Understanding PCI DSS compliance in 2024 – A guide for UK businesses

Last updated on 8 December 2023

As a business that accepts payments, you may have come across the term “PCI DSS compliance” and wondered exactly what it means. In a nutshell, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

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If your business handles credit or debit card transactions, you need to be aware of the PCI DSS regulations to ensure you’re safeguarding your customers’ information and abiding by the law.

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Here’s what you need to know about PCI DSS compliance in 2024.

Understanding PCI DSS compliance

PCI DSS is a globally recognised standard established by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC).

Compliance with this standard signifies that your business follows the necessary procedures to ensure customer card data is held securely.

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Failure to adhere to PCI DSS could result in data breaches, heavy fines, and potential loss of the ability to accept card payments.

The 12 requirements of PCI DSS

PCI DSS compliance is based on 12 core requirements, divided into six categories.

They cover areas such as building and maintaining a secure network, protecting cardholder data, maintaining a vulnerability management programme, implementing robust access control measures, regularly monitoring and testing networks, and maintaining an information security policy.

Changes in PCI DSS for 2023

The PCI SSC regularly updates the PCI DSS to respond to the evolving threat landscape and changes in technology.

In 2023, there has been an increased emphasis on encryption, tokenisation, the use of multi-factor authentication for all remote access, and maintaining regular penetration testing.

The council also encourages the adoption of a continuous compliance approach rather than treating compliance as a once-a-year assessment.

Choosing a PCI DSS-compliant payment provider

If your business uses a payment provider to process card transactions, you should ensure they are PCI DSS compliant.

This not only saves you the technical and administrative burden of compliance but also ensures the transactions you process are secure.

However, remember that using a compliant provider does not entirely absolve you of your compliance responsibilities. You still need to ensure that your internal processes and systems are secure.

Training and awareness

Educating your employees about the importance of PCI DSS is crucial. Everyone in your organisation who handles cardholder data should understand the implications of non-compliance and be well-versed in the procedures necessary for maintaining security.

Regular audits

Regular audits are essential to maintain your PCI DSS compliance. They help identify any potential weaknesses in your security measures and ensure you’re consistently meeting the required standards.

It’s often beneficial to engage a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) to conduct these audits, as they have expert knowledge of the PCI DSS requirements.

Final words

In conclusion, maintaining PCI DSS compliance is not just a legal obligation but also a vital component of building trust with your customers.

By adhering to these standards, you can ensure that your business provides a secure payment environment, mitigates the risk of data breaches, and avoids potential financial penalties.

Keep abreast of the latest developments in PCI DSS, train your staff, and carry out regular audits to ensure ongoing compliance. In doing so, your business will continue to thrive in an increasingly digitised marketplace.

FAQ

What is PCI DSS?

PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which is a set of security standards designed to ensure that companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

Who is required to comply with PCI DSS?

Any business that handles credit or debit card transactions, regardless of size or number of transactions, needs to comply with PCI DSS.

What are the 12 requirements of PCI DSS?

The 12 requirements, grouped into six categories, include: building and maintaining a secure network, protecting cardholder data, maintaining a vulnerability management programme, implementing robust access control measures, regularly monitoring and testing networks, and maintaining an information security policy.

How often does PCI SSC update the PCI DSS?

PCI SSC reviews and updates the standard every few years to respond to the evolving threat landscape and changes in technology. However, minor updates or clarifications may occur more frequently.

What are the consequences of not being PCI DSS compliant?

Non-compliance can lead to data breaches, heavy fines, potential loss of the ability to accept card payments, and reputational damage.

What is the role of a payment provider in PCI DSS compliance?

A PCI DSS-compliant payment provider processes card transactions securely on your behalf. However, this does not entirely absolve you of compliance responsibilities as you still need to ensure your internal processes and systems are secure.

What does tokenisation mean?

Tokenisation is a method of protecting sensitive data by replacing it with unique identification symbols (tokens) that retain all the essential information without compromising security.

Why is employee training important for PCI DSS compliance?

Employees who handle cardholder data play a critical role in maintaining security. Training ensures they understand the importance of compliance and are well-versed in the necessary security procedures.

What is the purpose of PCI DSS audits?

Regular audits help ensure that you are consistently meeting the PCI DSS requirements, identify any potential weaknesses in your security measures, and maintain ongoing compliance.

What is a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA)?

A QSA is a professional certified by the PCI SSC to audit merchants for PCI DSS compliance.

Is PCI DSS compliance a one-time thing?

No, PCI DSS compliance is not a one-off event. It’s an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and regular audits.

How can I prove my business is PCI DSS compliant?

Businesses can demonstrate compliance by completing a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ), having an on-site audit by a QSA, or undergoing a network scan by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV), depending on the volume of transactions they process.

How can I stay updated with changes in PCI DSS?

You can stay updated by frequently visiting the official PCI SSC website, subscribing to their newsletters, or attending PCI SSC-led webinars and community meetings.

What is multi-factor authentication in the context of PCI DSS?

Multi-factor authentication is a security system that requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user’s identity for a login or other transaction.

What is encryption in the context of PCI DSS?

Encryption is a method of converting data into code to prevent unauthorised access. In the context of PCI DSS, it’s used to protect cardholder data, especially when it’s stored or transmitted.

Can small businesses be exempt from PCI DSS compliance?

No, even small businesses that accept card payments must be PCI DSS compliant. The level of validation required can vary depending on the volume of transactions processed.

What is a data breach?

A data breach is an incident where information is accessed without authorisation. It’s one of the security threats that PCI DSS aims to prevent.

Can PCI DSS compliance guarantee that my business will not suffer a data breach?

While PCI DSS significantly reduces the risk of a data breach, no set of standards or practices can entirely eliminate the possibility. Compliance should be part of a broader approach to data security.

What is an information security policy in the context of PCI DSS?

An information security policy, in the context of PCI DSS, is a set of guidelines that govern the receipt, handling, transmission, and storage of cardholder data in your business.

Are mobile payments subject to PCI DSS compliance?

Yes, mobile payment solutions must also comply with PCI DSS when they accept, process, store or transmit cardholder data.

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