PCI Compliance

Prove compliance with even the most confusing PCI DSS requirements using time-saving solutions that help you protect customers and avoid fines.

What Is PCI DSS?

Tablet with security check

PCI DSS, or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, is the comprehensive set of requirements designed to ensure that any company that processes, stores, or transmits credit card information does so by maintaining a secure environment. The requirements were established to help prevent payment data breaches and payment card fraud.

The PCI standards cover both technical solutions as well as the operational practices and processes that are included in, or are connected to, cardholder data systems.

An independent body, the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), made up of major payment companies, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB, administers and manages this standard. However, enforcing the compliance of PCI DSS is the responsibility of the individual payment brands.

The council provides the comprehensive standards and support to help ensure sensitive cardholder information security is upheld. The PCI DSS serves as a framework for organizations to develop and maintain a data security process for payments that includes prevention, detection, and appropriate responses to any security incidents.


What Is Included in PCI DSS Security Standards?

There are 12 requirements for PCI DSS compliance designed to protect and secure cardholder data. Addressing each of these within your own unique IT environment is the challenge and one often solved with layered security solutions, or a suite of data security solutions.

The 12 requirements of PCI DSS are:

  1. Install and maintain network security controls to protect cardholder data.
  2. Apply secure configurations to all system components.
  3. Protect stored cardholder data.
  4. Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
  5. Protect all systems and networks from malicious software.
  6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
  7. Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know.
  8. Identify users and authenticate access.
  9. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
  10. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
  11. Regularly test security systems and networks.
  12. Maintain a policy that addresses information security for all personnel.

Who Needs to Comply with PCI DSS?


Any organization – from the mom-and-pop coffee shop to enterprises that span the globe – that accepts, transmits, processes, or stores payment cards or cardholder data needs to adhere to the PCI DSS. There are, however, differences in the level of PCI compliance that is required, depending on an organization’s transaction volume in a given year.

What Are the Different levels of PCI Compliance?

While ALL organizations that accept, transmit, process, or store cardholder data, are subject to the requirements of PCI DSS, there are four distinct levels of compliance required by individual organizations. These levels are based on transaction volume over a 12-month period:

Level 1:

Merchants processing over 6 million card transactions annually

Level 2:

Merchants processing 1 to 6 million transactions annually

Level 3:

Merchants processing 20,000 to 1 million transactions annually

Level 4:

Merchants processing fewer than 20,000 transactions annually

At the highest compliance level (level 1), organizations need to have an external audit performed by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) Internal Security Assessor (ISA). This evaluation will validate the scope of the assent, review documentation, determine whether PCI DSS requirements are met and provide guidance for compliance. A Report on Compliance (RoC) is then submitted to demonstrate compliance.

Lower compliance level organizations (levels 2 through 4) do not need the external audit but can instead complete a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ). Level 2 organization will also need to complete an RoC.

Complete self assessment questionaire

PCI DSS Compliance Checklist

  • Do you have a firewall in place to safeguard cardholder data in any system(s) used to store, process, or transmit that data?
  • Is it regularly updated and maintained? Have you replaced any default passwords with unique, strong alternatives?
  • Are passwords protected and stored securely to minimize exposure risks?
  • Are security controls in place to protect data stored within your internal systems?
  • Are you securing cardholder data when it is in transit?
  • Are you using encryption to protect cardholder data? 
  • Is data protected when traveling across open networks or at rest? 
  • Do you have antivirus software or programs in place throughout your organization?
  • Are the programs or software up to date with the most recent version?
  • Do you regularly review your software?
  • Are systems and applications secured at your organization and are they being maintained?
  • Do you need to develop your systems and applications for PCI DSS compliance?
  • Have you restricted access to cardholder data within your internal systems?
  • Is access restricted based on a need-to-know or need-to-handle basis for daily task completion?
  • Does the task completion need outweigh the risk of providing access to the data?
  • Have you provided everyone in your organization with a unique user ID for computer access?
  • Does your systems administrator manage permissions/access control for these unique IDs?
  • Are your access and permissions controls granted on a business-need-to-know basis?
  • Do you restrict physical access to servers, computers, data centers, etc. where cardholder data may reside, be processed, or be sent?
  • Do you log and monitor all visitors to areas in your organization where access to cardholder data may be found?
  • Is all physical media securely stored to prevent inappropriate access?
  • Do you regularly review your organization’s networks to prevent exploitation?
  • Are your review processes logged for regulatory audit trails?
  • Do you test your systems frequently to discover any vulnerabilities and are any found appropriately addressed and maintained?
  • Do you test for vulnerabilities when new software is installed, or configuration changes are made?
  • Do your tests include internal and external network vulnerability scans and penetration testing?
  • Do you monitor critical system files to ensure they are not modified or accessed without authorization?

Maintain a data security policy:

Setting the tone for your organization can help bolster PCI DSS compliance as well as overall data security. Organizations can develop regular training programs and continuing education on data security and specifically PCI DSS compliance.

Internal data security policy

Do you have a current an internal data security policy in place?

PCI DSS requirements

Does your policy thoroughly cover PCI DSS requirements?

Changes to internal systems

Is your policy reviewed regularly or when changes to internal systems occur?

PCI compliance responsibilities

Does your policy address how to identify and monitor service provider PCI compliance responsibilities?

Data breaches

Is there an executable incident response plan that can be immediately implemented should you suffer a data breach?

PCI Compliance Solutions

Complying with PCI DSS requirements is easier with layers of security solutions that can be put in place across your organization to protect sensitive cardholder data. Fortra's security suite offers a range of solutions designed to help you meet your PCI DSS obligations and protect the data of your cardholders.

Fortra and PCI DSS

Fortra’s portfolio of cybersecurity and compliance offerings provide a wide range of solutions and services to help businesses comply with the PCI DSS 4.0 requirements and fulfill the daily demands of protecting the company from risks and threats. The following table maps PCI DSS 4.0 requirements to Fortra’s solutions.

Requirement 1: Install and maintain network security controls

Requirement 2: Apply secure configurations

Requirement 3: Protect stored account data

Requirement 4: Protect cardholder data with strong cryptography during transmission over open, public networks

Requirement 5: Protect systems and networks from malicious software

Requirement 6: Develop and maintain secure systems and software

Requirement 7: Restrict access to system components and cardholder data

  • Fortra's Core Security Penetration Testing and Security Consulting Services

Requirement 8: Identify users and authenticate access

  • Fortra's Core Security Penetration Testing and Security Consulting Services

Requirement 9: Restrict physical access

Requirement 10: Log and monitor all access

Requirement 11: Test security of systems and networks regularly

Requirement 12: Support information security with policies and programs

We Can Help with PCI DSS Compliance. Let’s Talk.

Contact the professionals as Fortra for a free, 30-minute consultation on what solutions are best for your organization when it comes to securing PCI data. We’ll help you determine the right layers of protection to comply with PCI DSS.