What is PCI Compliance?

PCI is an acronym for the Payment Card Industry which refers to credit and debit cards that consumers use to make purchases. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a standard that has been developed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council to protect the information that is processed and transmitted by credit cards, debit cards, ATM, POS, and e-purse transactions. Originally, similar standards were developed by some of the world’s leading credit card companies including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and JCB. Over time, these companies came together to form the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council to enforce a set standard across the board.

PCI compliance means following the requirements laid out in the Data Security Standard. If a merchant is PCI compliant, it has taken extra measures to ensure that its clients’ information is secure, and consumers should feel more comfortable trusting that merchant with their credit card information. PCI compliance helps reduce credit card fraud.

The Data Security Standard outlines several objectives and 12 specific requirements that need to be met to be considered compliant with the standard. The requirements are separated under the heading of different objectives as follows:

Objective 1: Build and Maintain a Safe Network

1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data

2. Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters

Objective 2: Protect Cardholder Data

3. Protect stored cardholder data

4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks

Objective 3: Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program

5. Use and regularly update anti-virus software on all systems commonly affected by malware

6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications

Objective 4: Implement Strong Access Control Measures

8. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access

9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data

Objective 5: Regularly Monitor and Test Networks

10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data

11. Regularly test security systems and processes

Objective 6: Maintain an Information Security Policy

12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security

Each one of the requirements mentioned above has a number of specific sub-standards that are required to fulfill the more general requirement. All in all, it is said that there are about 220 sub standards that must be met by merchants to be PCI compliant. Compliance with these standards does impose additional costs on merchants which ultimately go towards protecting consumer information.