Many small businesses and organizations don’t think twice about the security of their sensitive data. They assume it’s secure and doesn’t prioritize safety. But the reality is that this can put their most valuable data, such as credit card numbers and personal information, at risk. When a company encrypts its data, conducts regular data backups, and maintains a solid business continuity plan, it is more secure both from a security and a continuity standpoint. For this to happen, PCI-DSS compliance is necessary. However, what is PCI-DSS compliance, and what do you need to do to ensure that you become certified? This post will cover these questions and what can happen if you choose to disregard these compliance protocols.

What is PCI-DSS?

PCI-DSS is an acronym for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which sets standards to protect payment card data. These standards include encrypting data, not storing data on servers, keeping passwords unique, and limiting access to data by specific users or groups. The standards are issued to help companies maintain PCI compliance and prevent any negative consequences from insecure data storage. The PCI-DSS helps prevent credit card theft by implementing security measures that secure data during transmission, processing, storage, and disposal. It also helps reduce the cost of potential credit card fraud by making it more difficult for hackers to steal your information.

Who Sets These Standards?

The PCI council is a credit card processing authority in the United States responsible for maintaining security standards. The council has been in its present form since 2006 when the current version of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was released. The PCI council is an association of leading American financial institutions and merchant brands in the credit card processing industry. The PCI council helps create data security standards for all payment cards, including credit, debit, prepaid, and gift cards. Therefore, the main goal of the PCI council is to help ensure that all payments made via credit or debit cards are secure against fraud.

how to get your business pci-dss certified

What Are The Consequences Of Not Being PCI Compliant?

The importance of PCI compliance cannot be overstated. Not being PCI compliant can have consequences that will considerably affect your business. So, the results for not being PCI compliant include:

  • Penalties monthly
  • Breaches of personal information
  • Litigation
  • Reputational damage
  • Loss of revenue

Therefore, to avoid these damaging outcomes, you should aim to become compliant as soon as possible.

What Are The Steps To Becoming Certified?

There are steps you must take that can ease the process’s stress, even though the process is relatively complex.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Compliance Level

The level of compliance you must maintain will depend on the size and type of business you have. Therefore, the PCI compliance levels are divided into four categories. Based on how many transactions (and types of transactions) they process annually, merchants can be categorized into the following groups:

  • Level 1: Over 6 million transactional activities annually.
  • Level 2: Between 1-6 million card transactional activities annually.
  • Level3: Between 20,000 to 1 million card transactional activities annually.
  • Level 4: Less than 20,000 card transactional activities annually.

Step 2: Understand The Certification Standards

There are PCI certification standards that you must follow to ensure compliance. These include:

  • Creating and maintaining a secure network
  • Having an ongoing vulnerability management program
  • You should implement robust access control measures
  • Data protection for cardholders
  • Take strong measures to control access
  • Establish an information security policy

Each of these points has requirements that you must fulfill, and if you cannot implement any of them, so you cannot become certified.

Step 3: Find A QSA To Help You Complete The Process (Or Perform A Self Assessment)

A QSA (Qualified Security Assessor) is an expert who knows the ins and outs of information security. They are responsible for assessing an organization’s security posture, performing risk analysis, and ensuring that employees implement its security policies. They will be able to perform an audit of your business and inform you of the steps you need to take to become PCI compliant. On the other hand, you can opt to fill out a self-assessment form without the help of a professional. This will be cheaper in the short term, but you could run into issues if you cannot answer any question or provide objective evidence that you have implemented the steps.

In order to ensure the safety and security of customer and credit card data, you must comply with the PCI-DSS standard. Your business should educate your staff on security best practices. However, it is more than just implementing some security measures. It’s an ongoing process that enables you to protect your company, brand, and clients.