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PCI DSS Compliance: The Road Map

When running a business that deals with online payments, protecting your customers’ data is essential. That’s why people increasingly turn to PCI Compliant solution.

Because indeed, ensuring that your business follows the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is one of the most important steps it can possibly take to protect customer data and ensure compliance with the payment card industry’s regulations and guidelines.

But what is the PCI DSS? What are the requirements? And how to become PCI compliant? All these questions we will try to answer in this very article.

So, let’s start from the beginning. What is the PCI Data Security Standard?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a standard created by major payment card brands to ensure that merchants follow best practices in data security. The standard was introduced in 2004 and has been updated since then.

This is the complex of rules that merchants must follow to ensure that their systems are secure and protect customer data.

Sometimes beginners have a question: does DSS refer to a specific technology? So, we would like to answer now: no, it does not. As we have said, it is just a set of requirements that merchants must follow in order to be PCI compliant.

It’s up to the merchant to decide on the security system or systems that comply with the standard. Becoming PCI compliant is not a difficult process, but it requires knowledge and understanding of the essence of the above-mentioned standards.

What are the requirements of PCI DSS?

There are 12 requirements that merchants must meet to be compliant with the standard. The requirements fall under four main categories:

  1. Build and maintain a secure network
  2. Protect cardholder data
  3. Maintain a vulnerability management program
  4. Implement strong access control measures. The list of requirements may be easily found on open sources.

How must merchants build and maintain a secure network?

So, firstly merchants must build and maintain a secure network that protects cardholder data throughout the transaction process. They must use firewalls to protect cardholder data, and they must employ intrusion detection systems and intrusion prevention systems.

They must also use encryption to protect data in transit, such as over wireless networks. They must also use encryption to protect data at rest, such as stored in databases (we will speak more on this issue later). They must ensure that their service providers use adequate security measures to protect cardholder data.

But how must merchants protect cardholder data?

Merchants must protect cardholder sensitive information throughout the transaction process, including during transmission and storage. They must also protect it during any subsequent communications with the cardholder, such as emails. In addition, they must use strong encryption to protect data in transit and at rest.

What is strong encryption?

Strong encryption is an encryption technique that renders sensitive information unreadable, both in transit and at rest. Strong encryption should be used with all personal data, including cardholder data. The special encryption method we want to discuss here is tokenization.

Introduction to tokenization?

As technology has advanced and become more prevalent in our daily life, cyber security has become increasingly important, and this shift has entailed the development of various security technologies.

One of the most popular and widely used methods for protecting sensitive data is tokenization, which replaces sensitive data with non-sensitive equivalents.

In other words, Tokenization is a method for protecting data based on the principle that, in cryptography, matter can’t be created or destroyed, only moved.

This principle is applied when sensitive information is being converted into non-sensitive tokens. The tokens are then stored in a database, and when needed, can be used to recover the sensitive information.

This process is known as tokenization and token substitution. The tokens are similar in structure to the original data, but they do not contain the same information.

In fact, a token is just a line of randomly generated signs which may be somehow connected to sensitive information, but still, it doesn’t contain it (even in the changed form). Thus, the tokens can only be used for recovery purposes and cannot be used to steal sensitive data.

To sum it all up, tokenization is the process of converting a piece of sensitive data into a unique code or identifier. This code can be used instead of the original data to perform functions and transactions without exposing sensitive information.

Tokenization is popular for protecting the credit card information. It can also be used to protect user IDs and passwords, access codes, and other data that must be kept secret from unauthorized users.

It can even be applied to protect the integrity of physical assets like cars and houses, and so on. That’s why tokenization is a reliable option regarding PCI DSS compliance.

The Beginning of your Pass

The first step towards becoming PCI compliant is to gain a thorough understanding of the PCI standards. As we have already said, the PCI DSS is divided into twelve major requirements that are applicable to all merchants and service providers.

So, let’s take a closer look at each of them:

  • Requirement 1 – Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
  • Requirement 2 – Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.
  • Requirement 3 – Protect stored cardholder data.
  • Requirement 4 – Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
  • Requirement 5 – Use and regularly update anti-virus software.
  • Requirement 6 – Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
  • Requirement 7 – Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know.
  • Requirement 8 – Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
  • Requirement 9 – Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
  • Requirement 10 – Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
  • Requirement 11 – Regularly test security systems and processes.
  • Requirement 12 – Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel.

Surely, we recommend you to observe this issue deeper by yourself – after all, it’s the most important part of the compliance process.

Next Step: PCI SAQ or RoC?

In addition, businesses must also comply with the PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) or Report on Compliance (ROC).

The SAQ includes questions about security measures taken by a business, including firewalls, encryption technology, and anti-virus software.

On the other hand, ROC requires an external assessor to audit the security systems of a business and provide an independent report outlining the findings.

Both assessments are designed to protect customer data while helping businesses remain compliant with PCI guidelines and regulations.

So, you would need to complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire or RoC.

To Sum Up: Benefits of PCI DSS Compliance

Compliance may be a complex procedure, but the benefits of PCI DSS Compliance are worth it. For one thing, this type of compliance helps to protect cardholder data and reduce the potential for fraud or misuse.

Furthermore, being PCI compliant shows customers that their information is secure with your business and increases their trust in you as an online vendor or retailer.

Having a PCI-compliant system also reduces the risk of financial losses due to data breaches, as well as any associated fines or penalties resulting from non-compliance.

Additionally, organizations that meet these standards often receive preferential treatment from payment processors and acquirers who recognize the value of such compliance measures.

After all, if you fail to become PCI compliant and still you carry out credit card transactions, you will be fined. You definitely don’t need these troubles, so it’s your priority to gain this status.

In hopes that we’ve explained the basics of PCI DSS compliance successfully, we wish you all the best of luck possible.

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