PCI compliance — its standards and best practices

What is PCI Compliance? Standards and Best Practices

Payment card industry (PCI) compliance involves meeting a set of security standards for businesses that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information. Through PCI compliance, businesses of all sizes can prevent fraud and limit data breaches while protecting the sensitive payment data of their customers.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is designed to keep debit and credit numbers secure. The PCI Security Standards Council, a joint venture between the five major payment card brands — American Express, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa — administers PCI DSS. Since 2006, the PCI Security Standards Council has worked to fulfill its mission of “enhancing global payment account data security.”

PCI DSS applies to service providers and merchants. A service provider is a business that processes, stores, or transmits cardholder data on behalf of another business. A merchant is a business that accepts credit card payments for goods or services sold online.

If you’re a business that processes debit or credit card transactions for any reason, it’s important you understand and comply with PCI DSS.

PCI compliance standards

PCI DSS comes with 12 specific requirements arranged into six objectives. Here’s a brief overview of what they are.

Objective 1: Build and maintain a secure network

Requirement 1: Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
Your business must utilize a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data and create a secure network. A firewall controls your network traffic and blocks any transmissions that don’t meet your particular security criteria.

Requirement 2: Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.
Your business cannot use the password your software vendor created when you purchased your software. Instead, create your own unique, secure system passwords.

Objective 2: Protect cardholder data

Requirement 3: Protect stored cardholder data.
If you store cardholder data, you are susceptible to a potential data security breach. Work with a PCI DSS-compliant hosting provider to deliver several layers of data protection via virtual and physical methods. Virtual methods may include passwords and authentication, while physical methods cover restricted access and storage cabinet locks.

Requirement 4: Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
Encryption should be applied before data is transmitted from point A to point B. Your business needs to implement strong encryption protocols, and networks must be configured properly so users don't have the ability to access cardholder data.

Objective 3: Maintain a vulnerability management program

Requirement 5: Use and regularly update anti-virus software.
Antivirus software is essential to protect your business from the latest malware. If you’re hosting your data on outsourced servers, ensure your managed service provider maintains a secure environment as well.

Requirement 6: Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
As long as you opt for a PCI DSS-compliant hosting provider, you can count on them to monitor and update their systems to address any vulnerabilities.

Objective 4: Implement strong access control measures

Requirement 7: Restrict access to cardholder data by business need to know.
Don’t give every employee in your company access to cardholder data. Instead, limit the number of individuals who have access, which significantly reduces your risk of a security breach.

Requirement 8: Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
A unique digital ID allows you to track everyone at your company who accesses your network. You should also require users to change their password every 30 days, automatically log them off after a certain time remaining idle, and follow other security best practices.

Requirement 9: Restrict physical access to cardholder data
The servers containing your cardholder data should be stored in a secure environment, whether on site or off site, accessible only by a limited number of authorized individuals.

Objective 5: Regularly monitor and test networks

Requirement 10: Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data. Tracking user activity makes it easier to identify the cause of a security breach or any other problem that may arise.

Requirement 11: Regularly test security systems and processes.
By testing your systems, processes, and software on a regular basis, you’ll be able to discover vulnerabilities as they emerge and help your data hosting provider keep your customers’ data safe.

Objective 6: Maintain an information security policy

Requirement 12: Maintain a policy that addresses information security.
With a strong PCI DSS-compliant security policy, your employees will know exactly what is expected of them. Your policy should clearly outline acceptable technology uses, routine processes for risk analysis, and operational security procedures.

The importance of PCI compliance

As a business which accepts debit and credit card transactions, you cannot overlook the importance of PCI compliance. Failure to do so can lead to a variety of serious consequences:

How to achieve PCI compliance

Merchants that accept debit and credit card payments online are required to meet one of four levels of compliance as part of a PCI DSS assessment. The number of transactions you process each year and your transaction processing history will determine which level you must follow.
These compliance levels can include up to four core requirements:

Four merchant levels of compliance

What is PCI Compliance? Standards and Best Practices

Best practices for PCI compliance

If you’d like to ensure PCI compliance, follow these tips:

Make PCI compliance easy

At first, complying with PCI DSS may seem like an overwhelming endeavor. The good news is it doesn’t have to be. If you’re a merchant, Adobe Commerce can help you comply with PCI DSS. It offers integrated payment gateways that make it easy for you to transmit credit card data via direct post API methods or hosted payment forms from the payment getaway and integrated with your checkout page.

Since Adobe Commerce is certified as a Level 1 Solution provider, you can use the Magento PCI Attestation of Compliance to support your own PCI certification process.

For more information on how Adobe Commerce can simplify PCI compliance, request a free demo today.