Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of guidelines and best practices for protecting cardholder data from hacking. If your business accepts credit card payments, you’ll need to prove compliance with PCI DSS in some form. The more transactions you process, the higher your requirements will be.
It may seem obvious that companies should remain compliant. However, 80% of businesses examined by Century Business Solutions were found to be non-compliant with PCI DSS. The cost of a data breach in cardholder information is quite high. Not only will credit card numbers become vulnerable, but also addresses, social security numbers, and names may be compromised.
Continuous compliance is the best way of mitigating such risks and boosting customer confidence in your business. But how can you ensure that you establish and maintain PCI DSS compliance? Read on to find out.
1. Know Which Level You Fall Under
PCI compliance will depend on the types of payments that you process. For example, Visa and Master Card have varying requirements, which also depend on the volume of transactions handled by your company.
There are generally four levels of PCI compliance. Level I is the highest, which applies to any business that processes over 6 million transactions in a year. Level II to IV compliance applies to companies that process less than 6 million transactions, and each level has its own guidelines for compliance.
A common mistake that most businesses make is to implement compliance practices without considering where they fall. You should be aware of your required level even before investing resources towards establishing PCI compliance.
2. Provide Information Through the Questionnaire
A Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) allows you to determine your current state- and how much needs to be done to become compliant. By identifying the gaps in current business processes, you can develop a strategic approach to tie up any loose ends and protect your payment information.
The SAQ consists of 12 “yes,” “no,” and “not applicable” questions that are easy to process according to your specific level.
3. Develop Secure Applications for Payment Processing
Your payment applications are on the frontlines when it comes to repelling potential attacks. This is why they need to be secured against threats at all times.
Securing payment applications is a collective process that involves IT professionals, the finance department, and management. Furthermore, the steps you take need to be consistent with PCI requirements and flexible enough to adapt to emergent threats.
4. Fill in the Gaps
The self-assessment questionnaire helps you identify where you fall short when it comes to PCI compliance. You can use this as a guideline to fill in the gaps and strengthen your systems to repel any potential threats. The assessment questionnaire enables you to identify issues in payment log activity, stored cardholder data, wireless systems, and administrative processes.
The SAQ also helps you facilitate the implementation of a secure network when handling credit card information. After filling in the gaps, you can proceed to take the questionnaire again and note down any areas of improvement.
5. Avoid Storing Cardholder Data on Local Servers
Local servers (and servers that are connected to the internet) face many different threats daily. From malware to phishing and ransomware attacks, such servers are typically exposed to a high-risk environment. This is why you should refrain from storing cardholder data on local or internet-based servers.
PCI DSS compliance guidelines state that servers connected to the internet should never store cardholder data. This acts as a precaution against cybersecurity threats. Furthermore, card verification codes such as CVV2, CAV2, and CID should also not be retained or stored during payment processing.
PCI DSS also states that data tokenization systems should be used. This technique keeps sensitive cardholder data stored in secure web portals- as opposed to local servers that could be breached by unauthorized personnel.
6. Practice Proper Data Encryption
Encrypting cardholder data is an important requirement for PCI compliance. With proper encryption techniques, a data breach will not immediately result in the leaking of sensitive customer information (as the encrypted data will first have to be cracked before malicious actors can gain access). Your business should remain up to date with the latest data encryption techniques.
7. Fill Out an AOC
Once you’re confident that the business has met all PCI requirements for your specific level, you can fill out an AOC (formal attestation of compliance). This is essentially a declaration that you’ve taken the necessary steps for PCI compliance, and a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) can come in to carry out an audit of your systems. The QSA will review your systems and create a report regarding your continued state of compliance.
8. Provide Compliance Evidence to Credit Card Companies
Once the QSA gives you the go-ahead, you can proceed to file an application with relevant credit card companies. Your questionnaire, formal attestation (AOC), and operation-specific paperwork will be reviewed for compliance with the established regulations. Yearly reviews are typically conducted to ensure that your business has maintained compliance during the period in question.