Over the last year, many organizations struggled to secure their private data against cyber threats as they rushed to adapt to pandemic-inspired shifts in workforce and operations. Cybercrime is becoming increasingly prevalent, and the sophistication and volume of cyberattacks are escalating. According to a report, over 300 million ransomware attacks occurred in 2020.1


Dealing with a cybersecurity disaster is challenging and brings forth a lot of uncertainty, especially when it involves financial and reputational damage. This holds for all organizations, tiny and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). SMBs are increasingly becoming prime targets for hackers because they consider these organizations to have insufficient expertise and resources to prevent and respond to attacks.


Now, more than ever, it is critical for business owners to protect their customers' personal information, especially as we approach the holiday season when individuals purchase a lot more than at any other time of the year.


This is where the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) finds its relevance.


Why Is PCI-DSS Important?


Organizations accepting payment cards and handling, transmitting, or retaining payment card data must comply with PCI-DSS. It is crucial for data security because practically every business accepts credit or debit cards as payment.


The PCI-DSS's directives limit the risk of credit and debit card data loss. It helps avoid identity theft and includes best practices for recognizing, preventing, and resolving data incidents.


PCI-DSS compliance also safeguards a company in case of a data breach in which cardholder data is exposed. SMBs that comply with PCI-DSS are recognized by Visa, Mastercard, Discover, JCB, and American Express, all of which are pioneers in establishing this information security standard.


Failure to comply with PCI-DSS can result in penalties that prevent a company from dealing with card data.

PCI-DSS has 12 requirements:


  1. Maintain firewalls for business devices.

Firewalls efficiently prevent unauthorized entities from accessing sensitive data. These anti-hacking systems are usually the first line of protection against intruders.


  1. Change vendor-supplied passwords

Hackers can easily crack generic passwords in products like routers and point-of-sale (POS) terminals. As a result, organizations must change vendor-supplied passwords to comply with PCI-DSS and keep track of password-required equipment.


  1. Encrypt transmissions of consumer data

When transferring card data over an open or public network, you must encrypt it and know where it will be sent to and received.


  1. Use updated antivirus software.

Antivirus software must be installed on all systems, both on-site and off-site. In addition, to detect complex viral threats, you must keep them updated regularly.


  1. Protect stored consumer data.

All cardholder data must be encrypted, truncated, tokenized, or hashed using industry-standard techniques backed by a robust encryption essential management process.


  1. Restrict access to consumer data.

Access to cardholder data should be denied to anyone who does not require it for essential tasks.


  1. Maintain secure systems and apps.

Safety must be ensured for systems or applications that store, process or transmit cardholder data.


  1. Make cardholder data available only on a need-to-know basis

For effective access control, you must be able to grant and restrict access to cardholder data systems.


  1. Create a unique ID for every person with business computer access

Ensure that each authorized user has a unique identifier and a complex password. This ensures that any access to cardholder data can be traced back to a recognized user, ensuring accountability.


  1. Monitor access to the network and consumer data.

All systems must have good audit policies and logs sent to a secure central server. A daily inspection of these logs helps detect anomalies and suspicious activity.


  1. Test data security regularly

Testing regularly ensures that your environment is evolving to meet the ever-changing threat landscape.


  1. Maintain a data security policy.

You must have an information security policy in place that is reviewed at least once a year and communicated to all employees, vendors, and contractors.


The PCI Compliance Levels


Four levels of PCI compliance are determined by the number of transactions an organization processes each year.


Level 1 Merchants

They process over six million card transactions through all channels yearly (card present, card not present, eCommerce).


Level 2 Merchants

They process about one to six million card transactions through all channels yearly (card present, card not present, eCommerce).


Level 3 Merchants

They process between 20,000 and one million card transactions annually through all channels (card present, card not present, eCommerce).


Level 4 Merchants

They process up to one million card transactions per year across all channels (card present, card not present,

and eCommerce), with no more than 20,000 card transactions per year processed through eCommerce.


If you own a business that accepts, transmits, or stores any cardholder data, you must take PCI-DSS seriously and comply with all regulations.


When you're trying to figure everything out on your own, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Working with a specialist like us gives you the benefit of having a compliance expert in your corner. We regularly conduct assessments to verify compliance and make your compliance journey much more accessible. Reach out to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.



  1. Statista