PCI DSS Compliance Checklist – 12 Requirements Explained

PCI DSS Compliance Checklist – 12 Requirements Explained. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a regulatory standard for organizations that handle or process card payments. Firstly, this standard is intended for companies that process, store, or transmit debit or credit card information. Secondly, it aims to maintain the highest possible credit card security and safeguard persons against fraud.

So, any business that processes debit or credit card transactions should comply with the PCI DSS requirements. All in all, PCI DSS provides an ideal framework for handling card payments securely. This article discusses the PCI DSS compliance requirements along with best practices. 

Shall we start with PCI DSS Compliance Checklist – 12 Requirements Explained. Read on!

12 Requirements for PCI DSS Compliance Checklist

PCI DSS Compliance Checklist – 12 Requirements Explained

Basically, any organization handling card payments, whether credit or debit, must comply with the following 12 requirements:

1. Implement Strong Passwords

First on the list of PCI DSS Compliance Checklist – 12 Requirements Explained is to create secure passwords for all systems affecting cardholder involvement. Additionally, organizations should not use vendor supplied defaults for system passwords, as they are easy to hack or known by hackers. Instead, you ought to implement appropriate password policies for business systems.

Generally, network devices such as POS systems, routers, modems, and servers come with default passwords. Basically, you should change these default passwords as soon as you implement them, as they are vulnerable to hackers.

2. Configure Firewall

Next is to configure a firewall. After all, it is the first line of defence against malicious hackers trying to gain access to crucial data. Also, PCI DSS requires organizations to configure a firewall to block unauthorized network access. The firewall should reside between wireless and cardholder data environments. Therefore, you should install the firewall and configure it only to allow permitted traffic into the cardholder data environment. s As a result, the firewall should also block outbound traffic from the cardholder data environment to the internet. Besides, installing the firewall, you should update and maintain it regularly. 

During firewall configuration, you should establish a formal process to validate all network connections. This standard requires you to review router and firewall rules every six months. 

3. Protect Stored Cardholder Data

Certainly, PCI DSS requires comprehensive protection for cardholder data. Ideally, you need to use a variety of security measures to safeguard data proactively. This includes one way hashing, tokenization, truncation, and robust data encryption. 

As noted, Tokenization ensures that you do not store data in its raw form. Concurrently, it replaces card numbers with tokens that render data meaningless to unauthorized users. On the other hand, encrypting data at rest makes it unreadable unless decrypted using special keys. 

4. Encrypt Cardholder Data in Transit

Every time the cardholder data is transmitted across multiple channels, it is whenever a payment is made. Consequently, PCI DSS requires that all payment data in transit has to be encrypted. You ought to adopt point to point encryption (P2PE) to prevent data interception by adversaries. 

5. Use Antivirus and Update Regularly

Under PCI DSS, you must deploy antivirus software in the cardholder data environment. To ensure your data is entirely secure, update the antivirus regularly. Concurrently, this standard requires that you set automated antivirus system scans. Ideally, antivirus software helps protect your data against malware. It also protects your system against rootkits, spyware, adware, Trojans, and worms. 

6. Develop Secure Systems and Applications

To comply with PCI DSS, it is vital to create secure systems and applications that process cardholder data. Besides developing secure systems, you should also establish a patching process. Hence, the organization should perform software patching for the cardholder data environment. Equally, you should patch all application software, databases, operating systems, routers and switches, firewalls, and POS terminals.

7. Restrict Physical Access to Cardholder Data

At the same time, you should permanently restrict physical access to cardholder data. This requirement applies to physical storage systems such as disks that can be stolen, disabled, or destroyed maliciously. Ideally, you should secure physical locations and data centers with cardholder data and install video cameras and electronic access control to monitor entry and user activity.

8. Restrict Data Access to 'Need to Know'

Further, PCI DSS requires access to data strictly on a “need to know” basis. Company staff and executives who do not need access to data should not gain access. In addition, any roles that access cardholder data need proper documentation. Indeed, you should provide role based access control to the cardholder data environment.

The most effective way is to implement an access control system, i.e., LDAP or Active Directory. These control systems should access each user request and prevent access to users who do not require the information. Also, you should have a well documented list of all users with access to cardholder data. Include their roles and privilege levels, role definitions, and permissions to perform operations on cardholder data.

9. Assign a Unique ID for System Access

Unlike other requirements that allow group permissions, PCI DSS requires you to assign unique user IDs to persons who access cardholder data. In essence, you should not assign group users and passwords. With a unique user ID, you should easily track user activity and maintain accountability. Besides, you should maintain multi factor authentication for users with non console users.

10. Track and Monitor Access to Cardholder Data

Even so, PCI DSS requires all organizations that handle card payments to implement the right monitoring and auditing tools. Basically, you should have an audit policy for all logs. You should review all logs daily for any suspicious activities or anomalies. 

Ideally, you should implement Security Information and Event Monitoring Tools (SIEM) for logging. Besides, you should secure and maintain the audit data for more than a year. 

11. Test Security Systems Regularly

Likewise, PCI DSS requires card payment handlers to test business systems and processes for vulnerabilities continually. You should test all systems frequently to maintain the maximum security possible. Ideally, you should perform the following security tests:

  • Perform internal vulnerability scans at least quarterly.
  • Perform thorough penetration tests on networks and applications.
  • Use a wireless analyser scan to detect and identify any unauthorized wireless access points.
  • Scalp all domains and IPs in the cardholder data environment.

Besides these scans, you should also monitor files regularly to detect any unauthorized changes.

12. Maintain Information Security Policies

Lastly, PCI DSS requires users to implement security policies for all company employees and executives. You should create an information security policy detailing each security process and responsibility for all relevant parties. Also, you must review the information policy at least yearly.

The information security policy should contain the following:

  • Incident management process.
  • Employee background checks.
  • Security awareness training.
  • Annual risk assessment.

In essence, you need proper documentation of all business and security processes, if you handle card payments.

Benefits of PCI DSS Compliance

These PCI DSS compliance requirements can be challenging to meet, especially for large organizations that handle numerous card payments. However, being compliant comes with lots of benefits, including:

Increased Business Reputation

Customers want to interact with businesses that guarantee them maximum data security. As a result, being PCI DSS compliant sends the right signal to customers that you are a reputable company. Later, it increases customer trust and potentially leads to repeat customers.

Preventing Security Breaches

These requirements are designed to help organizations eliminate the risk of security breaches. They help prevent payment card data theft that would otherwise be detrimental to your customers.

Helps Avoid Expensive Lawsuits

Failure to comply with these requirements for card payment handlers can lead to lawsuits and hefty fines. Data breaches resulting from PCI DSS non-compliance can attract fines going up to millions of dollars. In addition, it can potentially lead to the loss of business licenses. 

Accelerates Compliance With Global Data Standards

For that reason, PCI DSS aligns with other global data security standards. Complying with PCI DSS makes you automatically compliant with other standards with similar requirements.

Thank you for reading PCI DSS Compliance Checklist – 12 Requirements Explained. We shall conclude. 

PCI DSS Compliance Checklist - 12 Requirements Explained Conclusion

At first, complying with the above requirements can seem an uphill task. However, once you set the right systems and processes in place, you can easily become compliant. Heightened card data security prevents breaches, increases business security, and helps avoid hefty fines. 

For more cyber security and compliance tips please read our blog. 

Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x