Since 2005, over 8,500 data breaches have led to the compromise of over 11 billion consumer records. The risk of cyberattacks looms over any online business and the harsh truth is that most of them are not prepared to face potential attacks.

From a consumer’s perspective, it is difficult to ascertain whether these online providers who so readily accept and retain their credit card information are taking the appropriate measures to secure it. Dealing with a compromise can be frustrating and time-consuming. So merchants who handle online transactions need to ensure that security measures are in place.

This is the purpose of PCI DSS – to provide an easy check on a long list of things retailers must do to ensure customers transact securely, thereby helping businesses build long-lasting and trusting relationships with their customers.

What Is PCI DSS?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)  is a set of security standards formed in 2004 by Visa, MasterCard, JCB International,  Discover Financial Services, and American Express. The compliance scheme is governed by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) and aims to secure credit and debit card transactions against data theft and fraud.

PCI certification is considered the best way to safeguard sensitive data and information, and although PCI SSC has no legal authority to compel compliance, it is a requirement for businesses that accept credit and debit card transactions.

What Is A PCI DSS Certification?

A PCI certification ensures the security of card data at your business by meeting the standards established by the PCI SSC. Some of these include best practices that are well known, such as:

  • Installation of firewalls
  • Use of anti-virus software
  • Encryption of data transmissions
  • Restricting access to cardholder data and monitoring network resources.

Divided into four levels, PCI compliance is based on the number of credit or debit cards that the business processes each year. The classification level determines what an enterprise needs to do to stay compliant.

Level 1: This applies to merchants processing more than six million real-world credit or debit card transactions each year. They must undergo an internal audit once a year, conducted by an authorized PCI auditor. Once a quarter they must also submit to a PCI scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).

Level 2: This applies to merchants who process between one and six million real-world credit or debit card transactions annually. They’re required to complete an annual assessment using a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). A quarterly PCI scan may also be required.

Level 3: This applies to merchants who process between 20,000 and one million e-commerce transactions per year. Each year, they must complete an assessment using the relevant SAQ. A PCI scan may also be required quarterly.

Level 4: This applies to merchants who process fewer than 20,000 e-commerce transactions per year, or those that process up to one million real-world transactions. A quarterly PCI scan may be required and a yearly assessment using the relevant SAQ must be completed by these merchants.

Why Is PCI DSS Compliance Important?

A PCI-compliant security system gives your customers peace of mind that your business is safe to transact with. Conversely, the cost of non-compliance, both financially and in terms of reputation, should be enough to convince any business owner to take data security seriously. A breach may result in fines from payment card companies, lawsuits, diminished sales, and a severely damaged reputation. By investing in PCI security procedures, you ensure that other aspects of your commerce are protected from malicious online actors.