the risk of data breaches, protect the organization’s reputation, and ensure continued business operations.

Tips for Becoming PCI Compliant

Becoming PCI compliant can be a complex and challenging process, but there are several tips that organizations can follow to streamline the process:

  • Identify all systems and applications that process cardholder data.
  • Assess current security practices and identify gaps against PCI DSS requirements.
  • Develop a plan to address identified gaps and prioritize remediation efforts.
  • Implement security controls to protect cardholder data, such as firewalls, encryption, and access controls.
  • Regularly monitor and test security controls to ensure continued effectiveness.
  • Document all policies, procedures, and processes related to cardholder data protection and PCI compliance.
  • Train employees on proper security practices and PCI compliance requirements.
  • Engage with a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) to help assess and validate compliance.
  • Maintain compliance on an ongoing basis through regular assessments, testing, and reviews.

 

By following these tips, organizations can improve their chances of getting the attestation of compliance, protect cardholder data, and reduce the risk of security incidents and non-compliance penalties.

Conclusion

PCI DSS is a set of security standards designed to protect cardholder data and prevent data breaches. Compliance with PCI DSS is essential for any organization that handles payment card data, as it helps to reduce the risk of data breaches, protect the organization’s reputation, and ensure continued business operations. Helenix has the experience in designing and building solutions for traditional financial and modern crypto industries to comply with security standards requirements including PCI DSS. You can learn more about our competencies in the Custom Development section.

FAQ

What Are the 4 Things that PCI DSS Covers?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) covers four key areas: the protection of cardholder data, secure network architecture, vulnerability management, and access control. These requirements are designed to ensure that organizations have appropriate controls in place to protect sensitive payment card information from unauthorized access and theft.

To Whom Does the PCI DSS Apply?

PCI DSS applies to any organization that accepts or processes payment cards, regardless of size or industry. This includes merchants, service providers, and other entities that handle payment card data. Compliance is mandatory for all organizations that accept payment cards, and failure to comply can result in significant financial and reputational damage.

Are Debit Card Transactions in Scope for PCI?

Yes, debit card transactions are in scope for PCI DSS compliance. This means that any organization that accepts debit cards must comply with the security requirements outlined in the standard to protect cardholder data from unauthorized access and theft.

How Do I Become PCI DSS Compliant?

Becoming PCI DSS compliant requires organizations to take a number of steps, including identifying all systems and applications that process cardholder data, assessing current security practices and identifying gaps, developing a plan to address identified gaps, implementing security controls, training employees on security practices, and engaging with a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) to help assess and validate compliance. Maintaining compliance requires ongoing monitoring, testing, and reviews to ensure continued effectiveness.