PCI-DSS Compliance: Overview and Benefits

May 17, 2022

With digital payments taking over the world, fraudulent transactions and financial losses are at an all-time high. This is leaving stakeholders more uncertain about the integrity of payment card transactions and the security of cardholder data.

There is a compliance framework to battle these specific digital dangers: the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) is an independent organization founded by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB that administers and oversees the PCI DSS. 

In this blog, we will provide you with a brief overview of this compliance framework and list some of the benefits you can expect if you use it for your business.

What is the PCI DSS Compliance Framework?

PCI compliance entails following a set of requirements that includes policies, controls and procedures designed to safeguard payment and cardholder information.

The targets for PCI DSS include merchants of all sizes and financial institutions. On the vendor side, targets also include point-of-sale vendors, as well as hardware and software developers and service providers who create and operate the global infrastructure for processing payments.

To be PCI compliant, a company must achieve 12 requirements outlined in the PCI DSS, covering areas such as firewall configuration, encryption, password control, access control, anti-virus and so on. The PCI Security Standards Council creates and maintains these requirements. 

As of 2022, the latest version of PCI is version 4.0. It brings a number of changes vs. its predecessor, such as:

  • A greater emphasis on compliance as an ongoing process. This implies the need for continuous monitoring to achieve continuous compliance.
  • Upgraded multi-factor authentication and password requirements.

It's important to realize that PCI compliance isn't required by law, though it may be required by contract. In the payments industry, PCI is typically a baseline expectation that firms will seek compliance if they are to be trusted by other industry participants. PCI compliance is a means to ensure that major credit card firms and banks will continue to deal with your firm if you process payments or accept credit card payments in any form. Compliance with PCI DSS provides proof that you’re on top of security and that your payment partners can trust you.

To be deemed compliant, a firm must have a Report on Compliance that has been attested by a qualified assessor (essentially another term for auditor). Council-trained and validated assessors help merchants evaluate the effectiveness of implementing PCI controls and processes. Many compliance auditing firms have such Qualified Security Assessors on staff and can provide the necessary review and attestation of your company’s PCI compliance.

Does My Company Need to Be PCI Compliant? 

PCI compliance is a common requirement for any payment card industry firm which processes, maintains, or transmits payment information. As mentioned, PCI compliance isn't a legal obligation, but if you lack compliance you will be both more likely to be vulnerable to a security breach and more likely to be held liable by the parties who are damaged by that breach. The financial consequences of the breach are potentially huge, even for firms that are compliant, let alone those that are not. By strengthening security safeguards, PCI compliance greatly reduces the likelihood of a successful breach of a company’s defenses.

Some of the consequences of non-compliance include payment card companies imposing large monthly penalties on offending firms. In the event of a breach, these firms are also subject to civil penalties, which are particularly steep in the event the company cannot show that it has shown due diligence by being PCI compliant. 

Costs of a data breach can include:

  • Loss of reputation
  • Reduced revenues
  • Card replacement
  • Repayment or cancellation of improper charges
  • Civil legal penalties
  • Termination of relationship with credit card companies, or increases in the merchant fees that are charged

Target is an example of a large retailer which suffered the loss of cardholder data for 41 million accounts. With the average cost of a breach being $161 per record, according to the IBM / Ponemon Institute 2021 "Cost of a Data Breach" report, the costs of a major data breach can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, the real question is not, “Does your company need to be PCI compliant?” but rather “Can you afford not to be?”

Benefits of Being PCI Compliant

Complying with PCI Security Standards can be a demanding endeavor. Even for huge corporations, let alone small merchants, the maze of requirements may appear to be too much to handle. However, compliance may not be as difficult as you think, especially if you have the correct tools – in particular, if you use a compliance automation platform.

According to the PCI SSC, there are numerous advantages to complying. For instance:

  • PCI Compliance signifies that your systems are secure and that your customers can trust you with their sensitive credit card information. Trust leads to customer confidence and repeat business.

  • PCI Compliance enhances your image with acquirers and payment brands, who are exactly the partners your company requires.

  • PCI compliance is a continuous procedure that helps to prevent security breaches and payment card data theft in the present and future.

  • With PCI compliance, you'll be better equipped to comply with other standards, such as HIPAA, SOC 2 and others. 

  • PCI Compliance aids in the development of company security strategy (even if only a starting point).

  • Being PCI compliant helps you to deal with additional payment brands, allowing you to provide all of your clients' preferred payment methods.

PCI DSS Compliance with Akitra!

Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today's era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that the organizations with whom they do business are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk. Compliance certification fills that need.

Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our service helps customers become certified for PCI DSS, along with other frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPPA, GDPR and NIST 800-53. Our compliance and security experts will also provide you with the customized guidance you need to confidently navigate the end-to-end compliance process. 

The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and money -- including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.

Build customer trust. Choose Akitra TODAY!‍

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