Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard | Guidelines to Follow


The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) includes several requirements. These requirements ensure the security of cardholder data. They make sure that all businesses that use, save, or share credit card information maintain a secure environment.

Payment card industry (PCI) compliance is regulated by credit card companies. It is to help ensure the security of credit card transactions in the payments industry. PCI agreement refers to technical security measures. Also, the operational standards that businesses follow to secure and protect credit card information. This information is provided by cardholders and transmitted through card processing transactions.

PCI standards for consent are set by PCI Council. Also, they are maintained by the PCI Security Standards Council. It was introduced on September 7, 2006. The aim was to manage PCI security standards. Moreover, the aim was to improve account security throughout the transaction process. A regulation is created by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB.

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) monitors and maintains the PCI DSS. Interestingly, the payment brands have to make sure about the requirements followed. Also, cardholders are responsible for enforcing compliance instead of the PCI SSC.

The PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) provides effective standards to promote payment card data security. It also provides supporting materials. For instance, specification frameworks, tools, measurements, and support resources. These products help organizations ensure the security of cardholder information at all times.

The PCI DSS is the basis of the council. Because it provides the necessary framework. That framework is for developing a complete payment card data security process. Moreover, it includes the prevention, detection, and appropriate reaction to security incidents.

Tools and Resources Available from PCI SSC:

  • Self-Assessment Questionnaires to assist organizations in validating their PCI DSS compliance.
  • PIN Transaction Security (PTS) requirements for device owners and manufacturers. Also, a list of approved PIN transaction devices.
  • Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) and a list of Validated Payment Applications to help software vendors. Some others develop secure payment applications.

Public resources:

  • Lists of Qualified Security Assessors (QSAs)
  • Payment Application Qualified Security Assessors (PA-QSAs)
  • Approved Scanning Vendors (ASVs)
  • Internal Security Assessor (ISA) education program

The Payment card industry data security standard is required by the contract to handle cardholder information. Whether you are a new venture or a multinational organization. Your business must always be compliant with these requirements. Also, your compliance must be checked annually. It is generally ensured by credit card companies. Similarly, it is discussed in credit card network agreements.

12 Requirements for PCI DSS Compliance:

If you want to protect your information, then follow these. Moreover, these requirements are operational. They are also technical. These methods will help you secure your information.

  1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder information.
  2. Do not use seller-supplied defaults for system passwords. Also, customize other security parameters.
  3. Protect stored cardholder data.
  4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder information across open and public networks.
  5. Use anti-virus web. Also, regularly update anti-virus software or programs
  6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
  7. Restrict access to cardholder information. That is done by only providing the data business needs to know.
  8. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
  9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
  10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data
  11. Regularly test security systems and processes
  12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel

1.    Use and Maintain Firewalls:

Firewalls essentially block access to external or unknown things. Whoever attempts to access the private data of a user. These security systems are the first line of protection against hackers. This first requirement makes sure that service providers and wholesalers maintain a secure system. It is checked through the proper configuration of a firewall.  The routers are also examined if applicable. Properly configured firewalls protect your card data environment. Firewalls restrict incoming and outgoing network traffic. Moreover, it applies rules and criteria configured by your organization.

Firewalls are required for PCI DSS consent. They play a good role in preventing illegal access. They provide the first line of protection for your information. Businesses should establish firewalls and router standards. That means to allow for a general process for allowing or denying access rules to the network. Configuration rules should be reviewed twice a year. It is important to ensure that there are no insecure access rules. Because these rules can allow access to the card data environment.

2.    Proper Password Protection:

Routers, devices, point of sale (POS) systems, and other products often come with general passwords. These security measures are easily accessed by the public. This method focuses on securing your organization’s networks. For instance, your servers, network devices, apps, firewalls, etc. Most of the operating systems and devices come with factory default settings. They have set usernames, passwords, and other insecure arrangement measures. These pre-set usernames and passwords are easier to guess. Similarly, most of them are even published on the Internet.

Such default passwords and other security measures are not secure per this requirement. This requirement also suggests to keep a list of all the systems. Also, record the configuration and security procedures. These procedures need to be followed every time a new system is introduced in the IT system.

Usually, businesses fail to secure these weaknesses. Ensuring security in this part includes keeping a list of all gadgets and software. All these are those which require a password. Or they have other security to access. In addition to a device/password list. Basic precautions and configurations should also be maintained. For instance, frequently changing the password.

3.    Protect Cardholder Information:

The third requirement of PCI DSS compliance is double protection of cardholder information. This is the most critical requirement of the PCI standard. It is important to know about the type of data you are going to store. You should know its location and time.

The Cardholder’s data must be encrypted and protected using:

  •  Industry-accepted algorithms/ designs. (e.g., AES-236, DSA 2673).
  • Truncated, tokenized, or hashed (e.g., SBA 25E, TUREV2).

Along with the card data encryption, this requirement also talks about a strong PCI DSS encryption key management process. You must keep secure passwords. Ensure that you set keys which no one can guess.

More often than not, specialist organizations or sellers don’t realize they store decoded primary account numbers (PAN). Therefore, using a tool like a card data discovery becomes important.

The most common locations where card data is found are log files, databases, spreadsheets, etc. There are rules on how primary account numbers should be displayed. For instance, revealing only the first six and last four digits.

Card Data must be encrypted with certain algorithms. These encodings are put into place with encryption keys. They are also required to be encrypted for compliance. Regular care and scanning of primary account numbers (PAN) are needed. That will help to ensure no unencrypted data exists.

4. Encrypt Transmitted Data:

Cardholder data is sent across different channels. For instance, entering card detail while shopping online. This method is much similar to requirement 3. In this requirement, you must secure the data about your card. Even when it is transmitted over an open or public network. For example, Internet, Bluetooth, GSM, CDMA, GPRS.

You must know where you are going to send or receive the card data. Also, you should know who you are getting data to or from. Majorly, the card data is transmitted to the payment methods, processor, etc. for processing transactions.

Cybercriminals can potentially access cardholder data when it’s shared across public networks. Encrypting cardholder data before sharing it with anyone. Do this by using a secure version of transmission protocols such as TLS, SSH, etc. They can limit the probability of such data getting hacked.

This data must be coded whenever it is sent to any receiver. Whether you know the receiver or not. Account numbers should also never be sent to people or sites that are unknown.

5. Use and Update Anti-Virus:

Installing anti-virus software is a strong way to be in sync with PCI DSS compliance. Moreover, anti-virus software is a must for all internet devices. All devices that deal with, or contain PAN must be secured. This requirement focuses on protection against all types of malware that can cause harm to the devices. All these systems must have an anti-virus program:

  • Workstations
  • Laptops
  • Mobile devices that employees may use to access the system both locally and remotely.

All these must have an anti-virus solution deployed on them. You need to ensure that anti-virus or anti-malware programs are updated regularly. They help to detect known malware. Maintaining an up-to-date anti-malware program will prevent known malware from infecting systems.

Ensure that anti-virus mechanisms are always active. It is done by using the latest signatures and generating understandable logs. This software should be regularly patched and updated. Your POS provider should tell you anti-virus measures. Or he could install where you cannot directly install it.

6. Properly Updated Software:

Firewalls and anti-virus software will require updates often. It is also an intelligent way to update every part of software in a business. Most software products will include security measures. For instance, measures such as patches to address recently discovered dangers in their updates. That adds another level of protection.

It is important to define and implement a process that allows for the identification of different risks.  Also, to classify the risk of security weaknesses in the PCI DSS environment. You can do this by classifying through reliable external sources. Organizations must limit the potential for hacking by applying critical patches on time. Try to patch all the elements stored in the card data and also its surroundings, including:

  • Operating systems
  • Firewalls, Routers, Switches
  • Application software
  • Databases
  • POS terminals

This is not all that is required. It requires you to create and execute a development process. Furthermore, the process must include security requirements in all phases of development. These updates are crucial for all software. Especially for devices that connect with or store cardholder data.

7. Restrict Amount of Data Accessed:

Cardholder data is required to be strictly for those people who need to know. Service providers and manufacturers must be able to allow or reject access to cardholder data systems. This will help implement strong access control measures.

This requirement relates to role-based access control (RBAC). RABC grants access to card data and systems on a need-to-know basis.

Need to know is an important concept within PCI DSS. Access control systems like Active Directory (LDAP) must assess each request. This is to safeguard sensitive data from those who do not need this information. You must have documented list of all the users with their roles who need to access the card data environment. This list must contain, each role, duties of that role, current authority level, and expected promotion level. Also, you must have data resources for each user to perform operations on card data.

People who do need to know about it must not even have an access to this. Only the information that is required must be well-maintained. All should be done as required by PCI DSS.

8. Set Unique IDs for Access:

Individuals who do have access to cardholder data should have individual IDs. Furthermore, they must have identification for access. For instance, there should not be a single login to the encrypted data. Because multiple employees know the username and password.

According to requirement 8, you should not use shared/group users and passwords. Every authorized user must have a unique id and password. They must be sufficiently complex. This ensures that whenever someone accesses cardholder data. Then that activity can be traced to a known user. As a result, accountability can be maintained. For all multiple access points (remote access), two-factor authorization is required.

Unique IDs create fewer security weaknesses.  It also provides a quicker response time if data is hacked.

9. Restrict Physical Access to the Data:

Any cardholder data must be physically stored in a safe place. Both data is physically written or typed. Also, the data that is digitally kept should be locked in a secure room, drawer, or cabinet. For instance, data stored in a hard drive. This requirement focuses on the protection of physical access to systems with cardholder data. Unauthorized persons could gain access to the installation to steal or disable without physical access controls. Similarly, they can enter into or destroy critical systems and the cardholder data.

It requires the use of video cameras. Or you can use electronic access control to investigate entry and exit doors of physical locations. One important location is data center. The recordings or access logs of employee movement should be recorded for at least 90 days. You need to create an access process. So that will help you differentiate between authorized visitors and employees. All removable or portable devices containing the cardholder data must be physically protected. It is necessary to destroy all media files when the business no longer needs them.

The access should be limited. Also, there are other things to do. Anytime the sensitive data is accessed, it should be kept in record to remain compliant.

10. Create and Maintain Access Records:

All events dealing with cardholder data and primary account numbers (PAN) require a log entry. Unfortunately, the most common problem in PCI DSS is poor recordkeeping of sensitive data. The weaknesses in physical and wireless networks make it easier for cybercriminals to steal card data. This requirement requires that all the systems must have the correct audit policy set. Then send the records to a central system log server. These logs must be reviewed at least daily to look for variances and suspicious activities.

Security Information and Event Monitoring tools (SIEM), can help you record system and network activities. You can also monitor records and alert of suspicious activity. PCI DSS also requires that audit trail records must meet a certain standard in terms of the information they have. Timely updating is required. Audit data must be secured. Consequently, such data must be maintained for a period no shorter than a year.

Compliance requires documenting. You must record how information enters your organization. Also, record the number of times access is needed to sensitive data. Software products to log access are also needed to ensure accuracy.

11. Scan and Test for Weaknesses:

All ten of the previous compliance methods involve the use of several software products. Or you need physical locations and a few employees for those 10 ways. As a matter of fact, many things might not work, or expire, or suffer from human error. These threats can be limited by fulfilling the PCI DSS requirement. We can do that by continuous scanning of data. Also, weakness testing is another way.

12.  Document Policies:

All the things involved in data access must be recorded. It includes equipment, software, or people involved. That is the requirement of PCI compliance. The date and time of accessing cardholder data will also be recorded. These things must be explained in detail for records:

  1. How information flows into your company?
  2. Where it is stored?
  3. How it is used after the point of sale?


Payment Card Industry Data must be protected under all situations. Nowadays, there are more threats of malware and data theft. It is better to be safe than sorry. You can adopt these 12 methods to be safe.