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How to Build a PCI-DSS Compliant System

Nowadays, protecting sensitive payment card data is extremely important.

And if you’re a business that handles payment card data and wants to safeguard it, you need a comprehensive system compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).

But building a PCI-DSS compliant system requires a comprehensive approach to ensure the highest level of security and protect sensitive financial information.

Therefore, in this article, we will dive into the various aspects of building a PCI-DSS compliant system and explore the different requirements and measures companies should know to maintain information security and prevent data breaches.

What Is PCI-DSS and How to Become PCI Compliant?

PCI-DSS represents the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is a set of security norms developed by several credit card corporations, such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, and maintained by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council.

PCI-DSS compliant system

The primary goal of PCI-DSS is to establish a comprehensive framework that helps businesses and companies handling payment card information to maintain the security of cardholder data and prevent cyberattacks.

All organizations that keep, process, or transfer payment card data, including merchants, financial institutions, payment processors, and service providers, are obliged to comply with PCI-DSS.

Non-compliance with PCI-DSS can result in financial sanctions, higher transaction fees, and many other costs as organizations may need to implement more extensive measures to catch up with the standards later.

To achieve PCI-DSS compliance, companies must undergo regular security assessments. This may include self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs) for smaller businesses or on-site assessments by qualified security assessors (QSAs) for larger merchants.

The PCI-DSS is categorized into four levels based on the yearly number of payment card transactions handled by a merchant or service provider.

These levels help determine the level of security assessment and compliance testing required by an organization. The PCI-DSS levels are as follows:

Level 1:

  • Description: Level 1 applies to merchants or service providers that process the highest annual volume of payment card transactions. This includes companies that process more than 6 million Visa or Mastercard transactions per year, as well as any merchants that have experienced a data breach that compromised cardholder data.
  • Compliance Requirements: Level 1 vendors must undergo an annual on-site assessment by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA). They also need to submit a Report on Compliance (ROC) to prove compliance with the standard.

Level 2:

  • Description: Level 2 applies to vendors that service from 1 million to 6 million transactions every year.
  • Compliance Requirements: Level 2 vendors must undergo an annual self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) or a quarterly network scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) to pass their compliance with PCI-DSS.

Level 3:

  • Description: Level 3 applies to vendors that service from 20,000 to 1 million e-commerce transactions annually.
  • Compliance Requirements: Similar to Level 2, Level 3 merchants must undergo an annual self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) or quarterly network scans by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).

Level 4:

  • Description: Level 4 applies to vendors or service providers that process fewer than 20,000 e-commerce transactions yearly or up to 1 million transactions via other channels (e.g., brick-and-mortar stores).
  • Compliance Requirements: Level 4 merchants are obliged to fill out a yearly self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) to assess their compliance with PCI-DSS. In some cases, they may need to conduct quarterly network scans by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).

How to Be PCI Compliant: Software Development Security Requirements

Software Development Security Requirements refer to the specific measures and best practices that organizations must follow throughout the software development life cycle.

Software Development Security Requirements

These requirements are important for protecting sensitive data and preventing security weaknesses and potential data breaches.

In the context of PCI compliance, software development security requirements play a vital role in building a secure system that adheres to the PCI-DSS.

Let’s go over the key PCI compliance software development security requirements.

Static Code Analysis

The first essential security requirement is conducting static code analysis.

This process involves scanning the source code of applications by officially approved SCA providers to identify security weaknesses and coding errors early in the development lifecycle.

By fixing these issues prior to deployment, companies can reduce the risk of potential data breaches and provide a more secure system.