The requirements for PCI DSS compliance

The requirements for PCI DSS compliance

In the world where card payment methods became essential, the protection of transaction data requires a new value of importance. And so for any party in the transaction flow, there are obligations to follow, obeying to which is certified as PCI DSS. In this Maxpay article, we will explain the term, the importance of the standard, and we will go through the set of these necessary rules. 

What is the PCI DSS

PCI DSS or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a set of mandatory rules for any organization that deals with processing, storing, and transmitting the cardholder data. PCI DSS provides technical and software requirements designed for data protection.

The Payment Card Industry is responsible for the development, improvement, and distribution of global security standards for credit cards. Data Security Standard consists of verified rules for data protection within card operations. Thus Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a set of obligations that an organization must follow in order to securely operate with card payments. The presence or absence of the PCI DSS Compliance tells a lot about how a given company protects the customer’s sensitive data.

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard has existed since 2004. Before each one of the major card associations such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover Financial, American Express, and JCB International had their own standards to comply with. The need for unity in PCI DSS came as protection from frequent fraudulent actions and hacker attacks. The move was quite efficient in this direction. Besides improved protection, organizations also benefit from getting just one unified security certificate instead of the previous five for each card brand.

Why the PCI DSS is so important

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a chance for an organization to obtain a valid security certificate. Here are the main benefits of PCI DSS compliance:

  • Data protection. When a customer pays with a credit card he or she shares sensitive information such as billing and shipping details. This data is the reason for hackers attacks and fraudulent actions. Being PCI compliant secures the sharing during payment and storing at rest of customers data. 
  • Customer confidence. Clients would not trust to share their confidential data with unreliable organizations. On the contrary, when the company complies with DSS PCI it prioritizes the security of customer’s sensitive data which makes this organization trustworthy.
  • Legal insurance. Not having a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard eventually would lead to severe fines and lawsuits both from customers and third-party organizations that are also involved in the transaction process.

12 requirements for PCI DSS compliance

Clearly, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is something that any trustworthy organization needs. But to meet the final standard, the set of complex procedures must be completed. The 12 requirements for PCI compliance are not that easy to obtain, and missing even one or two factors would prevent the business from certification. But meeting all the requirements and getting compliance gives an organization a significant status. Let’s go through each of the requirements of PCI DSS.

1. Protect your system with firewalls

The first PCI DSS requirement is the primary goal of securing plus strengthening the network and protecting the inbound and outbound traffic inside of it.

To do so is to apply and maintain firewall configurations. A firewall is a network security system that controls and regulates incoming and outgoing web traffic according to established defense rules. A firewall most often sets a barrier between a trusted network and an untrusted network, the internet for example.

Complying with the first requirement of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard means maintaining firewall secure status and keep up with the network documentation.

2. Configure passwords and settings

Organizations that deal with storing, processing, or transmitting the cardholder data must not use vendor-provided passwords and any other security means. This requirement was created by PCI DSS specifically as hacker protection. 

Configuration of passwords and settings is meant for all assets inside of the infrastructure and it includes improving the given standards, removing the unnecessary functionality, and survey the inventory of the system components.

For sure vendor-provided defaults seem to increase the speed of installation and even support, but in the end, there is a price to pay. These kinds of defaults make it quite simple for hackers to get the data needed to invade and use the system for their interests.

3. Protect stored cardholder data

This requirement of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard refers to the encryption and guarding of sensitive data. The main focus here is on protecting cardholder information at rest. Basically, it is about how exactly the highly valuable information of the consumer is kept within the organization.

Securing stored data is vital for the organization as it directly affects its accountability, along with consumer’s safety. The various techniques can be implied for securing and storing the cardholder data, such as masking, hashing, dual control, split knowledge, and usage of encryption tools during every transaction. 

4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks

When an organization operates with cardholder data within open or public networks, that data has to be securely and properly defenced. 

This requirement aims to exclude any organization from being a target of a hacker, who potentially would abuse the exposed data in misconfigured wireless networks. 

The PCI controls prevention of data exposure, the transmission of information over open, public networks must be reliably encrypted by passing through security protocols and layers of authentication.

5. Use and regularly update anti-virus software.

This PCI DSS requirement is probably one of the most obvious. Taking care of the anti-virus and anti-malware software is equal to keeping the system strong, well-protected, with a precise level of alert. 

In this case, it is important to protect the environment from both malware and viruses as they may contain worms, ransomware, Trojans, spyware, adware, rootkits, and other unwanted software. A good solution includes detecting the malware, removing it, and protecting it from any further intrusions.

6. Regularly update and patch systems

The sixth requirement stands for the development and maintaining defense systems and applications. The proper solution covers recognizing vulnerabilities, patching the environment, management adjusting, controls adjusting, along with secure software development. 

Fraudulent actions and hacker attacks often target common defense vulnerabilities. The goal is to get access to certain data structures in the organization’s environment. Most of these vulnerabilities are easy to prevent but hard to fix if the patch was not updated in time, or even was not installed at all.

The PCI DSS requirement requests both systems and applications to obtain all the proper security patches established during the proper period of time in order to secure the cardholder data environment. This concerns all types of applications in the environment, both developed and purchased from a third-party.

7. Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know

The PCI DSS requirement in this case highlights the authorization protocol among the personnel and its possible issues. It is crucial to ensure that cardholder data is available only to those members of the company who work with private information directly. 

Otherwise, the access should be denied in order to prevent leaks, fraud, data manipulation, mismanagement, and inaccurate usage.

The next step is to define the levels of access depending on the role or position of a certain member. The difference in data visibility can vary from the system administration department to the customer service unit. 

8. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access

Implementing the system of user IDs and passwords protects the environment from unidentified actions. Assigning a unique ID helps to follow who is doing what within the environment. In a case of a malfunction, attack, or any other defense problem the issue can be easily traced. 

In order to keep the system of identifying and authentication up to date, there should be a dedicated staff member who would take care of it: deleting old accounts, verifying new ones, removing access from previous employees, and terminated users. 

9. Restrict physical access to workplace and cardholder data

Well before we have been talking about inner software systems and environments. But unauthorized access to physical assets can bring as much damage as a hacker attack. With no protective measures, any person potentially gets access to the facility and can thieve, ruin, derange, or destroy the critical systems and cardholder data. 

According to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, physical security must be established right away. There are lots of ways to improve the protection of the spaces. Starting with minimal locks on the entrances, a badge of identification for employees, security guards, and video surveillance prevents unwanted accidents.

10. Implement logging and log management

Logging and log management are required by Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard with the goal to potentially determine the reason for the data compromisation. 

This requirement puts in the center the logging and tracking. Establishing logging mechanisms inside of the environment brings up the ability to follow all user activities. For prevention, detecting, and minimizing the outcomes of a data breach logging and tracking are essential. And without these two features, it is highly unlikely to trace the source of the data breach and compromise.

11. Conduct vulnerability scans and penetration tests

To meet this standard of the PCI DSS an organization must frequently test security systems and processes, especially after big updates or changes, to be confident in asset security.

The key factor here is testing. Testing for vulnerabilities and supervising the defense of the environment. It should include checking on wireless access points, incident response procedures, vulnerability scans, penetration testing, intrusion-detection, change-detection, together with policies and procedures.

With systematic testing, the chances to detect new vulnerabilities for protecting the system are much more promising.

12. Documentation and risk assessments

The last requirement of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is documentation and risk assessments. This basically means that an organization must properly maintain a strategy that addresses data protection for all personnel members.

This includes setting up, producing, prolonging, and distributing a clear and verified security policy among the organization’s members. This is a basis for applying critical rules for data protection. The main goal is to give a notion to every employee about his or her responsibilities regarding the security measures.

Maxpay is the payment service provider that meets all the 12 requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is PCI DSS level 1 v 3.2 compliant, processing over 6 million card transactions annually. This makes Maxpay the reliable company on the financial market that protects cardholder data both during the transaction and at rest.

Maxpay offers a range of merchant services such as alert services to protect your customers’ data, risk management, fraud prevention, and chargeback control, opening a merchant account, and setting up a payment gateway. To find out how your business can benefit from Maxpay, please contact our sales department.