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What is PCI Compliance And Why It Matters For eCommerce?

June 17, 2024


Try to visualize a world where you can shop online without having to worry about your private data getting into the wrong hands. Well, that’s made possible by PCI compliance.


But what does PCI compliance actually mean and why is it crucial? Well, if you’re unsure or feel like hitting the snooze button at the notion of complying, hear us out.


We’re explaining what it is and why it’s important in our digital world.



What Is PCI Compliance?


Any online shopper has probably come across the term PCI Compliance. When you make those online transactions or swipe your card at a store, this nifty little security feature makes sure your financial information is kept safe. It’s like having a bouncer watch the entrance to a VIP party for your credit card information.


Let’s break it down a bit further.


Payment Card Industry compliance, or PCI compliance, refers to a set of guidelines and requirements set out by the major credit card companies. The idea of PCI compliance was formed when they got up, united together, and decided to take it upon themselves to keep everyone’s sensitive information safe and secure.


Payment Card Industry compliance

PCI compliance makes sure that companies are following safety measures and procedures.


Now, these guidelines are not merely suggestions. When it comes to handling credit card data, they’re almost like the law of a country. In order to avoid any unauthorized access, theft, or tampering with cardholder information, businesses must put in place necessary safety practices.


And, these requirements must be met by every company accepting credit cards, whether it’s a huge international organization or a quaint mom-and-pop store.


Businesses can also be subjected to assessments and audits by qualified security assessors to ensure compliance. These people guard your data and ensure that companies follow regulations, acting as the knights of the digital realm. What’s more, to employ PCI, companies must do things like encrypt data during transmission, store it securely, and periodically check and test their systems for weaknesses.


A pretty reasonable set of rules, if you ask us.



Why Does PCI Compliance Matter For E-commerce?


PCI compliance keep cardholder information safe

PCI Compliance is generally used to keep cardholder information safe.


Is PCI compliance really that important? The short answer is yes, and here’s why:


  • Protects precious data
    When customers shop on e-commerce websites, they place their trust in businesses. It’s crucial for businesses to maintain that trust by ensuring the security of consumer data. By adhering to PCI compliance, businesses can provide a safe and secure environment for their customers, giving them peace of mind when making purchases online.
  • Avoids costly data breaches
    For any company, data breaches can turn into a nightmare. And, non-compliance with PCI standards raises the possibility of this risk, which could end up in the theft of cardholder data, financial losses, and legal issues. Lessen their risk of being a victim of such breaches (and the hassles that go along with them) by complying with PCI regulations.
  • Compliance is mandatory
    Major credit card issuers have made PCI compliance a requirement for organizations that process credit card transactions. Penalties, fines, higher transaction costs, and even losing the ability to accept credit card payments could result from non-compliance.
  • Builds trust and confidence
    Customers are reassured that their security is valued when they notice that a website is PCI compliant. And when a good reputation is established, customers are more likely to come back.
  • Enhances security practices
    PCI compliance pushes companies to embrace strong security policies; it’s more than just a box to be checked. Encryption, secure networks, routine monitoring, and vulnerability assessments are just a few examples of security measures that can be put in place by complying with the standards (P.S. you’ll be happy to know that a lot of the best web hosts follow this too!)


    As a result, these procedures not only protect client data but also improves overall cybersecurity, making it more difficult for hackers to get access to systems.

  • Expands business opportunities
    In the realm of e-commerce, PCI compliance can often be a necessity for partnerships and collaborations. Being compliant makes it possible to collaborate with banks, payment processors, and other businesses that place a high priority on security.



How Do You Become PCI Compliant?


PCI compliant

There’s a step-by-step process that you have to follow to be PCI compliant.


PCI compliance can appear to be an overwhelming challenge, but don’t worry! We’ll go through each step of the process and explain to you what they mean.


  1. Understand your merchant level and compliance requirements
    To start things off, you first need to figure out the different levels of PCI compliance (going in blindly will just make the process a lot longer and more complicated). You see, PCI compliance is divided into multiple categories, depending on how many transactions a company handles annually. Level 1 is the highest level, and Level 4 is the lowest. Your merchant level dictates the specific standards and validation process that you have to stick to.
  2. Fill out a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ)
    Now that you know your merchant level, you can finally do a self-assessment. The SAQ is a questionnaire designed to assess your compliance with the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). You can find it in the official PCI DSS site’s document library by simply searching for SAQ in the search bar. Here, you are questioned in detail about your security procedures and infrastructure. The SAQ also enables you to evaluate your own compliance and see whether you need extra procedures or validation for compliance.
  3. Conduct a vulnerability scan
    After that, it’s time to check how secure your systems are. So, depending on your merchant level, you could be required to perform quarterly vulnerability scans. These scans assist in locating any potential security holes or flaws that could be exploited by hackers. It’s like thoroughly checking your digital castle to make sure there are no secret entrance points.
  4. Implement necessary security measures
    Then, after finding loopholes, you have to fix them of course. After all, PCI compliance is all about applying the specified security procedures outlined in the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). These safety measures include things like access control regulations, secure network settings, routine system monitoring, and encryption of cardholder data.
  5. Validate compliance
    Next, depending on your level of compliance, you could be required to go through a formal validation process. This typically means hiring a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) to evaluate your systems and verify your compliance. Your documentation will be examined, on-site audits will be conducted, and a report outlining your compliance status will be given by the QSA.
  6. Submit compliance documentation
    After doing all of the necessary steps and meeting the standards, you’ll need to send your compliance documents to the bank or payment processor that you’re trying to work with. Then, they’ll look over your paperwork to see if you’re in compliance.


With that said, keep in mind that achieving and maintaining PCI compliance requires constant effort. You’ll need to run vulnerability scans, evaluate and update your security procedures regularly, and keep up with any changes to the PCI DSS standards.



Spending on PCI Compliance Assessment


PCI compliance assessments

You can rest easy knowing that you’re getting your money’s worth with PCI compliance assessments.


Depending on your company’s size, complexity, and the services you offer, the costs related to PCI compliance could vary. For instance, you’re likely to spend less for a small dropshipping site as compared to a fancy fashion website.


Now, let’s take a look at some of the expenses that you could encounter:


  • Self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) tools
    SAQ tools make it a lot easier for you to get through the SAQ procedure, but they’re usually expensive. On the other hand, they’re still a great investment thanks to the amount of time you’ll save.
  • Security enhancements
    To comply with PCI DSS rules, you might need to spend money on security enhancements or extra services. This could involve installing firewalls, using encryption software, or updating your hardware and system.
  • External assessments
    It costs money to hire a qualified security assessor (QSA) for the validation procedure. And, the QSA’s fees will vary depending on the complexity of your systems and the extent of the assessment.


Although costs can vary, it’s crucial to keep in mind that investing in PCI compliance is a great investment for the safety and reliability of your business.



PCI Compliance Helps Keep Information Safe and Secure


PCI compliance is really important when it comes to keeping credit card information secure during online purchases. If these rules are not followed, there can be serious consequences such as penalties, fines, increased costs, and even the possibility of losing the ability to accept payments. Moreover, a data breach can severely damage an organization’s reputation, leading to a loss of customer trust, decreased sales, and potentially even the downfall of the entire company.


That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize PCI compliance. As you continue to grow and establish yourself in the digital world, it becomes even more important to protect yourself from individuals with malicious intentions. By adhering to PCI standards, you can ensure smoother operations and bring yourself closer to achieving your business goals!