PCI DSS - 12 Requirements For PCI DSS and Its Importance

by Swapnil Wale

What Does PCI DSS Mean?

When it comes to protecting sensitive financial information, the PCI Security Standards Council is the authoritative voice throughout the world. The five largest credit card networks (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) formed the Standards Council as an independent body to create security guidelines for businesses processing credit card transactions.


The PCI Security Standards Council is responsible for developing and maintaining the guidelines for protecting sensitive information related to credit card transactions (DSS).

The PCI Security Standards Council developed the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) to serve as a "minimum security standard" for protecting consumers' payment card information.

All systems, protocols, and applications that handle, store or transport cardholder data are under the purview of the PCI DSS, along with all systems used to safeguard and track access to those above.

What are the 12 Requirements for PCI DSS Compliance?

1. Use and Maintain Firewalls

Firewalls are used to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information. These safeguards serve as the initial line of protection against cybercriminals (malicious or otherwise). Because of their usefulness in thwarting hackers, firewalls are mandated for PCI DSS compliance.

2. Protect Cardholder Data

Protecting cardholder data in two ways is the third tenet of PCI DSS compliance. Specific algorithms are required for card data encryption. The encryption keys to implementing these safeguards must be encrypted to meet regulatory standards. Primary Account Numbers (PANs) must be updated and scanned routinely to detect the presence of any unencrypted information.

3. Encrypt Transmitted Data

Multiple regular channels are used to transmit cardholder data. If you send information to any addresses listed above, you should encrypt it beforehand. Also, never provide your account number in an email to an untrusted sender.

4. Proper Password Protections

Third-party equipment like routers, modems, POS systems, and others typically have default, public-facing passwords, and security settings. Companies routinely overlook these openings in security.

Keeping track of any hardware and software that requires a password is essential for ensuring compliance in this area (or other security to access). Basic security measures and setups, such as keeping track of devices and passwords, should also be put in place (e.g., changing the password).

5. Use and Maintain Anti-Virus

PCI DSS is not required, but installing anti-virus software is highly recommended. However, all devices that come into contact with and store PAN must have anti-virus software installed. These fixes and upgrades must be implemented regularly. Where anti-virus software can't be added directly, your POS supplier should still take precautions.

6. Properly Updated Software

Both anti-virus and firewall programs need frequent upgrades. Every piece of software in an organization should be kept up-to-date. As an extra layer of defense, most software product upgrades will contain security measures like patches to address previously disclosed vulnerabilities. All software on devices that handle or store cardholder data must be kept up-to-date.

7. Restrict Data Access

Need-to-know access to cardholder information is mandated. Information should be kept from employees, executives, and other parties without a legitimate need. PCI DSS mandates that responsibilities requiring sensitive data access be identified, recorded, and maintained.

8. Create and Keep Access to Records

A log entry must be made for every operation performed on cardholder data or primary account numbers (PAN). Failure to properly log and document which has accessed sensitive information is a leading cause of non-compliance.

To ensure compliance, you must record the frequency and nature of data access requests. Accurate access logging also requires software products.

9. Scan and Test for Vulnerabilities

Each of the preceding compliance criteria requires using many applications across multiple servers and, most likely, a small number of personnel. All sorts of items can break down, become obsolete, or be subject to human mistakes. Achieving PCI DSS compliance, which calls for routine scans and vulnerability testing, can help mitigate these dangers.

10. Unique Identification Codes

Those who need to access cardholder data should do so only after presenting appropriate credentials and identity. For instance, it is unacceptable for numerous employees to share the same login credentials to access encrypted data. Using unique identifiers makes data more secure and allows for a more rapid response in the case of a breach.

11. Restrict Physical Access

All cardholder information must be stored in a safe and sound place. The same precautions should be taken with data stored digitally (for example, on a hard drive) as with data stored physically (e.g., in a locked drawer or cabinet).

If you want to stay compliant, you should allow who may access the sensitive information; you also need to keep track every time someone does.

12. Document Policies

It will be necessary to keep an inventory of all hardware, software, and personnel with access. Access to cardholder data logs must also be recorded. You'll need to keep track of the information that comes into your business, where it's held, and how it's utilized after the transaction has been made.

What Does PCI DSS Protect?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires any firm that takes credit card payments to maintain specific cybersecurity measures and business practices.

Credit and debit card numbers are among the most valuable sets of information since fraud may be committed, and funds can be stolen from accounts instantly upon acquisition.

Banks and other credit card issuers are incentivized to keep credit card details safe during transmission since they will typically reimburse customers in these cases.

These companies formed the PCI Security Standards Council to provide universal guidelines for protecting credit card information online. Companies in various sectors must comply with the Council's various security standards.

For example, the Payment Card Industry PIN Transaction Security (PCI PTS) standard applies to PIN-based devices, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI PA-DSS) standard applies to the creators of software used to manage cardholder data.

Who Must Comply with PCI DSS?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is the most inclusive of the Council's standards as it applies to "any entity that stores, operates, and transmits cardholder data.

" This means any organization that accepts credit card payments, which is to say, virtually any organization that retails anything or accepts donations, must adhere to the standard.

Following the PCI DSS guidelines is a good starting point, but it's not a failsafe against hackers. It's not easy to state that a company's security is 100% compliant all the time, as compliance may be pretty complex.

Some have claimed that the PCI Security Standards Council, which represents significant credit card and payment corporations, uses PCI DSS to place the cost of enforcing security measures and addressing breaches on businesses.

Why PCI DSS is Important?

In any case, it appears to be a massive undertaking to conform to PCI Security Standards. The complex web of regulations and rules overwhelms even the largest corporations. However, with the right resources, compliance may be easier than expected.

PCI SSC claims that compliance has several advantages, especially when considering the potential dangers of non-compliance. For instance:

  • Customers who feel safe giving you their credit card details will feel more comfortable doing business with you and more likely to return if your systems are PCI compliant.
  • If you want to attract the types of investors and business partners you need, PCI Compliance is a must.
  • Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a continuing procedure that helps avoid security breaches and payment card data theft both now and in the future. PCI DSS compliance indicates participation in a worldwide payment card data security solution.
  • If you work toward PCI Compliance first, you'll be better equipped to follow other standards, including HIPAA, SOX, and others.

Who Enforces PCI DSS?

Your merchant bank will often enforce PCI DSS compliance. Discover Financial Services, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and JCB International, the five largest credit card companies, founded the PCI Standards Security Council in 2006 to oversee the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS) and ensure its continued success.