Cardholder data has become a relevant and necessary aspect of most businesses. Digital payment options have been rising in popularity for the past several years, and with that growth comes a need for credit card services. When businesses take advantage of this trend, they can reap the benefits of wider demographics, more accessible transactions, easier scalability, and much, much more. However, processing, storing, and managing cardholder data is a serious responsibility. That’s why businesses must follow standards like PCI-DSS to protect themselves and their customers. Ensure your company remains compliant and secure with this overview of what all businesses should know about PCI-DSS.
What Is PCI-DSS?
PCI-DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. These are the mandatory regulations that organizations must adhere to when they handle cardholder data.
Any business, agency, or other organization that accepts card payments or that processes, stores, and otherwise handles cardholder data must pay close attention to these guidelines. When you take customers’ credit cards, you receive sensitive information. Failure to protect this data can lead to great losses for both your customers and your business.
That’s why all organizations, regardless of size, purpose, or number of annual transactions, must prioritize cardholder security. To help establish thorough and consistent protections, PCI-DSS sets forth 12 security controls for businesses to follow:
- Use a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data
- Never use vendor-supplied defaults for passwords or other security parameters
- Protect stored cardholder data
- Encrypt cardholder data when transmitting across open or public networks
- Use and maintain up-to-date antivirus software
- Establish and maintain secure systems and applications
- Only allow access to cardholder data on a need-to-know basis
- Make sure every individual with computer access has a unique ID
- Restrict physical access to cardholder data
- Monitor all access to cardholder data and other network resources
- Test security systems and processes on a regular basis
- Develop and maintain a thorough policy that addresses internet security
Understanding Merchant Levels
PCI-DSS classifies organizations into four merchant levels based on how many annual transactions the organization performs. This classification determines the level of compliance you must maintain — as such, it is a significant part of what all businesses should know about PCI-DSS.
Level 1 merchants perform over 6 million payment card transactions every year. Because of their larger business capacity, these organizations must undergo an authorized PCI audit annually. Level 1 merchants must also complete a scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor once every quarter.
Level 2 merchants perform between 1 million and 6 million card payments annually, while Level 3 merchants perform between 20,000 and 1 million payment card transactions annually. Level 4 merchants perform fewer than 20,000 payment card transactions annually. Levels 2, 3, and 4 require merchants to complete an annual Self-Assessment Questionnaire to determine their level of compliance. These organizations might also need to undergo a quarterly PCI scan.
Ensuring Your Business’s Compliance
The above controls can point you in the right direction when it comes to maintaining PCI-DSS compliance. Keep in mind that a huge part of PCI-DSS compliance revolves around your IT system. Secure applications, restricted access to data, and a reliable cloud network will help ensure your IT infrastructure remains PCI-DSS compliant. Use the standards PCI-DSS presents to create detailed policies, establish best practices, and build a culture of responsibility. These qualities will allow your company to continuously serve your clients with security and integrity.
Thanks for reading! Do you want to create thought leadership articles like the one above? If you struggle to translate your ideas into content that will help build credibility and influence others, sign up to get John’s latest online course “Writing From Your Voice” here.