What the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Mean in 2022

The full meaning of the PCI DSS is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is a security standard instituted and maintained by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) to adequately secure transactions. The PCI SSC comprises the five founding credit card companies: MasterCard Worldwide, American Express, JCB International, Discover Financial Services, and Visa Inc.

As an open global forum, the 2006 founding PCI DSS credit card companies focus on securing credit and debit card transactions from fraud and theft. But while there isn’t any legal backing to the system yet, the 12 requirements provided by this program are to help all companies processing credit or debit card transactions secure customers’ and clients’ sensitive data from getting into the wrong hands.

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard compliance implies complying with the procedures and policies created to secure the use of credit, debit, and cash card transactions and how their data are stored and used. All merchants and service providers processing credit/debit card payment transactions are expected to be PCI DSS compliant to secure cardholders’ data.

The PCI-compliant security offers valuable assets to notify potential customers of how safe your business is for transactions. However, non-compliance can also come at a heavy price by either damaging a company’s reputation or resulting in some devastating financial loss.

So, even when the PCI DSS is not legally backed, the cost of non-compliance is enough to make any business owner prioritize data security. A single data breach can have huge repercussions on an enterprise that it may never recover from.

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A breach can lead to reducing sales drastically. It can also result in fines from payment card issuers and lawsuits. And when this happens, the company may be forced to pay extremely high subsequent charges (much more than the cost of security compliance) or stop accepting credit card transactions.

So, when you invest in PCI security, your company will be secure from different ways malicious actors may want to take advantage.   

PCI DSS Compliance Levels

There are four key levels of PCI compliance. It depends on the number range of the business processes of credit or debit card transactions. But they are mostly classified based on what each company needs to do to remain PCI adherent.

The compliance standards are set for merchants and service providers processing credit/debit card payment transactions to keep cardholders’ data secure. 

PCI DSS Compliance Level 1

This compliance level applies to merchants processing over six million real-world credit or debit cards every year. Conducted by an authorized PCI auditor, they must undergo an internal audit yearly. In addition, they are expected to also submit to a PCI scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).

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PCI DSS Compliance Level 2

This compliance level applies to merchants handling between one and six million real-world credit or debit cards yearly. They must use the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) to complete an assessment. They may also need to submit a quarterly PCI scan.

PCI DSS Compliance Level 3 

This compliance level concerns merchants handling between 20,000 and one million real-world credit or debit cards yearly. In addition, they must complete an annual assessment with SAQ and probably run a PCI scan quarterly.

PCI DSS Compliance Level 4

This compliance level applies to merchants handling less than 20,000 e-commerce transactions yearly. They are required to conduct an annual assessment using the relevant SAQ, which must be completed with a possible PCI scan.

The 12 PCI DSS Requirements

The PCI council developed the PCI DSS requirements checklist to help merchants stay secure while handling numerous credit and debit card transactions. While they are categorized under six broader goals, they are all very necessary to become PCI compliant.

Category 1: Secure Network

  1. Installation and maintenance of firewall configuration
  2. No vendor-supplied default system passwords. All security codes must be original.

Category 2: Secure Cardholder Data 

  1. Cardholder data collected must be adequately secure from unauthorized access.
  2. Cardholder data transmitted across open public networks should be encrypted from the transmission point to the point of delivery.

Category 3: Vulnerability Management

  1. All anti-virus software deployed must be updated often to reduce


  1. Secure applications and systems must be created and maintained

Category 4: Strong Access Control Systems

  1. Access to cardholder data access should be implemented on a business need-to-know basis
  2. Every potential network user must have a unique access ID with no room for a general or shared one.
  3. Cardholder data must not be easily accessible to any employee physically – restrictions must be set.
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Category 5: Network Testing and Monitoring 

  1. Every network resource and cardholder data must be tracked and monitored.
  2. Security systems should be constantly checked and tested.

Category 6: Uphold and Maintain Information Security Policies

  1. A policy addressing information security must be constantly maintained.

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