What is PCI DSS: The information you’ve been hunting for

When technologies are developing on the fly, the e-commerce industry shows no signs of slowing down its growth. The quantity of transactions is going through the roof, causing a breeding ground for hackers. So, long story short, if you are a merchant or somehow connected with virtual pays, you must go all out to keep your clients’ information on the side of caution. To achieve that sellers should follow security norms proposed by the major international payment companies. 


In 2004, such behemoths as Visa, AmEx, Discover and MasterCard created payment card industry data security standards (short for PCI DSS). This set of specifications is what businesses must comply with, no matter the income and volume of transactions. 


Since selling goods online entails a high risk of data leakages and spear-phishing, PCI DSS certification is crucial to ensure a decent level of the secured shopping experience at a store. Let’s dig deeper into this topic to identify what PCI DSS means and how to meet the requirements.

Definition of PCI DSS

The Internet is clogged with fraudsters. They grasp any opportunity to take unwatchful users to the cleaners. Regretfully, buyers can’t prevent scammers’ sneaky tactics most of the time. It is a merchant who must control them. For this very reason, PCI DSS standards were developed and frequently updated so that retailers abide by them to accept payments in a secured manner. 


So, what is PCI DSS? It is a requirements list made up of 12 demands. They are mandatory for everybody who collects, stores, processes, transfers, or somehow deals with bank cards at online and physical stores. Those norms were introduced by the PCI Security Standards Council to make sure that users’ confidential details aren’t on the line. 


If you sell on the web or run a brick-and-mortar shop, you are obliged to obtain the coveted certificate and confirm it annually. Thus, you and your clients alike can rest easy knowing your store is a safe place to purchase from. 

4 Compliance levels you need to know

It is no secret that scam machinations can rain on everybody’s parade. Running a business online would be so much easier without cybercriminals. Unfortunately, such a perfect e-commerce environment is next to impossible. That’s precisely why every store is to receive PCI DSS certification. 


On the basis of business coverage and risks, there are 4 levels of compliance. The first one is for enterprises with a high volume of operations. The fourth level will be suitable for small shops that process not so many transactions per year. However, any enterprise will be transferred to the first level if any serious data leakage occurs. 


Let’s take a look at 4 levels of compliance: 

  • Level 1. Retailers with over 6 mln transactions per year, or those who have had any problems with safety control. 
  • Level 2. Merchants with 1-6 mln payments per year. 
  • Level 3. Starting from 20 000 to 1 mln pays annually. 
  • Level 4. Under 20 000 transactions a year. 

Companies are evaluated, depending on their compliance levels. For instance, the first group is obliged to go through the external audit – an on-site assessment performed by the Qualified Security Assessor. 2-4-level merchants have to fill in a questionnaire instead of being inspected.

12 PCI DSS requirements

Cybercriminals wreak havoc on businesses regardless of their sizes and revenues. It is common knowledge that every organisation has its weak points. Plus, some companies tend to turn a blind eye to possible hazards, thereby endangering their clients. That’s why merchants are forced to maintain PCI compliance by all means. 


When failed to adhere to obligatory standards, merchants are constrained to pay the fine, which varies from $5 000 to $100,000 monthly. In the worst-case scenario, the cooperation with credit card companies may be terminated. So, PCI DSS is not a law, but sellers can’t accept online payments without it. 


As governed, retailers and those who are working with cardholders’ details must adhere to the following 12 compliance requirements: 

  1. Install firewall software to keep the users’ details on the safe side. 
  2. Steer clear of using defaults for any security-related parameters or system passwords.  
  3. Ward cardholders’ data off fraudsters by encrypting it. 
  4. When transferring any sensitive data across shared networks, it should be encrypted. 
  5. Don’t neglect the importance of exploiting the right anti-virus programs. 
  6. Monitor and regularly update the latest vulnerabilities by making avail of alert systems.  
  7. Reduce the number of those who have access to cardholders’ information. 
  8. Provide proper authorisation for everybody who accesses your system. 
  9. Make sure physical access to clients’ data is restricted. 
  10. Adopt log management.
  11. Test your security system on a regular basis. 
  12. Create and often update an awareness program for contractors and workers.

Why PCI DSS certification matters and how to obtain it

Without PCI standards, well-protected transactions are hardly feasible. In fact, card payments will be prohibited unless a company is evaluated as a secured one. PCI DSS certification is the ticket price you need to pay to enter the e-commerce world successfully when launching a retail business. 


Who will be the guilty party if your payment system is broken into? And who will be responsible for the customers’ funds loss? The answer is simple: you are fully in charge of transactions and their protection. 


PCI compliance truly matters. But don’t consider it as something difficult and impossible to achieve. Sure, you may start a long journey towards meeting every single regulation on your own, or you can go an easier way – add a payment gateway to your site. That’ll be beneficial for your enterprise, and you won’t end up barking up the wrong tree. 


Reputable aggregators adhere to the security standards, and you’d better use that to your advantage. While working with a provider, you don’t have to meet compliance requirements. The aggregator will take care of that so it will be a weight off your mind. 


These days you are spoilt for choice. The number of reliable payment providers is growing by leaps and bounds. For example, the Trannzo aggregator complies with the highest PCI level, meaning that safe transactions can be ensured even for an Amazon-like store. By the way, when choosing the right processing company, keep the compliance level in mind. It is always better to go for the first one. 


By relying on a trustworthy system, you’re making a smart move. Tranzzo codifies all the data entered on your website, preventing it from being deciphered. The procedure is called tokenization, and it is another benefit you can’t miss out on.  

Putting it all together

Security comes to the foreground no matter what kind of business you run. It is crucial for your brand to make sure every payment is 100% safe on the site. Data leakages, especially frequent ones, will take their toll on your store unless you nip them in the bud. Besides, a high churn rate, penalties, lawsuits and fines go hand in hand with poor payment system protection. 


As you already see, maintaining PCI compliance is of utmost importance for every merchant, their revenues and reputation. To get a consultation about this topic, feel free to contact our managers. They are here to clear things up for you.