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12 PCI DSS Requirements You Should Know!

Mia | 07-02-2021

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Internet development helps eCommerce businesses pursue unlimited growth with limitless consumption since it gets rid of geographical limitations.

On the other hand, accepting card payments online becomes a serious concern for businesses because fraudsters are always looking for ways to steal customer data. That’s when sellers and customers care more about PCI compliance.

So what exactly is PCI Compliance? And Should you be PCI compliant? Together, let’s find out the answers to these questions in this post.


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What is PCI Compliance?

What is PCI Compliance?
What is PCI Compliance?

The PCI stands for Payment Card Industry. As the name suggests, PCI compliance refers to a set of guidelines and standards for businesses to ensure the security of their credit card transactions.

To be more specific, PCI Compliance includes standards on 2 sides: technical and operational. Businesses will follow these standards to manage and protect cardholder data when making online transactions.

One more piece of information is that all PCI standards for compliance are developed and provided by the PCI Security Standards Council. Businesses that follow and achieve PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Standards) are considered PCI compliant.

Why Is It Important?

Maintaining the safety of private information is essential in the digital world. At this point comes PCI compliance, which protects safe activities without being seen. In any case, why does it matter? Let’s check it out:

  • Digital Fortress Defense: PCI compliance is your digital moat against cyber threats, ensuring the protection of customer credit card information.

  • Trust-Builder: Displaying PCI compliance builds customer trust, conveying a commitment to their security during online transactions.

  • Legal Safe Haven: Compliance not only avoids fines but also protects your reputation, keeping you on the right side of the law.

  • Future-Ready Security: Adaptability to emerging threats makes PCI compliance a strategic investment, ensuring your business stays ahead in cybersecurity.

In short, PCI compliance isn’t just a box to check; it’s your business’s shield against threats, a trust signal to customers, and a smart move for long-term security.

What happens if your business is not PCI compliant?

Ignoring PCI compliance can have serious consequences for your business, ranging from financial penalties to reputational damage and even legal action. Here’s a breakdown of the potential risks:

Financial Fallout

Fines: Failure to comply with PCI standards can result in substantial fines imposed by payment card companies. These fines typically range from $5,000 to $100,000 per month, contingent on the severity of the violation and the scale of your business.

Chargebacks: Non-compliance leading to a data breach may render you liable for chargebacks, forcing you to refund customers directly. This not only affects your revenue but also amplifies financial strain.

Increased Processing Fees: Payment processors may impose higher fees or refuse to engage in business dealings if your business is not PCI compliant, further escalating financial burdens.

Reputational Damage

Loss of Customer Trust: A data breach resulting from non-compliance can significantly impair your brand reputation and erode the trust customers place in your business. Rebuilding this trust is a challenging and costly endeavor.

Negative Public Image: News of a data breach can rapidly circulate, leading to negative publicity that damages your brand image in the eyes of potential customers and partners.

Loss of Business Opportunities: Prospective customers and partners may hesitate to engage with a non-compliant company, resulting in missed opportunities and potential revenue loss.

Lawsuits: Customers whose data is compromised due to your non-compliance may pursue legal action against your business, seeking damages for the breach.

Regulatory Action: Depending on your location and industry, non-compliance may trigger intervention from regulatory bodies, leading to fines, sanctions, or even the possibility of business closure.

In essence, prioritizing PCI compliance is not only a regulatory requirement but a crucial safeguard against a myriad of financial, reputational, and legal challenges that could have lasting implications for your business.

PCI DSS Compliance requirement checklist

Being PCI compliant means that you have to consistently adhere to a set of standards and guidelines set forth by the PCI Standard Council. These requirements are named as PCI DSS, including:

  • 12 key requirements

  • 78 base requirements

  • 400 test procedures

They’re used to ensure whether an organization is PCI compliant or not. And in this post’s scope, we will only compile 12 major requirements for PCI compliance.

PCI DSS Compliance requirement checklist
PCI DSS Compliance requirement checklist

1. Implement and maintain firewalls to protect data

The first key to card data security lies in a fortified network perimeter. This is achieved through meticulous configuration of firewalls and, where necessary, routers. Acting as digital guardians, firewalls scrutinize incoming and outgoing traffic, applying pre-defined rules to grant or deny access. Think of them as bouncers at an exclusive club, only letting authorized requests pass through.

Establishing organization-wide standards for firewall and router configuration is crucial. These define a consistent approach for managing access rules, preventing inconsistencies and vulnerabilities. A vital part of this is routine review, happening at least twice a year. These “security checkups” ensure outdated or insecure rules don’t compromise your card data environment.

2. Upgrade security with password protection

The main goal is to make your company’s systems stronger, including routers, wifi access points, computers, network devices, apps, and more. A lot of gadgets and operating systems come with passwords, user names, and other choices that aren’t very safe by default. Most of these login details are already known and can be easily guessed.

Under this rule, you can’t use these kinds of automatic passwords and other privacy settings. For this requirement to be met, you must also keep track of all the systems and the setup and protection processes for them. Whenever a new system is added to the IT infrastructure, these steps must be taken.

3. Protect stored cardholder data

Securing cardholder information is vital across databases and files. Requirement 3 stresses robust encryption, making data unreadable to unauthorized users. Techniques like truncation, tokenization, and hashing add an extra layer of protection. Strict key management is crucial, including limited access, regular rotation, and secure storage. Card data discovery software acts as a protective knight, scanning for vulnerabilities to ensure comprehensive security.

4. Encrypt transmitted cardholder data

In this condition, too, you must protect the card’s data when it is sent over a public or open network, like the Internet, Bluetooth, or GPRS. You need to know where the card information is going to go and come from. The card information is mostly sent to the payment provider, server, etc., so that purchases can be processed.

When user info is sent over public networks, cybercriminals might be able to get to it. Using a secure form of communication methods like TLS, SSH, etc. to encrypt user data before sending it can make it less likely that the data will be stolen.

5. Use and regularly update antivirus software

This requirement is all about keeping the system safe from all kinds of viruses that can damage it. There needs to be an antivirus program on all computers, laptops, and mobile phones that workers can use to connect to systems locally or remotely.

You should make sure that your antivirus or malware protection software is always up-to-date so that it can find new malware. Keeping an anti-malware tool up to date will keep known malware from getting into the system. Maintain current antivirus systems, use up-to-date codes, and keep logs that can be checked.

6. Properly update software and maintain security systems

To find and rate the risk of weakness in the PCI DSS setting using trusted outside sources, it matters to set up and follow a method. By installing important fixes on time, organizations have to reduce the chances of attacks happening. In the card’s data setting, you should patch all of the following systems:

  • Operating systems

  • Firewalls, Routers, Switches

  • Application software

  • Databases

  • POS terminals

7. Restrict access to card data

To establish robust access control measures, service providers and merchants must have the ability to permit or deny access to cardholder data systems. This requirement centers on role-based access control (RBAC), granting access to card data and systems based on a need-to-know basis.

The concept of “need-to-know” is fundamental within PCI DSS. The access control system, such as Active Directory or LDAP, must evaluate each request to prevent exposing sensitive data to those who don’t require this information.

A documented list of all users with their roles who need access to the card data environment is necessary. This list should include each role, a definition of the role, the current privilege level, the expected privilege level, and data resources for each user to perform operations on card data. Adhering to these standards ensures compliance and enhances the security of handling cardholder data.

8. Assign user IDs to everybody with computer access

Avoid using shared or group usernames and passwords. Each authorized user needs a unique identifier and a strong password. This is crucial for tracing any access to cardholder data back to a specific user, ensuring accountability.

For remote administrative access, like remote logins, make two-factor authorization mandatory. This extra step in security makes it easier to protect sensitive information and adds an extra layer to user authentication.

9. Restrict physical access to data

This particular requirement places a primary emphasis on safeguarding the physical access points to systems containing cardholder data. The absence of robust physical access controls poses the risk of unauthorized individuals gaining entry to facilities, potentially leading to theft, tampering, disruption, or destruction of critical systems and the associated cardholder data.

To fulfill this mandate, the deployment of video cameras and electronic access control becomes imperative, especially at crucial entry and exit points like data centers. Recorded footage or access logs detailing personnel movement should be retained for a minimum period of 90 days. Establishing an access protocol that effectively distinguishes between authorized visitors and employees is crucial.

Moreover, any removable or portable media housing cardholder data must undergo physical protection measures. The mandatory disposal of all media that is no longer essential for business operations is imperative to ensure comprehensive security. Adhering to these standards is vital for maintaining the integrity and security of cardholder data.

10. Track and monitor who accesses networks and cardholder data

Cybercriminals can easily steal card information because of holes in both wired and wireless networks. All systems must have the right audit policy set and send their logs to a central syslog server in order to meet this requirement. At least once a day, these logs need to be looked over to find strange or suspicious activity.

System and network activity logs, log monitoring, and alerts for suspicious behavior can all be done with security information and event monitoring tools (SIEM). This part of PCI DSS also says that audit trail logs need to have certain details in them. Time needs to be synchronized. Audit records must be kept safe and for at least a year.

11. Scan and test for vulnerabilities regularly

Security is super important because there are always people trying to find weaknesses in systems. That’s why we need to regularly check our systems to make sure they’re safe. Here’s what we need to do regularly:

  • Check Wi-Fi: Look at all the Wi-Fi connections every three months to make sure only the right ones are there.

  • Scan External Stuff: Every three months, a special security team needs to check all the external things like websites and IPs to keep them safe.

  • Check Inside: Also, every three months, we need to check inside our systems to find and fix any problems.

  • Test Applications and Networks: Once a year, or if something big changes, we need to do a really detailed test on our websites and networks to make sure they’re super secure.

  • Watch Files: Every week, we should look at our files and see if anything changed that we didn’t expect. This helps us catch problems early.

12. Test process and security systems regularly

This rule is part of PCI compliance and focuses on a key goal: making sure everyone in the company follows a plan to keep information safe. This plan needs to be looked at and shared with all employees, vendors, and contractors every year. People must read it and say they understand. You must also follow these guidelines: Once a year, look at possible risks, like things that could go wrong, important stuff, and ways bad things could happen.

  1. Guide everyone about how to be safe with information.

  2. Check if new employees are okay to work with sensitive information.

  3. Have a plan for when something bad happens.

  4. People who check if companies follow these rules say it’s done right.

Following PCI rules is tough, even for good companies. But, even though it’s hard, it’s important. Not doing it right can lead to big problems.

How do you get PCI Compliance?

According to the PCI Compliance Security Standard Council, any company or organization that accepts card payments online or stores credit card data should be PCI compliant.

Usually, every year or every quarter, businesses will have to verify their PCI compliance by hiring a professional assessor or a company to determine whether they’re conducting transactions properly.

So how to become PCI compliant?

  • Define your PCI level. There are 4 levels determined by the number of card transactions your business handles each year. They will affect how you approach PCI DSS compliance

  • Determine your self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ). Induce 7 types decided by your merchant level and how your process card info. Each class represents different requirements you need to follow to become PCI compliant

  • Build a secure network to meet requirements for PCI DSS certification. This process can process from vulnerability scanning to security maintenance and remediation. An information technology contractor is needed to help you deal with all the heavy lifting

  • Complete the Attestation of Compliance (AOC) - A document that confirms the results of a PCI DSS assessment

  • The pathway to PCI compliance can be technically complex. However, it’s worth traveling if you want to protect your reputation in customers’ eyes and essential data from hackers.

As a Magento store owner, we recommend you to install a SecurePay extension that comes with PCI DSS compliance. This will be a more cost-effective solution for merchants to transmit transaction information to SecurePay for processing.

How much does PCI Compliance cost?

How much does PCI Compliance cost?
How much does PCI Compliance cost?

The cost to be PCI compliant varies based on your business size, card processing methods, and several factors.

1. Business Size and Complexity

  • Small businesses: Typically face lower costs due to simpler card processing methods and potentially lower data volume. Self-Assessment Questionnaires (SAQs) and basic vulnerability scanning can suffice, keeping costs around $300-$1,000 annually.

  • Medium-sized businesses: Require more robust security measures and may need external consultants or Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs) for validation. Costs can range from $5,000-$30,000 annually, depending on complexity.

  • Large enterprises: Face the highest costs due to extensive data processing, complex networks, and mandatory onsite audits. Expect budgets exceeding $70,000 annually, potentially reaching several hundred thousand depending on the extent of required remediation.

2. Card Processing Methods

  • Traditional card processing: Requires stricter compliance measures like data encryption and tokenization, leading to higher costs for tools and expertise.

  • Alternative payment methods: Some methods like point-of-sale (POS) systems or mobile payments may have specific compliance requirements, impacting the overall cost.

3. Current Security Posture

  • Secure infrastructure: Businesses with existing security measures like firewalls and intrusion detection systems may have lower remediation costs, potentially saving on consultants and software upgrades.

  • Legacy systems: Businesses reliant on outdated systems may require significant upgrades or replacements to meet compliance standards, significantly increasing costs.

4. Scope of Cardholder Data

  • Volume of data: The amount of cardholder data processed directly influences the need for security tools and monitoring resources, impacting costs.

  • Types of data: Businesses handling sensitive data like CVVs or Social Security numbers may need additional encryption and access controls, driving up compliance costs.

5. Approach to Compliance

  • Internal resources: Businesses with in-house security expertise can manage compliance internally, potentially saving on external consultants.

  • External support: Hiring consultants or QSAs for assessments, vulnerability scanning, and remediation can significantly increase costs but offer valuable expertise and guidance.

For small businesses, PCI DSS compliance can cost from $300 per year, particularly:

  • Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ): $50 - $200

  • Vulnerability scanning: around $100-$200/ an IP address. The cost can vary based on the number of IP addresses and complexity of the network.

  • Training and policy development: Around $70/ an employee

  • Remediation (Varies based on how much work is needed to achieve compliance and security): From $100 - $10,000

For large enterprises that need a PCI DSS assessment, the total cost is estimated to be over $70.000, including

  • Onsite audit: Around $40,000

  • Vulnerability scanning: Approximately $1,000

  • Penetration testing: Around $15,000

  • Training and policy development: About $5,000

  • Remediation (software and hardware updates, network security solutions, etc.): From $10,000 - $500,000

At the enterprise level, the cost of being PCI compliant doesn’t come cheap. Still, it isn’t worth risking your customers’ information and the business’s long-term reputation because of any PCI compliance cost. When you think about it that way, utilizing a high-powered PCI vulnerability management program is a small price to pay to uphold your reputation and protect customer data.

The bottom line!

To sum up, PCI DSS standards apply to all types of companies that ask for credit card information. Its main goal is to protect the privacy and security of sensitive cardholder data by suggesting a guideline on how to secure online business.

No matter what, being PCI compliant is a good decision. You prove that your business puts the safety of consumer data first. In exchange, this action benefits your online store through a positive brand reputation.


As a content executive at Mageplaza, Mia Hoang understands the value of content marketing lies in the engagement between the customers and companies. Her wish is to bring a unique voice, different perspectives, and new light for every audience.

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