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A staggering 88% of all organizations remain non-compliant when it comes to PCI DSS.

Most companies fail to pass an initial test based on the requirements of PCI DSS compliance and continue to ignore its merits. To ensure these faults are put away, it’s essential to look at the merits of being PCI DSS compliant.

This read is going to look at how to have PCI DSS compliance, built-in PCI standards, and key DSS requirements to protect cardholder data.

What is PCI?

PCI DSS stands for “Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard” and is held in high esteem by those analyzing security measures for credit card payments.

PCI is a means to an end when it comes to managing a company (of any size) and its underlying payment mechanisms. There is various information being processed around the clock as soon as a transaction goes through and this requires streamlined security solutions to withstand potential hacks or fraudulent activity.

In general, a merchant is expected to have a credit card processor such as GAM Payments to help maintain PCI DSS compliance and ensure the storing of credit card data is seamless, meticulous, and protected. This is why maintaining PCI standards remains an essential requirement in the grand scheme of things.

Being able to set up a secure network for processing credit card data is an attestation of compliance and can do wonders for a business. This attestation of compliance is often correlated to customer trust and that is priceless in the long-term.


What are the PCI compliance Levels?

A PCI DSS council was set up to understand potential flaws in the processing system and how security breaches were a real concern for businesses of all sizes. The goal was to establish a standard PCI that would uphold requirements and make sure businesses were kept safe throughout their tenure. This is where cardholder data comes into the picture and is a reason to understand the various levels at play.

The various credit card companies have got together and come up with specific merchant levels. These levels are determined based on set criteria and can help classify each merchant. As of right now, these levels have been determined across four stages and each one has to fit the requirements before being classified.

Level 1: Merchants With 6 Million or More Transactions (Annually)
Level 2: Merchants With 1-6 Million Transactions (Annually)
Level 3: Merchants With 20,000-1 Million Transactions (Annually)
Level 4: Merchants With 0-19,999 Transactions (Annually)

This level is determined based on an SAQ or “Self-Assessment Questionnaire” that has to be filled out by the merchant. An SAQ is a way to figure out how many transactions are coming through and what level the business should be placed at. This is important while protecting cardholder data and shouldn’t be ignored. The compliance is determined once the SAQ is completed and processed. The beauty of auditing with an SAQ is knowing it is legitimate and will ensure the compliance is authentic. The business cannot feign what is processed using an SAQ and it is a good way to build customer trust too. The SAQ is a way for the standard to remain set and be applied across the board regardless of how small or large a business is. Whether it is cardholder data for millions of accounts or one account, it is all the same.

Does PCI DSS Apply For Phone Transactions?

Let’s imagine a merchant has a call center setup that takes in orders and processes them. What are the requirements in this case and how they are processed using an SAQ? This is key information and should be kept in mind for all merchants to ensure they remain compliant at all times after the SAQ is established. Otherwise, cardholder data is not going to be as protected as it needs to be.

To answer the question, yes, a merchant has to emphasize this protocol for phone transactions.

Since it is a human-based transaction meaning a human will accept the cardholder data, it becomes essential to run the protocol through them and determine their viability. This means they will be checked, assessed, and filtered before being put in a position to accept cardholder data. This is going to be included in the SAQ once it is filled out. Having this information can make or break how phone transactions work. It is also going to include how well they have been trained. Do they have the requisite amount of training and has that been included in the SAQ?

After the individual has been assessed, it is time for the compliant business to look into how the cardholder data is going to be processed as it is entered into the machine. If the cardholder data is being put in by the human (as it would be via phone) then it has to go through a secure network. If not, the cardholder data will become compromised and run the risk of getting lost. The SAQ is going to look for this and will become a part of figuring out whether or not something is compliant. The network has to be protected or it is going to leak the cardholder data or make it prone to easy hacking. To ensure that is not the case, the system can be encrypted and managed so it doesn’t remain accessible to a singular entity besides the business itself. All of this is asked with the SAQ and is a good way to see whether or not the business is doing enough for phone transactions. If not, the cardholder data is going to be put in a tough spot and is going to be easy to lose.

The most important thing with an SAQ is to develop a culture of security. To have an idea of how something will be done over the phone and how it is going to be kept safe from start to finish. This is what the SAQ is going to help figure out and analyze. Once the SAQ is used, it is easier to see potential flaws and determine a proper understanding of what is transpiring. This is the fastest way as stated by the PCI SSC.

Do Organizations Using Third-Party Processors Have To Be PCI DSS Compliant?

Indeed, a business with third-party processors cannot become ignorant of their requirements.

Since the merchant is accepting some form of credit card data, it is essential to look into staying as compliant as possible. This is going to be used in the SAQ to figure out how compliant a business is and at what level is stands. The transactions being processed through a third-party processor will be just as valid as any other transactions. This has to be considered while doing your due diligence and ensuring it doesn’t lead to a bad result.

The PCI data security standard applies to these transactions equally and shouldn’t be ignored.

By following through with the PCI data security standard, it is easier to cut down the risk that comes with such transactions. Yes, a third party processor can be ideal for maintaining data and avoiding risk but it still has to be compliant. This will be noted with the PCI DSS self-assessment questionnaire as stated by the PCI SSC.

The PCI Security Standards org remains vital in such cases.

Are Debit Card Transactions in Scope for PCI?

Yes, any debit card transaction is also included for PCI compliance.

The idea is to pay attention to the cardholder data environment and make sure it is as safe as possible. The data is going to include debit card transactions and therefore it is important to look at the DSS set up. Without the right DSS, it is going to become impossible to manage any form of data as soon as it comes in. This is when the system can start to break down. Establish the DSS as soon as possible and start looking at all valid transactions.

Remember, transactions can include debit, credit, and/or pre-paid cards for the DSS to hold merit. This is important in the eyes of the PCI SSC.

Once these transactions come through, they should be put through the established DSS right off the bat. This should be as automated as possible.

If the debit card transactions are ignored, it is going to lead to major issues about the DSS and how it is being managed. As long as the card is branded by one of the leading companies such as VISA, MasterCard, Discover, JCB, or VISA International, it is going to be in the scope of such PCI compliance and will be tested against the DSS.

What Does it Cost to be PCI Compliant?

Let’s move onto the next question a merchant is going to have and that will involve the cost of establishing DSS and making sure you are as compliant as possible.

In general, it is going to depend on which level your business falls under according to the PCI SSC. The data security standard is reliant on understanding the cost.

For example, a Level 4 that has less than 20,000 transactions (annually) will be charged around $60 (monthly) for the security protocol and DSS. While a Level 3 is going to have a cost of $1,200 per year ($100 monthly) for a complete scan and DSS setup. The DSS is going to play a role in how the costs match up and that has to be understood immediately. Moving onto Level 2, the cost is going to come in around $10,000-50,000 (Annually) and that is going to include a comprehensive assessment and establishing of DSS. For Level 1, the cost is going to come in at $50,000+ (Annually) and it is going to depend based on the number of transactions being processed. Some might be shooting well over the established number of 6 million transactions and that is going to lead to a larger quote for the DSS.

Consider the level of your business based on the data security standard set by the PCI security standards council.

Compliance Versus Validation of Compliance

There is a clear difference between PCI compliance and validation of compliance when it comes to DSS. A business will know the value of a DSS but is going to depend on analyzing its validity.

PCI compliance in itself is the idea of managing data and ensuring it is protected. This is going to give the business a label of being secure. This is ideal but is not the final step in the process. It is also important to make sure the network is protected and it is not just a simple assumption that isn’t a reality.

This is where the validation of compliance plays a role. This is when the network and its processes are assessed to determine if it is truly compliant the way one would expect it to be with a DSS. This is going to take a look at the durability of what is in place, its identity, its strength, and what equipment is being used. All of this information has to sync with the DSS to make sure it is immaculate. If not, the DSS isn’t going to have value and that is a negative.

This is what the PCI SSC had in mind when it came to PCI compliance. The PCI SSC stated validation is mandatory to be compliant. Those who want to optimize their business need to do this.

This is a big part of the data security standard. Validation is a good way to manage the data security standard and keep it in line with the company.

How to Become a PCI Compliant

Let’s assume credit card data is coming in all the time, how is it going to be protected? How is a merchant going to become compliant? How is the credit card data going to enter the system and remain safe?

To maximize PCI security, it has to be done with an understanding of the process. PCI security is designed to maximize the network and processing of transactions. To get started with PCI security, it is best to complete the questionnaire. This is going to take a look at everything and how it is going to mesh with one’s needs for PCI security. This information is vital and the first step.

Once this is determined, it is essential to go with a valid processor like GAM Payments to simplify everything and run the business seamlessly. This is where PCI security can flourish and you don’t have to deal with a PCI non-compliance fee due to not having a data security standard.

Being compliant is important and it starts here according to the PCI security standards council.


Why GAM Payments?

GAM Payments is a world-class payment provider and can help manage everything as required by the PCI SSC. This is a professional, reliable, and high-quality provider with years of experience in being compliant.

The PCI security standards council recommends a quality solution and that’s where GAM Payments shines.