For merchants, having an efficient and secure payment system is a cornerstone to a successful business — but how can efficiency be achieved without placing customer data at risk?
PCI compliance is a necessity for any merchant dealing with cardholder data. Not only does it protect the customer from data leaks and fraudulent charges but it also ensures merchants can avoid costly fines and other legal and business consequences resulting from data breaches.
This article helps to define what PCI compliance is and the key requirements needed to achieve it. Plus, we discuss why PCI compliance is so crucial and how Spreedly can help ensure your business stays up to date on the latest PCI standards.
What is PCI Compliance?
PCI compliance is a set of security standards that must be met by any business that carries out payments or other transactions using credit card data.
The standards of PCI compliance are set and enforced by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, or PCI SSC for short. These standards set forth by the PCI SSC evolve alongside the payments industry to reflect changes to digital payment systems and their security needs. As such, businesses must provide documentation and proof of PCI compliance every 12 months.
To be considered PCI compliant, businesses must meet 12 key requirements encompassing hundreds of sub requirements and test procedures to demonstrate compliance. The requirements and test procedures for PCI compliance are designed to achieve six main objectives to help protect cardholder data:
- To build and maintain secure transaction networks and systems
- To protect cardholder data
- To maintain a vulnerability management program
- To implement strong access control measures
- To regularly monitor and test transaction networks
- To maintain a consistent information security policy
Although PCI compliance is not technically required by law, it is still considered a mandatory process since all major card brands (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, etc.) require this type of compliance for merchants who sign on with them for payment processing.
What are the 12 Key Requirements of PCI Compliance?
Altogether, the requirements and test procedures of PCI compliance form what is known as the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS). The 12 key requirements are:
1. Implementing and maintaining firewalls to prevent unauthorized access to private information
2. Employing appropriate password protections, such as a secure device inventory and regular password changes
3. Protecting cardholder data, primarily through encryption processes
4. Encrypting all transmitted cardholder data
5. Utilizing antivirus and anti-malware software on all devices that interact with primary account numbers
6. Embed security into all systems and software development practices
7. Restricting access to cardholder data on a “need to know” basis
8. Assigning unique IDs to anyone with access to cardholder and transactional data
9. Restricting physical access to cardholder data by storing it in a secure, locked physical location
10. Creating and monitoring access logs for all activity involving cardholder data
11. Scanning and testing security systems for vulnerabilities regularly
12. Maintain a strong security policy that is accessible to all personnel
Why is PCI Compliance Important?
PCI compliance is important for many reasons, from maintaining customer loyalty to avoiding hefty non-compliance fines resulting from a data breach.
For example, merchants can be charged a a penalty of up to up to $500,000 (USD) in fines per incident should a security breach occur if a merchant is not PCI compliant. Additionally, should a breach occur, all customers or parties whose information may have been leaked must be notified in writing, informing them to be on alert for any potential fraudulent charges.
Aside from avoiding half a million dollars in fines per incident, additional benefits of maintaining PCI compliance can include:
- Less Risk: With a PCI-compliant transactional and payment system, your business is at a much lower risk of data breaches. In turn, you’re also much less likely to face increased audit scrutiny that can result from one or more incidents of leaked cardholder information.
- Lower Operational Costs: The cost of dealing with a data breach can be high, from having to spend extra money on written notifications to business expenses accrued during shutdown periods while a data breach is investigated.
- Decreased Staff Burdens: In addition to heightened operational costs due to security-related shutdowns, merchants must also deal with increased burdens on staff. Not only must staff continue to be paid during a shutdown but, in many cases, additional training may be required to prevent future breaches.
- Heightened Customer Loyalty: Customers hold much greater trust in merchants with effective security systems in place. As a result, you can maintain a better reputation and public image, leading to increased sales and improved customer loyalty.
Stay PCI Compliant with Spreedly
At Spreedly, we maintain Level 1 PCI compliance — the highest and strictest level of the security standard. We have achieved our 2022 Attestation of Compliance and are actively preparing for the new PCI-DSS 4.0 standard.
We have also re-certified for inclusion on the Visa Global Registry of Service Providers and the MasterCard SDP Compliant Registered Provider list. With this you can be assured that Spreedly is well positioned to assist you in reducing your PCI compliance burden.
Contact sales today to learn more about our flexible platform and payment ecosystem.