PCI DSS Certification – What is It and Why Does It Matter?

PCI DSS Certification is an important thing for organizations and businesses to possess – but why? Here’s a rundown of the regulations and rules for PCI DSS certification.

What is PCI DSS Certification?


Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of policies and procedures that are widely accepted as the best way to optimize the security of card related transactions – credit cards, debit cards, and cash cards. The goal is to prevent people from getting this personal information and then misusing it. The PCI DSS was created as a collaboration between the four major credit card companies: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa.

PCI DSS Compliance Certification

PCI DSS compliance certification is a badge of honor that shows PCI compliance has been implemented on both the administrative and technological sides of the business process. You have implemented both when it comes to company employees on all levels handling customer data and processing transactions.

This is important to remember because in many cases, the systems are compromised from the inside rather than the outside – people who work within the company are the ones committing the crimes. Businesses must be able to keep track of any changes or information that has been illegally acquired. To do this, technical back-ups need to occur as well as backups of all sensitive data. All of the information saved in these back-ups needs to be encrypted and stored in such a way that it can only be accessed, at maximum, by administrators or management that has been authorized.

PCI DSS Compliance Checklist

In order to meet the PCI DSS compliance checklist requirements to get PCI DSS Certification, there are six main steps that an organization needs to take:

Build and Maintain a Secure Network

To do this step, you must install and maintain a firewall configuration that protects all cardholder data. You will need to test the firewall regularly as well as keep your network private. Make sure to anticipate any problems that you may encounter.

The next step is to ensure that your passwords on all aspects of your system have been changed from the factory standard. Even more importantly, you want to change those passwords regularly so that any hacks you have not detected won’t have access to your information for long periods of time.

Protect Cardholder Data

The next step is to protect all stored data – if you store it at all. Some companies do not have a need or a desire to store any data. For most companies, this is a better option because you are avoiding a possible security break altogether. These companies are less likely to be targeted as well. If you do store credit card data, PCI DSS certification requires multiple layers of defense and a secure data protection model – one that has both virtual and physical security.

Another way to protect cardholder data and achieve PCI DSS Certification is to encrypt the transmission of cardholder data across all networks, including open and public networks. Encryption makes your data unreadable 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 DSS certification, you must use and regularly update your anti-virus software. Frequently updating this software will protect against all changes to the malware and any other changes that can pop up. 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 DSS certification is that it helps to develop and maintain your applications and systems, ensuring that they are safe.

Implement Strict Access Control Measures

This is the most important step on the checklist to ensure PCI DSS certification. You need to know who and what interacts with the data that you store. In order to do this, you need to restrict access to any and all cardholder data to only those that need to know it. Each person who does access the information 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.

You absolutely must track and monitor all access to any and all network resources and cardholder data. In order to keep this process safe, you must test and monitor the process, especially if you have data hosting.

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 DSS Compliance List: What Now?

Once you have completed a thorough examination of the list above and ensured that your organization meets the requirements, you can apply for PCI DSS Certification. This certification comes through the banks. 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 to the PCI DSS certification requirements.

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