Whether you’re a seasoned vendor, new merchant, or aspiring entrepreneur, industry jargon and acronyms can often present a steep learning curve. PCI compliance may very well fall into this category as it’s rarely discussed in colloquial conversation. However, this concept isn’t too difficult to understand once you break it down.

PCI compliance is a critical component of credit card-related security. Essentially, to be PCI compliant is to meet a set of requirements called ‘The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard,’ and these recommendations and rules ensure that all credit card information, whether stored or processed, remains safe and secure across the board.

These rules were created not by businesses or retail companies worried about their customer’s sensitive information but rather by the big payment corporations themselves. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and JCB collaborated to form the standards and the aptly named PCI Security Standards Council (PCISSC). By 2006, they became an important and central aspect of account security and online transaction safety, and remain absolutely critical to this day.

12 Key Compliance Requirements

It’s imperative to acknowledge and understand the exact requirements of PCI compliance. The mandatory components are as follows:

  1. Install, configure, and implement a firewall to safeguard card and cardholder information;
  2. Use appropriate passwords for important systems and security protocols—avoid vendor-created defaults;
  3. Protect cardholder data;
  4. Encrypt data to be transmitted across public networks;
  5. Use up-to-date antivirus software;
  6. Keep other forms of software updated and consistently maintain all security systems and applications;
  7. Restrict cardholder information;
  8. Assign unique IDs to everyone with data access;
  9. Restrict physical access to data-housing facilities;
  10. Create access logs to monitor network and cardholder information access;
  11. Regularly test security systems; and
  12. Create and maintain well-documented policies to address information security.

When merchants continuously meet these twelve criteria, hacking, identity theft, and unrestricted access to anything from names and driver’s license numbers to social security information becomes much more difficult for malicious agents.

Credit card information and all processes involved in storing, transferring, and utilizing it should be kept out of the wrong hands to significantly reduce issues which all merchants and cardholders fear, thereby rendering many cybercriminals powerless.

Who Needs to Be PCI Compliant?

The benefits of being PCI compliant are undeniable. With the increased safety and security it grants everyone on both sides of the company coin, meeting PCISSC standards should clearly be a part of cybersecurity best practices, but is it truly necessary for all industries and individuals? Or, is it merely an encouraged posture? Who exactly needs to be PCI compliant?

The best way to sum this up is that any and all merchants should—and must—meet these standards. They are indeed requirements rather than suggestions, and therefore every business which processes credit cards are held to maintain PCI compliance and regular compliance reports as outlined by their processing agreement.

Any slip in this regard can cause devastating results. Substantial fines are almost immediately issued, and repeat offenses will garner more severe consequences with major credit card companies and standards councils alike. Not even to mention that a lackadaisical attitude to PCI requirements can leave a merchant open to dangerous data breaches and theft which bring their own legal implications, making PCI compliance an all-around essential for all card-processing businesses.

Maintaining PCI compliance is incredibly important for both consumers and companies. These regulations ensure the safety not only of accounts and transactions, as well as protect the personal privacy of individuals. If you’re concerned about your company’s payment processing, or simply have questions about IT best practices, we hope you’ll reach out and contact us. We’d appreciate the opportunity to be your allies in technology.