The Ultimate Guide to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard

Payment cards have become a staple in the business world. Its convenience has caused its use to rise drastically over time, hence the need for guidance. This ultimate guide to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard aims at teaching you everything you need to know about a vital aspect of payment cards.

Payment cards may be essential, but without security, it’s useless. It’s as good as leaving your money out in the open. Therefore, card security is even more important than the card’s impact itself.

With this in mind, the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council (SSC), founded by five major credit card owners, incorporated the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (DSS). The aim was to provide technical and operations requirements for cardholders’ data protection.

PSI DSS deals majorly with payment card data and cardholder information. This information includes Primary Account Numbers, card numbers, and Sensitive Authentication Data (e.g., CVVs). In addition, however, the card company must carry out compliance programs, validation levels, and enforcement.

Be mindful that the PCI DSS is not the law. It only affects merchants primarily through a contractual relationship between them and the card company. Another way it affects merchants is by writing a portion of PCI DSS into the state’s law. They’re also responsible for determining PCI DSS certification costs.

PCI Compliance

The PCI Standards Council (SSC) is also responsible for developing PCI compliance standards. Now, what is PCI compliance, you may ask?

Payment Card Industry compliance is the mandatory technical and operational standards followed by businesses to secure and protect credit card data, especially during transactions.

The 12 Requirements of PCI DSS

Next on the list is the PCI compliance requirements. These are requirements mandated by the PCI SSC to focus on the protection of cardholder data. There are 12 requirements of PCI DSS. They’re all treated below:

1. Firewall Configuration Installed and Maintained to Protect Cardholder Data

This requirement mandates service providers and merchants to constantly keep a secured network. It does this by ensuring the proper configuration of firewalls and routers.

Well configured firewalls protect your card data environment by serving as its first line of defense.

2. Do Not Use Vendor-supplied Defaults for System Passwords and Other Security Parameters

This requirement aims at hardening your organization’s systems. Unfortunately, most of these operating systems come with several insecure configuration parameters, which are easy to guess.

Complying with this requirement forbids service providers from using default passwords and other security parameters. Therefore, it’s most applicable, especially when new systems are introduced in the IT infrastructure.

3. Protect Stored Cardholder Data

Referred to as the most crucial requirement, it compels providers to know all the data they will store. They’re also to encrypt all cardholder data with industry-accepted algorithms, tokenized, hashed, or truncated.

Also, requirement three stresses the need for a strong PCI DSS encryption key and the rules for primary account numbers’ display.

4. Encrypt Transmission of Cardholder Data Across Open, Public Networks

Similar to the previous requirement, this forces providers to secure card data when transmitting it over an open or public network. Also, when transferring data, they must be sure of the location.

In the process of transmission, cardholder data is vulnerable to attack. Therefore, encrypting it adds layers of security, especially at this point.

5. Use and Regularly Update Anti-virus Software or Programs

Requirements five lays focus on safeguarding against all forms of malware. All devices through which employees access the system must have anti-viruses installed and updated regularly.

The presence of up-to-date anti-malware prevents infestation of know malware. Therefore, all anti-virus mechanisms must always be active and of the latest version.

6. Develop and Maintain Secure Systems and Applications

Providers need to define and implement a process classifying the risk of security vulnerabilities in the PCI DSS environment. They must also deploy crucial patches promptly to limit the potential for exploits.

These patches include; Operating systems, Firewalls, Router, Switches, Databases, POS terminals, and Application software. This requirement also mandates providers to define and implement a development process.

7. Restrict Access to Cardholder Data by Business Need to Know

Service providers and merchants must be able to allow it to deny cardholder data access. This requirement focuses on role-based access control (RBAC), responsible for granting card data access on a need-to-know basis.

The need to know is a fundamental concept within PCI DSS. It compels the access control system to scrutinize each request to avoid a breach.

8. Assign a Unique ID to Each Person With Computer Access

Every authorized user must have an independent and unique password which must be relatively complex. Also, you must strictly avoid using shared/group users and passwords.

This requirement ensures authorized individuals can trace the activities of every user and can guarantee accountability. In addition, for all remote access, two-factor authorization is compulsory.

9. Restrict Physical Access to Cardholder Data

Requirement nine aims at protecting physical access to systems with cardholder data. Without it, critical systems are vulnerable to unauthorized persons who can easily cause physical damage to them.

Here, providers are mandated to utilize electronic access control to monitor physical locations. In addition, all portable media containing cardholder data must also be physically well protected and destroyed if no longer needed.

10. Track and Monitor All Access to Network Resources and Cardholder Data

All systems must have the correct audit policy set and sent to the centralized Syslog server for daily monitoring. Without this,  physical and wireless networks are left vulnerable.

The PCI DSS also mandates that audit trail records must have a certain standard of information and must be maintained regularly – preferably less than a year.

11. Regularly Test Security Systems and Processes

All systems and processes must be frequently tested for security to be maintained. This requirement is crucial as new methods are constantly being discovered by malicious researchers.

The routine activities required here are; Wireless analyzer scan, quarterly IPs and domains scan, quarterly Internal vulnerability scan, annual external IPs and domains penetration tests, and file monitoring.

12. Maintain a Policy That Addresses Information Security for All Personnel

The final requirement is focused on the implementation and maintenance of all employees’ security policies. This policy is then to be reviewed annually and presented to users to read and acknowledge.

Other things required here are; formal risk assessment, user awareness training, incident management, and employee background checks.


PCI DSS compliance is never easy. But, without it, it can ruin even companies with excellent intentions. However, complying with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a prerequisite for dealing with cardholder data. Therefore, it’s crucial that you only work with a company that has a PCI DSS Certification.

In cybersecurity, it’s not about if your business suffers an attack but if and when your security system can handle it. Therefore, dependable security and IT support service is a crucial investment.

Triadanet can play the role of an experienced partner that understands any business size. They have all the necessary certifications and will provide you with the peace of mind to focus on your business. Invest wisely today.