What Is PCI Compliance and Why Is It Important?

In response to the rise in fraud and identity theft associated with credit cards, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa International took an initiative in 2005 to institute a consistent data security mechanism for all major stakeholders including banks, credit card service providers, financial institutions and merchants. As a result, PCI compliance standards were developed to ensure better security and protection of personal information during the payment process whether online or in stores. The PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards were further revised and improved in September 2006 and the final document provides more detailed Data Security Standards (DSS) for merchants. In simple words, PCI compliance ensures better security during an online or in store transaction with credit cards.

PCI Compliance Requirements

The PCI security standards include layers of protection that needs to be ensured by financial institutions, merchants and service providers while processing funds using credit cards. These standards include a comprehensive set of requirements from any company interested in processing payments through credit cards like:

  • Maintaining policies like Information Security Policy.
  • Procedures related to implementing Access Control Measures.
  • Security management like maintaining a secure network.
  • Software Design that can protect cardholder data.
  • Network architecture and regular monitoring & testing of networks.
  • Maintaining a vulnerability management program.

Companies that practice and follow PCI standards need to perform activities that can validate their compliance which include onsite review and quarterly scans by qualified data security companies (QDSCs). Beside PCI standard, there are some other data security regulations for merchants like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Accountability Act, but PCI standard is considered as the most accurate, precise and easy to follow even for small merchants.

Why PCI Compliance is Important?

The primary goal of setting up PCI standards was to provide better security during payment card transactions, but today PCI compliance has become a norm and standard in card processing industry. Failing to comply with the set standards for every transaction can result in heavy fines from banks or credit card companies up to thousands of dollars. In some cases, banks or credit card providers can stop providing the services to merchants completely.

Today, complying with PCI standards is an industry norm. It has become a symbol of good business practice and is used to ensure quality levels that clients can trust. PCI compliance also ensures better delivery of financial services to clients and reduces the risk associated with funds transactions. Customers can feel comfortable when doing transaction with company that complies with PCI DSS even when sharing their personal information.

Today, security is an essential part of customer services provided by any company and PCI compliance can project any merchant as a business that is serious about customer's security and protection of their personal data. In simple words, compliance with data security standards like PCI means more customers for businesses today.

Not only with customers, but PCI compliance can bring more recognition and better reputation with banks, financial institutions and credit card providers. In simple words, PCI compliance is important today for any online business to gain trust of their clients, to have better relations with financial institutes and to avoid fines from banks and credit card providers.

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