PCI DSS: All you need to know about it

Aug 1, 2019

Why PCI DSS? Credit card fraud has been on the rise for the last couple of years. The Federal Trade Commission received 13 million complaints of card fraud between 2012 and 2016. Credit card fraud involves theft and fraud conducted using a payment card, whether a credit card or debit card.

Credit card scammers are getting smarter every day and devising new ways and tricks to obtain your personal information. Their main aim is to obtain funds from an account or get goods without paying for them.

The result is the loss of billions of dollars as well as cases of identity theft. The Nilson Report affirms that in 2016, approximately 22.8 billion was lost in global card fraud. In line with this alarming rate of credit card fraud coupled with its devastating effects, PCI DSS was created.

What is PCI DSS?

PCI DSS Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard- refers to rules and regulations drafted to make sure businesses keep payment information secure and reduce the occurrence of credit card fraud. PCI sets the standards for compliance for all companies that access, store, or transit card payments and associated data.

So, PCI standards were designed in 2006 by card industry leaders including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover in a bid to improve the security of credit cards throughout the transaction process. PCI compliance safeguards all parties involved in payment transactions like payment networks, financial institutions, customers, and businesses.

Importance of PCI compliance

  • It is a blueprint for success in protecting client data. PCI compliance ensures that all online and offline merchants who process card payments and store card information guarantee the safety and security of sensitive customer data.
  • Provides a security standard. PCI assists businesses to create security programs because they know where to start and what to do. It offers actionable mechanisms to prevent, detect, and respond to data breaches. Importantly, PCI has specific rules for different businesses depending on their size, type, and safety mechanisms for storing card data available.
  • Reduces the risk of card data loss. When a credit card is compromised, data is lost. The data could be used to harm the credit card owner.
  • Non-compliance can be costly. The cost of a data breach adds up quickly from the cost of paying fines, compensation, replacing cards, and litigation. Apart from the financial implications, a data breach has non-financial consequences like a damaged reputation and decreased consumer trust. The retail giant, Target, for instance, incurred approximately $162 million following the data breach in 2013 and 2014.

How does a Business meet PCI DSS standards?

There are 12 requirements for PCI compliance that give insights into data security and how to guarantee it. Among the requirements include protecting cardholder data, maintaining a secure network, and testing your network for vulnerabilities. Also, you must control access to card data and enact a vulnerability management program.

Meeting PCI standards requires a business to go through various steps. Both small and large businesses as long as they accept card payments must adhere to PCI standards. The first step is completing an SAQ to determine your compliance requirements. SAQ is an acronym for Self-Assessment Questionnaires (SAQs). It is a self-validation tool that aims to help retailers and service providers to verify their compliance with PCI DSS.

Different SAQs are available to retailers and service providers, depending on the specific payment scenario. The good thing with SAQ is that you don’t need a formal audit. You can conduct self-assessment and fill the relevant SAQ documentation instead of an audit. However, the volume of cards transacted determines whether a self-assessment is applicable.

After filing the questionnaire, you have to get evidence of passing a vulnerability scan. A PCI SCC approved vendor performs the vulnerability scan. It identifies any vulnerability that your business operating systems, services, and devices may have that may offer hackers an opportunity to prey on your card data. Nevertheless, not all merchants have to go through a vulnerability scan. The merchants that should undertake this step are SAQ A-EP, SAQ B-IP, SAQ C, SAQ D-Merchant, and SAQ D-Service.

The next step is completing an Attestation of compliance. Lastly, you have to submit the SAQ, evidence of passing a vulnerability scan –if applicable to your business- and the Attestation of Compliance together with any other required documentation. Moving forward, if your company feels too overwhelmed to store card information, you can partner with a third-party provider to keep your data safe.

Why e-commerce needs PCI

1.   Mandatory

PCI compliance is compulsory for all e-commerce merchants as long as they accept card payments on their websites. This is mainly because credit cards, debit cards, and other card payment modalities carry sensitive data that must be protected from loss and unauthorized access.

2.   Gives consumers assurance

Your customers and potential customers must be assured that your website is secure. They can assuredly make payments using their credit and debit cards without worrying about credit card theft, identity theft, and other risks to their sensitive information.

3.   Secures business data

PCI compliance protects business data from hackers and fraudsters. An online business avoids the costs and non-monetary implications that come with data breaches.

4.   Boosts customer confidence

According to a recent survey, two-thirds of US adults take their business elsewhere after a data breach. If a business gets breached, consumer confidence in it decreases substantially, and they don’t return to do business with you. Being PCI compliant gives customers the confidence to do business with you because they are assured that their data is safe.

5.   Protects you against liability

In the event your customers’ data is compromised, you become liable to lawsuits and fines that not only drain your finances but also tarnish your reputation.

Complying with PCI DSS standards can be daunting and overwhelming for any business, whether online or offline. While many firms do not see PCI DSS compliance as necessary, it is essential for businesses and their customers. PCI DSS is beneficial because it minimizes your risk of credit card fraud and protects your enterprise, employees, customers, and brand. Once you are informed and knowledgeable on PCI DSS, you acknowledge that it is worth the effort.

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