PCI Certification

PCI certification (payment card industry certification) is a requirement for many companies, especially those that wish to have the trust of the buying public. What is PCI certification and how does one get it? Here’s a rundown:

What is PCI Certification?

PCI certification is a signal that you have followed the PCI compliance regulations or PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). In order to receive certification, both the technological and administrative sides of your business process must meet the requirements.

Both internal and external factors pose a threat to the safety of credit card information that comes from your clients and customers. You must protect them in all cases, even if there are technical failures.

PCI certification is a sign to customers that you are doing all you can to protect their personal and private information – information that, if it gets into the wrong hands, can be used to steal identities or money.

How Do I Get PCI Certification?

There are six main steps one has to take to get PCI certification. Taking these steps does not necessarily mean that one will get PCI certification – it means that you are working toward it. An auditor determines whether or not you get PCI certification. You may have to do more or go deeper into the system to get the official certification.

To start toward PCI certification, take these steps in any order that feels right for your organization:

Build and Maintain a Secure Network

This is an easy place to start if an organization is starting from the bottom up, though it can be more difficult if you already have a system in place. Building and maintaining a secure network requires you to regularly test your firewall and keep your network private. You need to be able to anticipate the challenges you could face and then find fixes to them.

One of the most important parts of this step is to ensure your passwords are all secure and safe – this means taking steps so that your passwords are unique and that they change regularly.

Protect Cardholder Data

Next, stored data must be secured in order to get PCI certification. Some companies do not store data at all, which means that this step is simpler and easier. These companies are less likely to be targeted by hackers because there isn’t quite as much to gain.

Another way to protect cardholder data and achieve PCI certification is to encrypt the transmission of any and all cardholder data across all of the networks that you use, including open and public networks. Encryption makes your data incomprehensible and unusable to anyone who may be able to see it without the cryptographic keys – which would not be readily available to anyone who breaks into your system.

Start a Vulnerability Management Program

In order to meet the requirements for PCI certification, your IT team must use and update your anti-virus software on a regular basis. Frequently updating this software can protect your data against all changes that occur over a certain time. Pay attention to the news to see when and how you may need to change – big data breaches often get quite a bit of publicity. Even more importantly, this will help to keep track of PCI audits and any changes that have been found there.

The most important aspect of a vulnerability management program for PCI certification is that it helps to develop and maintain all of our applications and systems, ensuring that they are safe.

Implement Firm Access Control Measures

Another one of the most important steps towards PCI certification is to explain who, how, and why people have access to different tiers of data. Each person who gets access should need that access on a regular basis and should have a unique ID that you can trace back to the individuals. These accounts must follow all of the PCI best practices, including password encryption, authorization, authentication, password updates every 30 days, log-in time limits, and more.

When you hire new people, make sure that they know about the rules as well. Too often, people set up systems that work for existing employees but don’t pass the standards on to new employees.

Maintain an Information Security Policy

This policy should be extremely thorough, including all uses of technology, review procedures, and the processes for analysis, audits, and other administrative tasks.

PCI Certification Tools

The PCI compliance certification specifications are more than just a set of rules that you have to abide by or else. In fact, they are more like guidelines that provide a method for all companies to trace and secure all of the potential security flaws that someone may be able to exploit.

Detecting any discrepancies or problem areas can be easy using PCI certification tools like web vulnerability scanners and network scanners. These tools help you to find parts of your system that may prevent you from achieving PCI certification.

There are many PCI certification tools out there, but not all of them are up to date and some lack the necessary tools for companies at all levels of PCI certification.

PCI Certification Companies

Once you have completed a thorough examination of the list above and ensured that your organization meets the requirements, you can apply for PCI Certification. This certification comes through the banks after they have worked with a certified auditor – who can also help you if you have not achieved PCI certification. Work with Cast to help audit your software and procedures to ensure that you meet all of the requirements.

Even more importantly, it will help you with network scans, checking any of your systems for existing vulnerabilities, running regular scans between audits, identifying any new problems that can pop up, and giving yourself more time to adjust for changes in the PCI certification requirements.